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Re: Translation question

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Friday, December 8, 2000, 19:27
At 11:46 pm -0500 7/12/00, Nik Taylor wrote:
>John Cowan wrote: >> This is perhaps the world's oldest urban legend. If Caesar had been born >> by Caesarian section, his mother would have died, and she is well >> recorded to have been alive into Caesar's adulthood. > >But wasn't the cognomen sometimes inherited, so that it could've been >one of Caesar's ancestors?
The cognomen Caesar was certainly used by others in the Julian clan. But the "a caeso matris utere" given by Pliny is generally considered to be purely 'folk etymology' - the Romans & medievals were notoriously unreliable when it comes to etymology and folk etymology is the order of the day. "a caesarie dictus qui scilicet cum caesarie natus est" wrote Pompeius Festus, a 2nd cent AD grammarian. 'caesaries' is a 5th decl. noun meaning "dark head of hair" (considered comely by the Romans). Isidore gives both etymologies, thus hedging his bets. Others derive it from the adjectives 'caesius' = "dark colored", thus referring to skin color. I think IIRC that I have seen it suggested the name is of Etruscan origin - and that is not at all unlikely. We know that not a few Etruscan names survived among the 'upper classes'. My own feeling is that the 'caesarean birth' etymology is the least likely and is, as John says, one of the older surviving "urban myths". If I misremember the Etruscan connexion, then a nickname derived from hair color or skin complexion seems far more likely. These seem to be used in most cultures; after all, consider how many variants of my surname are to be found around the globe :) Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================