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Dante, Islam and Christianity

Commenting on the posting "Dante, Islam and Christianity, Paul Simon says: " I thought 'barbarians' came from barba, or beard, as applied to the unshaven Huns, Goths, etc". Sorry, Paul. That is a false etymology. Here is what the OED says: "The Greek word had probably a primary reference to speech, and is compared with L. balbus stammering. The sense-development in ancient times was (with the Greeks) ‘foreign, non-Hellenic,’ later ‘outlandish, rude, brutal’; (with the Romans) ‘not Latin nor Greek,’ then ‘pertaining to those outside the Roman empire’; hence ‘uncivilized, uncultured,’ and later ‘non-Christian,’ whence ‘Saracen, heathen’; and generally ‘savage, rude, savagely cruel, inhuman.’" Cf. French "balbutier", to stammer.

Ronald Hilton - 8/25/02