When Children Were Gifts of God(s)

· Etymology

Children! A blessing or a curse?  That is an unfair way of putting it, perhaps, as the reader is potentially forced to accept one of two extremes which may not be the answer given if the question were not loaded.

We will argue that they are a good to society, as potential adults.  In the pre-socialist world, it was the children who would take care of their parents in the latters’ old age.  Once government old-age pensions came around, the principle was extended to even those without parents – everyone must pay in.  Some describe that as a giant Ponzi scheme, sure to fail once the birth-rate falls off.  Then the pension either must be paid from government funds originally designated for another purpose, or the promised benefit is diluted.

The Europeans, some say, are trying to solve this problem by having so-called guest-workers pay into the system.  One line of thinking is that once these temporary immigrants have outlived their usefulness, they must go back to their countries of origin. This may not be the thinking behind accepting refugees of war-torn countries, but once it is decided that criminals be sent back, all that it would take is to have a suitably broad definition of felonious acts.  This type of thinking is found on more than one continent in the year of this writing – all it takes is for the population of a richer country to consider its economic migrants as stealing, whether jobs, or anything else.

Once a country suffers from a lack of social peace and economic security, there is even more pressure to have less children.

But our idea here is to present the argument that children were once considered a blessing.  We will ignore whether parents may have had some opportunistic thinking in the back of their minds.

The precursors of modern socialism, in the British world, might have implicitly mocked the rich by their words:

When Adam delved and Eve span,

Who was then the gentleman,1

and while we do not agree with the radicals who proclaimed these words, we do agree that there did exist a certain equality, in that any parent, and may the reader pardon the clichés, may have considered any child to have been born with a silver spoon in its mouth, considering that the expression of “golden boy” or “golden girl” does not of itself suggest that one is born into a wealthy society, but that one can attain wealth.  As the French politician François Guizot said in the 19th Century to the critics of the conservative politics of the time, “Enrichessez-vous, “Get rich!”

We are going to go back to the idea of “golden” in this essay just a bit later.

While it was not necessary for the purposes of this writer, he wanted to see if he could find some potential etymological links between some Semitic words and English.  One author of an old copyright-free Hebrew dictionary downloaded from the Internet suggested that our language is derived from words given by God to the people of Israel. We ignore if it was mentioned that everything got mixed up after the Tower of Babel was destroyed, but it sounds like a healthy belief for those who cannot countenance excommunication from their religion.

Even if the etymologies derived from such an exercise are false, they do create useful mnemonics.

We were looking for such words to correspond to the Arabic for “boy” and “girl”, respectively, walad and bint, at least the first of which happens to have a cognate in Hebrew, meaning “male child”, of similar pronunciation [yalad], and with a corresponding ending to make it feminine, such as adding “ess” in English.  We would argue, at least for our purpose of finding a cognate – false if necessary if it helps to readily access that word in the other language – a word in Hebrew without the “n” infix of bint, but which we feel obliged to ignore – though some rich associations have occurred to us which are not germane to the present text.

Should it occur to the reader to learn some Arabic, we suggest that the quickest way to learn the world for “boy” is to remember “lad”. Add “wa”, you get walad.  Were the lad wayward, you might get “waylaid”, but that’s an aside.  If your preference is Hebrew, pretend to be British, “yeah, lad”!  If one could invent a few thousand such associations, all that would be left to learn of another language, would be the grammar and the correct pronunciation.

As for bint, it came to mind that the letters which compose this word are elements of the word “Vanessa”, which we have treated in a separate article.2 We do not guarantee the association, but there is a similarity between the “B” and the “V”, which Russians represent by letters which to the most of us are both “B”, and which in at least some parts of the Spanish-speaking world are referred to in the non-standard terms of “B larga” and “V corta”, but with identical pronunciation of the letter in question. “N” remains the same, and the relationship of the “T” to “S” is found in pairs such as the German Fuss to the English “foot”, Nuss to “nut”, Hass to “hate”, lass to “let”, etc.  The vowel can change, and that the Hebrew “t” actually did change to “s” is not something we confirm as fact, but provide as something in the realm of possibility, as shown by our examples.

We now will show how early peoples showed their appreciation of children, by the meanings underlying the words which have just been considered.

Alphabetically, we start with bint, which we have referred to as related to Vanessa.  To keep this short, we recommend reading our article giving our own interpretation of the origins of that word, but we give ideas along the lines of light, brightness, and goddess.2  Ideas of light and brightness are simultaneously found in the etymology of the word “gold”, so, thus, in addition to the positive conotations of all these words, we have our “golden girl”.

As to walad, we have derived , (but please, if you quote this, best do so as a fanciful theory), from the principle that vowels and semi-vowels can be omitted – thus giving us “lad” without further ado, or from the transformation made in Spanish by some speakers of the “W” to a “Gu”, as in güisqui [whiskey], sangüiche, or more officially, sánguche [sandwich]: “Gualad”. By omission of irrelevant vowels, we get “glad”, the happiness of the parents.  By rearrangement of the consonants, and placement of an appropriate vowel, we get “gold”, so we have a correlation with the “golden girtl”, the “golden boy”.

The reader may think all of the above is just too fanciful.  If so, we now go to pure facts, as reported by our sources.2  The German word for “child”, found in “Kindergarten”, “Kind”, is a cognate of both the words “kin” and “king”.  Some translations of the Bible actually suggest that Christians may become as kings,3 so we might say, it was a vision for one’s children, at least, it was often the hope of parents that their children would have a better life.

Speaking of the German “Kind” (rhyming with “finned”), it is related to the two different meanings of “kind” in English.  Insofar as “kind” people are good, this reminds us of the fact that the Chinese ideogram for “good” is the joining of the ideograms for “woman” and “child” … and let no man put asunder!

:woman : child   : good

The English word for “child” does not lend itself as neatly as we would like – to give the precise etymology would generate potential controversy on other fronts, which we must avoid.  We can say is that through the etymology, the child is identified with the mother, with “woman” by extension.  The Greek root for woman, “gynec”, and its variants, is related to the word “queen”, so again we have a relationship between royalty and children.  As there is no direct etymological line here between king and queen in English, we point out that our trace is valid in German, where “king” and “König are cognates.  Although for some reason this is not postulated for “genus”, a term of the same origin as “king”, and “gynec”, such as in the Russian for “woman”, жена: Zhena; at least there is a relationship through their meanings.

In conclusion, the children of children, the kings and queens of a preceding generation of royalty, had the Midas touch, their offspring were (hoped to be) bright, shining, gold(en), themselves all that they could be, and more.  Perhaps that “spare the rod and spoil the child” – which happens to be a uniquely English translation of the biblical text, had more to do with allowing the “king” to have his rod, that is, sceptre.4 Then we get a new reading, “He who spares [hides] the sceptre, spoils the chances of the child being [becoming a] king”.

By no means intended to replace the authentic text!

© March 14, 2016,  Paul Karl Moeller


1John Ball, 1381, radical priest during a peasant revolt.

2Meaning of the Name “Vanessa”, here on WordPress.

3King James, Darby, Webster’s, World, Young’s on http://biblehub.com/revelation/5-10.htm

4Proverbs, 13:24. Other versions mention no instrument of punishment.

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