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BARBARIAN

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BARBARIAN

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:43 pm

• 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, and barbarism—all 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 Afro-Asiatic 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 LukeJavan8 » Sat Apr 21, 2012 12:32 pm

I've often heard, too, that the "distinguished and refined"
Romans referred to the Germanic tribes as barbarians
because their language sounded to them like just a
lot of 'bar,bar,bar", probably the way we use
"blah, blah" - I am not sure of this however, just what
I've heard.
Last edited by LukeJavan8 on Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:44 pm

Luke, the Good Doctor said "onomatopoetic imitations of babbling speech" in his Word History. So you are probably right about the Romans' opinion of Germanic speech. Some would style the German language that way today. German is too much fun to badmouth. In college I knew a Barbara quite well. Even though she was a lovely and gentle lady with great speaking ability, she was a thespian, I alluded to her barbaric name to tease her.
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Postby Slava » Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:06 pm

Philip Hudson wrote:I alluded to her barbaric name to tease her.
And did she fillip you in return?
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:46 pm

Slava, You were close. She called me "Flip". I didn't know you in college did I?
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Postby Slava » Sat Apr 21, 2012 7:00 pm

Philip Hudson wrote:Slava, You were close. She called me "Flip". I didn't know you in college did I?
I doubt it, I'm just a flipping fillip-er.
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Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:18 pm

Ugh - -it's getting bad here! yuk,yuk
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Postby bamaboy56 » Sat Apr 21, 2012 11:15 pm

Today's wild word comes, via Latin, from Greek barbaros "foreign, strange, ignorant".
Interesting word! In Spanish (rooted in Latin, of course) the word "barbaro" is used to describe a rude or uncultured person. I've also heard it used to describe a mildly shocking situation. I never knew the actual root of the word until now. I, too, have known a Barbara or two. All wonderful women. In this case it's a good thing some people don't live up to their names.
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