Babel and geoduck

A. Maberry maberry at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Thu Nov 7 20:33:37 UTC 2002

On Thu, 7 Nov 2002, James A. Landau wrote:

> In a message dated 11/7/02 10:40:46 AM Eastern Standard Time,
> mam at THEWORLD.COM writes:
> > Is "babble" < Greek? How about "Babel" in Genesis, as an assonance or
> >  folk etymology with (the city-name we know as) "Babylon"? The prima
> >  facie evidence for onomatopoeia seems fairly good. How widespread is
> >  this one worldwide?
> "Babble" from Greek---if you assume it's from the Tower of Babel, then it
> passed through the Greek-language Septuagint on its way from Hebrew to
> English but has no other connection with Greek.

Admittedly without looking too hard, I was unable to find anything in
Greek that would be the source for the word "babble". The Hebrew is Babel
of Bavel (Gen. 11.9) so called because God "balal" ("confused") their
languages. According to Gunkel (Genesis, 1910) however, the Cuneiform
etymology is "Bab-il" = "God's gate" that itself might be only a
Semitic/Babylonian popular etymology for a word which may not even be
Semitic in origin.

And, I have no idea why geoduck is spelled the way it is and is pronounced
gooey-duck. There are certainly a number of American Indian names in
Washington and Oregon where the spelling doesn't reflect the pronunciation
at all.
Larry Horn mentioned that a dictionary (I don't recall which one) listed
the word as Salish. I've also seen references that it was originally a
Nisqually word, and that it originated in Chinook jargon.


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