Ancient Family Lexicon, or Words and Loneliness

“Whoever knows the nature of the name… knows the nature of the thing itself, ” Plato observed in his Cratylus. To know is a complex verb, difficult but rich. According to the dictionary, it means “to have news of a thing,” “to know that it exists or what it is.” In classical languages, the concept of knowing was linked with being born. Thus by coming into the world others have “news” about us: their recognition of us is part of our birth. Knowing the roots of the words at the basis of human relationships permits us to revive a world in which individuals existed as men and women or boys and girls with no middle ground. I will explain what that means. The ancestors of these appellations (woman, girl, man, boy) denoted a particular way of being that subsequent cultures have lost. As the meaning of the words changed, the

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