Thursday, February 16, 2006

yotzei dofen and rachamim

It's interesting to compare how words and phrases develop in two different languages.

Let's look at the surgery used to deliver a fetus via the abdominal wall.

In English it's known as a Cesarean section. That term derives from the legend that Julius Caesar was born in that fashion. In modern Hebrew it is also known as a נִתּוּחַ קֵיסָרִי, but the Mishnaic term was yotzei dofen יוצא דופן (lit. "go out from the wall.") That term is now used in Hebrew for exceptional or abnormal.

Another more stark difference relates to words that derive from the term for womb. The English word hysterical derives from the Greek term for womb, for it was felt that the neurotic condition was caused by disturbances in the womb. Contrast that with the Hebrew word rachamim, mercy, which derives from the Hebrew word for womb, rechem.

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