What’s In A Name?

One of the Christmas gifts I received this year was a book by Ralph Lee Smith titled Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions, 2nd edition (updated in 2010). Mr. Smith discusses early names and early references to dulcimers. He states some people like to point out that the word “dulcimer” appears in Daniel 3:10 of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. I see that it is also used in Daniel 3:5 and 3:15.

“ Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up…” Daniel 3:4-5

 “Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image…” Daniel 3:10

 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?

Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Daniel 3:14-15

The author notes what he calls a double error with the word dulcimer. The KJV refers to the hammered dulcimer “which was well known in Elizabethan England.” Secondly he points out that it is a mistranslation of “symphonia”, a Greek word for a form of bagpipe.

The other interesting thing in this part of the book is his laundry list of the many names used for the dulcimer we play (most of which you’ve heard before yet there were still some I had not heard: Appalachian dulcimer, Mountain dulcimer, fretted dulcimer, lap dulcimer; in Ohio sometimes called a dulcerine, while in West Virginia it is sometimes referred to as a hog fiddle or dew-climber.

Anyways, for those like me that like to know the history behind things, in addition to playing, the book is worth obtaining and reading.

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