Saturday, July 21, 2018

If Tower of Babel was a Rocket Project, Why was it Called a Tower?


Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : If Tower of Babel was a Rocket Project, Why was it Called a Tower? · If Tower of Babel was a Rocket Project - What Else Can We Expect? · Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : Sin of Babel - Two Views

To a non-philologist, it makes a lot sense to ask ... for these verses:

Genesis 11:[4] And they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven: and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands. [5] And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of Adam were building.

... this question : "hey, Hans, you say it was a rocket, they tried to build (yeah, we know you don't think it would have worked, they didn't have Oxygen Hydrogen fuelling), but why does the Bible say "tower" and not "rocket"?

Well, the answer is, if it was a rocket, what would it have been called?

"Rocket"

No language I know of has an own word meaning primarily rocket.

English has rocket which means primarily rocket - as a loan word in English. But it is a loan from Italian, where the primary meaning is distaff.

OK, you may not believe me just like that, it takes some explanation.

First, rocket is from an Italian word relating to textile production:

A rocket (from Italian rocchetto "bobbin")[nb 1][1] is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle that obtains thrust from a rocket engine.


I thought it was distaff, not bobbin, because the related German and Swedish words or second halves of words (Spinnrocken, spinnrock) are the same root as rochetto.

Here is the further explanation from wiki's note:

English rocket, first attested in 1566 (OED), adopted from the Italian term, given due to the similarity in shape to the bobbin or spool used to hold the thread to be fed to a spinning wheel. The modern Italian term is razzo.


Ah, ok, then it's the kind of bobbin that belongs to a spinning wheel, not unrelated to the distaff. Fine, explanation basically as I thought. You stick a firework rocket into the ground, what you stick into the ground is a stick attached to the rocket, of which lowest part remains free and has a fuse attached - looks like the wool on the spool.

Italian "razzo" comes from Latin "radius" = ray. A radius on a circle has centre like a light source, rays all directions, a ray in this sense has the rays going one way.

French calls the thing fusée, which first of all means a kind of swordhilt. You have the blade, the pommel, the crossbar, and around all their union you have a thicker hilt made by welding, or fusing, hence the idea of calling a swordhilt "fusée". The firework rocket (which is what modern European languages start with, before space craft) looks a bit like a swordhilt - especially as it also can stand up in the air if you stick sth - this time the blade - into the ground.

And Greek has, for rocket, "pyravlos" which means "fire-flute".

Now, the primary reference for all these are the firework rocket, and the space rocket only gets the same name because it looks a bit like a much larger version of same form and especially has the same propulsion principle.

But what if the earliest attempt at building a rocket was a space rocket? What would you call it? I'd perhaps go for tower, and especially, if someone else did, I would not be shocked. A spacerocket at takeoff looks like a tower.

And the pre-Babel Hebrew, unlike the English from 1566, had no Italian or other other language to borrow a word for in the meaning rocket.

Gentlemen, this is why philology is so interesting. And while I enjoy philosophy too, it annoys me no matter when people confuse philology with it.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Paris XI
San Lorenzo di Brindisi
21.VII.2018

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