Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WWW - Babel

1. A confusion of sounds or voices. 2. A scene of noise and confusion.
-American Heritage Dictionary

It may seem as though I already covered this last week. After all, we all know what babel and babble mean. We know that Babel comes from the Biblical story when man's pride led to the construction of an impressive tower, at which point the Bible says:

"That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world."
Genesis 11:9 – NIV

So it is natural that "Babel" means a confusion of sounds or voices and it is natural to think that "babble" comes from the word "babel", but this is not the case.

According to the OED, no direct connection can be traced between these two words and the word babble is most likely not a derivative of Babel, but rather an imitation of baby-talk while the word "Babel" is a translation from the Sumerian – Ka-dingir.

Last week we determined that "babble" was the enemy of the translator, but "Babel" is a word that is used often when discussing language and translation. The idea that all peoples, speaking one language without confusion, were so powerful that they had to be scattered and confused, has remained a point of fascination for centuries. Perhaps this is why translators and translation companies often use the word Babel in their names and slogans- after all, it is the nature of the translator's work to battle this very confusion of languages.

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