The word ‘cannibal’ comes to us by way of a familiar historical figure: Christopher Columbus. The word is ultimately a Hispanicization of the name of an indigenous American group today known as the Caribs. Through Columbus' unreliable portrayal of the Caribs in his travel log, ‘cannibal’ came to refer to ‘a person who eats human flesh.’ In this episode, we explore the evolution of the meaning of ‘cannibal’ in Columbus' own journal and how that single word impacted the colonial history of the Americas.
In common usage, a ‘philistine’ is a derogatory term for an anti-intellectual materialist. The word derives from the ancient Middle Eastern Philistines, a people best known as an early geopolitical enemy of the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible. The historical Philistines were far from philistines––note the lowercase P. Bizarrely, circumstance by which the latter derives from the former can be traced back to a 17th century murder in the German city of Jena.
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