Whoa, Man!

English: Portrait drawing of Noah Webster, Ame...I’ve been interested in word origins since I was very little. And I used to think the word “woman” meant, or was short for, “whoa, man!” (Seemed appropriate for public restroom doors.) Even as a child, I could see the “man” in the word.

If we go back to the original concepts behind the idea, we find little has changed. In the Hebrew tongue, Adam’s word for a man was ish and for woman was ishshah, “drawn out of man”.

I became more curious when I realized what “woman” really means.

Womb-man.

I about fell out of my chair when I read that one. A woman is merely a man with a womb. And “womb” is from the Greek for “belly”.

I’m beginning to grasp a lot, here. I’m a man with a belly. Yep.

At least a wombat is something else, not related. I was starting to worry . . .

Then I remembered from learning Spanish, that their word for “mother is madre which also means “womb” in Spanish.

It just kills me that every person who speaks Spanish refers to his mother as his “womb”.

“Happy Womb’s Day,” anyone? I think I’ll pass.

“Hello, I’d like to introduce you to my womb?” Hmm.

“That man-with-a-belly over there is my womb?” I don’t think so.

So I got the nerve to look up “mother”.

I did not like what I found.

I checked other dictionaries. Ditto. From Webster to Wagnalls, all the guys were in agreement.

“Mother” means “mud”. From the bottom of a river, to the muddy stuff in the bottom of the vinegar, we are IT!

The only way I can hope to explain this is to quote dear old Webster, who actually knew most every language and did all the research:

We observe that in some other languages, as well as in English, the same word signifies a female parent, and the thick slime formed in vinegar; and in all the languages of Europe here cited, the orthography is nearly the same as that of mud and matter. The question then occurs whether the name of a female parent originated in a word expressing matter, mold; either the soil of the earth, as the producer, or the like substance, when shaped and fitted as a mold for castings, or whether the name is connected with the opinion that the earth is the mother of all productions; whence the word “mother-earth”. We are informed by a fragment of Sanchoniathon, that the ancient Phenicians considered mud […] to be the substance from which all things were formed. In the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, the same word madre signifies mother, and a mold for castings; and the northern languages, particularly the German and Danish, seem to establish the fact that the proper sense of mother is matrix.

He then notes a lot of overlap in words such as “matter” and “material”.

I am so glad he takes exception to the other meaning for “matter”—pus. Not the same, says Webster. That one comes to us from the Arabic and seems to be unrelated. Whew. That matters a lot to me!

Webster also lists the following languages for which “mother” seems to be a cognate: Swiss, Danish, Saxon, Irish, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, Sanskrit, Russian, French, and Welsh. And they all cast us as molds, as the matrix for everything, like mud is used as a mold for casting.

Yes, ladies, we are the stuff of life.

This gets really amazing when you realize Adam was made from dust.

“Muddah, Faddah, kindly disregard dis lettah!”

*Portrait drawing of Noah Webster, American philologist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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16 thoughts on “Whoa, Man!

  1. malekith188 says:

    Wonderful blog post! I learned English as a second language from German, subsequently to become my Ersatz mother tongue. From the age of 8 to about 11 I learned from a huge 1927 British Proper dictionary translating through an 1887 German-English. (I’m now 49, and still bear the”scars” of that education– I’m often mistaken for being gay!) I learned the etomology of many words such as you just expounded on the seeming chauvinistic injustices of terms for the noble distaff element. You brought back some good and funny memories. THANKS!

    • katharinetrauger says:

      Hello, Malekith, and welcome to TheConqueringMom!
      Thanks for this comment! I am so glad you enjoyed your visit!
      You make some interesting observations, here: mother tongue, for instance. 😉
      And what an amazing way to learn English! I’ve heard of such experiences before and cannot imagine how uniquely adaptable the human mind can be! (And I wonder if you meant to indicate that you are often mistaken for being blithe and happy. 😉 )
      I love etymology and ethnology, even of names. Most of the time when I hear someone’s name, I know what it means, except for the new made-up names we get these days, that have no meaning. I’m also rather picky about spelling and grammar and punctuation, but as a retired teacher, I’ve seen so many misspelled words, I’ve lost my touch, there. 😐
      Long ago, though, I stopped thinking of the world as chauvinistically unjust. It’s too hilarious for that. 😀

  2. Ruth Bailey says:

    Ahhh, Katharine. God’s thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts! How is it that he could take dust and make something that reflects his glory? Or mud (a rib) and make a being that made the man say, “Whoa! That’s what I’ve been missing?” We tend to think too much of ourselves, and also not enough of ourselves because we don’t consider who we are to God. Thanks for an interesting post about that word we so love to hear coming from our babies’ lips.

    • katharinetrauger says:

      Hello, Ruth! Thanks for this comment!
      Yes, God had it all planned out and what an amazing plan! How did He do it! I’ll never be able to explain, although it becomes more understandable, daily, it seems. Oh, I know, we are the Bride of Christ and the cradle of all belief. Yet, everything is hanging on His Words, the fact that He said, “Let there be . . . ” and there it was. It is an awesome mystery we are too small really to grasp.
      So, everything is words, and what joy that one word brings to us! You’re right. 🙂

    • Darrian says:

      it does mean a man with a womb look in 1828 Webster dictionary look up woman it is a compound of womb and man. woman in Hebrew language ishsha mean man-ess(female man) or wife they translated ii in English to womN WHICH IS REALLY WOMAN. Genesis 5:2 God called both of them ADam the male and the female the day they was created. genesis !:27 he created Man int he likeness of his image he created them both male and female so yes she is a man by the means of being a person who genereally belongs to the human race which is mankind not a man by the means of being a male person because she is a female not male. but she is of man as of being a part of him made out of his nature in creation. read genesis chapter2:21-26. men and woman are the same creatures as a species belonging to mankind but they are different in function in sexual reproduction. one is man(male) without a womb the other is a woman(wombed-man) with a womb which is female . Men and women are two halves of a whole and they become 0ne flesh in marriage.

  3. Victoria T. says:

    Your son would be interested in this post… I’ll have to share it with him later. I can see how “mother” would be a “mold” of sorts. Out of her comes another human–not an exact replica, but the same thing anyway. I prefer thinking of the “woman” though, as being the womb. I like that. In fact, I wouldn’t think it was silly to call my mom “womb”… I think it is endearing, really.

    • katharinetrauger says:

      Hi, Victoria!
      I hope you could tell this one was partly for laughs. I think it’s amusing that such a beloved word has such a background, and also find it hilarious that the libbers who have made “lady” a bad word, prefer the other terms. I personally do not mind whatever my sons and daughter call me, as long as they remember to call me from time to time! 🙂
      And I know you — such a dear, yourself! — of course you find these words endearing. As we all should.

  4. Karen says:

    I’ve always thought Adam saw Eve and said “Whoa Man!!!!” Like she was really something. 🙂

    Love the fun post.

    • katharinetrauger says:

      As a child, I knew they spoke another language, and never did buy the idea that he called her “woman”. When I learned he really called her “ishshah” I finally was free to believe the story!

      • malekith188 says:

        The idea of “foreign” language was for a time lost on me. After my “travails” as a child, I simply dismissed it as nothing more than just a different way of saying the same thing. Then, at age 20, I joined the Army and was sent to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California to learn Russian. Suddenly “foreign language” had meaning again! I graduated, and later earned my first undergrad degree in Russian Language.

        And it still gives “foreign” meaning!

        And you are right about the human mind– perhaps even understated. After all, one thing all the thousands of languages have in common is that we, as an entity, created them in all their understandable complexity. A marvelous work and a wonder!

  5. katharinetrauger says:

    @Malekith:
    Yes, adaptable, creative, and some people have minds that are retentive, although I’m not sure I’m among them anymore. 😉
    I cannot help but wonder how much good we could do if we ALL put our minds to good use . . .

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