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The Origin of Names and Words August 4, 2016

Posted by anagasto in history, language, philosophy.
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Tower of Babel by Lucas van Valckenborch http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Tour_de_babel.jpeg.  See in the enlarged picture, in that sandy area at the base of the tower , they are working with an elephant and two camels. Of this tower a very large version is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tour_de_babel.jpeg

7th century leading scientist Isidor believed that the original meaning of a word was also its real meaning, and some people still see it that way. He wrote an encyclopedia that influenced all later research.

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Tower of Babel by Bruegel the Younger.

However, in his time, the only book that really mattered was the Bible.

As a scientist Isidor took it for granted that Adam and Eve spoke Hebrew in the garden of Eden, and so the names of all people and things had to be traced back to that common origin. He thought that all the difficulties were due to the Babel tower incident.

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Tower of Babel by Bruegel the Elder   at http://www.flickr.com/photos/stoweboyd/3629162035/sizes/o/in/photostream/

They were going to build a tower to reach the sky. They all spoke the same language. To interfere with their ambition, God changed their single language into many different languages, and when they did not understand each other anymore, all construction stopped. —

The story in English …..Greek ….. Hebrew ….. Latin

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Tower of Babel by Bruegel the Younger:   In the foreground there is a king visiting and people kneeling down to receive him.

Scholars followed this view all through the Middle Ages and all along the Renaissance right up to modern times and tried to find the Hebrew origin of our vocabularies.

Voltaire the atheist scoffed at the idea, but he did not suggest a better method.

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daily mail photo dubai skyscraper

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1239480/Burj-Dubai-Tower-opens-claim-worlds-tallest-building-title.html

Now, with greater resources, the science has become much more complex. Words and names, one by one, can be followed through loads of documents to see how they were used in the past, and if a term can’t be traced back far enough, it is tagged o.o.o. = ” of obscure origin”.

There is  a dictionary of origins online :

window” comes from old German meaning eye of the wind.
Ann” is Hebrew meaning “grace”.
Henry” comes from old German meaning “ruler”.
barbecue” comes from Haiti where it meant a framework of sticks.
intelligent” comes from Latin “inter” and “legere” meaning to scan and choose.

see http://www.etymonline.com/

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Below is a graph on the family ties among languages according to Webster’s and some more etymologies to show how probably most words started out as metaphors:

webster\'s origin of languages

babble (v.) Look up babble at Dictionary.com  shortened
mid-13c., babeln “to prattle, chatter,”; probably imitative of baby-talk. “No direct connexion with Babel can be traced, though association with that may have affected the meaning.”
universe (n.) Look up universe at Dictionary.com
1580s, “the whole world, cosmos,” from Old French univers (12c.), from Latin universum “the universe,” noun use of neuter of adj. universus “all together,” literally “turned into one,” from unus “one” (see one) + versus, past participle of vertere “to turn” (see versus). Properly a loan-translation of Greek to holon “the universe,” noun use of neuter of adj. holos “whole” (see safe (adj.).
protocol (n.) Look up protocol at Dictionary.com
1540s, as prothogall “draft of a document,” from Middle French prothocole (c.1200, Modern French protocole), from Medieval Latin protocollum “draft,” literally “the first sheet of a volume” (on which contents and errata were written), from Greek protokollon “first sheet glued onto a manuscript,” from protos “first” (see proto-) + kolla “glue.”

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