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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Geloven & Believing

Local Lady Snap Shot: a still life by ARaemaekers
"Now I'm a believer"
~Neil Diamond~

Words can be twisted, altered. For years a word may be used for one thing and then as time goes on it is subject to  complete switch-a-roo. It was not until the sixteenth century, according to etymologists that to believe meant to accept a dogmatic truth. Was belief in the western world twisted into acceptance of dogmatic truths during or after the inquisition? I am not a linguistics expert or a trained historian. I am only guessing after scanning dates. Before the inquisitions, before the plagues, to believe meant at its root to "hold dear, love". Its root is traced to Germanic languages, in particular to Ich Leibe, I love.

This root is a far cry from today's Merriam Webster's:

be·lieve verb \bə-ˈlēv\
: to accept or regard (something) as true
: to accept the truth of what is said by (someone)
: to have (a specified opinion)

To believe in English has grown from its root to a much different looking plant than its Germanic root.

Although etymological history is imperfect, and despite the possible fact that it could be a fallacy to adhere to one "original" definition as the perfect meaning of a word, I think that the change in the word belief does matter, at least personally to me.

Did or does faith need defending? Faith shouldn't need defense. Not by councils or by force, not by threats, or fear of punishments. Actions of that sort betrays a lack of trust, which faith essentially means, at least etymologically:

"... faith is neither the submission of the reason, nor is it the acceptance, simply and absolutely upon testimony, of what reason cannot reach. Faith is: the being able to cleave to a power of goodness appealing to our higher and real self, not to our lower and apparent self. [Matthew Arnold, "Literature & Dogma," 1873]"

Maybe I am fruitlessly mincing words or maybe I am looking to pick them like cherries. Mmm, cherries...

When I study a language, I sometimes like to think of them in comparison to others. I think of each one as a personality. And if one personality lacks the means to express something I believe, I look elsewhere. An English "belief" fails me. So when I happened to look at learning Dutch, after my relatives neglected to teach me their language, there was something drawing me to it. Perhaps the memory of their voices' cadence and the thickness of their jah, the sharpness of a kijken was embedded in my mind.  To me, Dutch is inseparable from the memories of my elders talking among themselves. Dutch is gezellig or maybe it's just a kind of cozy sound to me because the sounds are wrapped up in carefree mornings eating Chocoladehagel. Oh to be little and loved and eating sprinkles on bread (as if it were a meal, fellow Americans!)!

Anyway, after I taught myself with the internet, to say bedankt and so on, I happened upon the Dutch word for believing: geloven.

From Wordsense:

geloven (Dutch)

Origin & history

Proto-Germanic *galaubijanan ("to believe, to hold valuable or pleasing"), compare Old English gelyfan.


  • IPA: /ɣəˈloːvə(n)/


  1. to believe
       Geloofde hij ons? : Did he believe us?

See also: Etymonline-Belief

Geloven sounds closer to my belief. To be a believer, I do not accept blindly, but for now, I may just hold a concept dear. Maybe I don't even have a "specified opinion" or a complete understanding or grasp of a fact.

I'm a believer, er a "geloven-er". I believe in stories, in love and in kindness. Words, I hold dear, concepts that I try to test, practice and trust.


the Local Gal

PS Obviously, Neil Diamond, his works, lyrics and quotes do not belong to me, and neither does this video. I am just sharing this diamond, that I have found. And that is my copyright sharing "disclaimer"!

1 comment:

  1. Also, everybody I just gotta say that I never noticed the Indo-European root "galaubijanan" so maybe it's not just delicious cherry words I'm picking here but maybe some delicious Gulab Jamun too!