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BARBARIAN

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BARBARIAN

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Dec 27, 2006 12:48 am

• barbarian •

Pronunciation: bahr--ri-yên • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A crude, uncultured, heartless person, a boor; someone who lives and treats others savagely. 2. A wild or primitive person, a savage.

Notes: The meaning of today's Good Word has meandered from simply "foreign" to "crude, uncivilized", reflecting the traditional Western European view of non-Europeans. It comes from a large unfriendly family, including several nouns, barbary, barbarity, barbarism meaning relatively the same thing, the stuff that makes a barbarian a barbarian. Yes, this word may be used as an adjective. It is even related to a proper name, Barbara, which became popular when the meaning of the root was just "foreign(er)".

In Play: Today's word may refer to anyone who lives in violation of most if not all the rules of human decency: "Street gangs in large cities are barbarians living in the midst of civilization." It is used less frequently to refer to primitive people since we Europeans discovered that primitive people are generally not savage. It may serve as an adjective and stretched for metaphorical effect: "Benson's barbarian treatment of his employees cost him his business."

Word History: Today's wild word comes, via Latin, from Greek barbaros "foreign, strange, ignorant". This word may have come from a PIE base *barbar- or from Arabic barbara "to babble", both of which are onomatopoetic imitations of babbling speech. The Arabic word was applied by the Arab geographers in ancient times to the natives of North Africa to the west and south of Egypt. In fact, this is probably the origin of the name of the Barbary Coast, better known for its more recent harboring of barbarian pirates. Moreover, it is probably related to Berber, the Semitic language spoken there. (Today we thank the most civilized passion and paradox of Kyle McDonald, frequenter of the Alpha Agora, for suggesting this word.)
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Postby tcward » Wed Dec 27, 2006 5:38 am

Could Latin barba (beard) be too far removed?

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Postby Perry » Wed Dec 27, 2006 10:31 am

This word may have come from a PIE base *barbar- or from Arabic barbara "to babble", both of which are onomatopoetic imitations of babbling speech.


In modern Hebrew we use ברבר (bar ber) and the reflexive התברבר (hit bar ber). The reflexive is used for getting lost (with an implication of total confusion).

PS: Good to see some signs of life Tim!
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Postby Bailey » Wed Dec 27, 2006 1:21 pm

So, we go right from boxing Day to the hordes?

mark bar-bar-ian Bailey

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Postby Perry » Wed Dec 27, 2006 2:31 pm

Well...yes. The confused hordes have boxed us in.
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Re: BARBARIAN

Postby gailr » Wed Dec 27, 2006 5:41 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote:... It is even related to a proper name, Barbara, which became popular when the meaning of the root was just "foreign(er)". ...

Saint Barbara did not fare so well in her civilized country, was pressed into service posthumously to intercede for practitioners of quite a variety of dangerous occupations, and was finally deposed as spurious after Vatican II (along with a few other holy embarassments).

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Re: BARBARIAN

Postby sluggo » Wed Dec 27, 2006 7:57 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote:...
Moreover, it is probably related to Berber, the Semitic language spoken there....


From my limited background reading for producing world music on the radio, I'd thought that Berber ("Tamazight"; also called Kabyl) was unrelated to the Semitic family. The ubiquitous anonymous Wikipedia author says:

Tamazight is a member of the Afro-Asiatic language family (formerly called Hamito-Semitic). Traditional genealogists of tribes claiming Arab origin often claimed that Berbers were Arabs that immigrated from Yemen. Some of them considered Tamazight to derive from Arabic. This view, however, is rejected by linguists, who regard Semitic and Berber as two separate branches of Afro-Asiatic.

So it seems the relationship is a distant one. Of the term Berber, they also note:
Despite the phonetic resemblance, the term has probably nothing to do with the Latin barbarus, which was used by the Romans to refer to non-Roman tribes of the Roman Empire (see Barbarian).
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