Stomach, Life & Water

Language & Culture

Stomach, Life & Water

If we compare a few words in Bosnian, Chinese, Croatian, English, Italian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian, we may find intriguing semantical, cultural and linguistic traces.

If we compare a few words in Bosnian, Chinese, Croatian, English, Italian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian, we may find intriguing semantical, cultural and linguistic traces. Let’s start with the words ‘stomach’ and ‘belly’. If we check the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we will find that the ‘stomach’ is a saclike organ located between the oesophagus and duodenum. In humans, the belly is the part of the body that contains the stomach. If we translate the words ‘stomach’ and ‘belly’ from English into Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, we will see that the word ‘stomach’ means ‘želudac’, and the word ‘belly’ means ‘stomak’.

In addition, we must notice that the word ‘stomach’ is similar to the Greek noun ‘στόμα’ (stóma), which means ‘mouth’. This is how we get the word ‘stomatology’ which gives the term ‘stomatologija’ in BCS as well as the word ‘stomatolog’ (‘dentist’). Based on this word game, we discover how the words ‘stomach’ and ‘mouth’ are connected in the Indo-European linguistic exchange. But this is not the end of the story. Here we have the noun ‘life’ too.


Do you speak Russian and Ukrainian?

We have seen what the words ‘stomach’ and ‘belly’ give in BCS. We have found a similarity between the English word ‘stomach’ and the Greek word ‘στόμα’. We can add that Italian has two common words: ‘stomaco’ and ‘pancia’. Russian and Ukrainian are, however, interesting at this point because the word ‘stomach’ translated in Russian is ‘желудок’, but the word ‘belly’ is ‘живот’. On the other hand, Google Translate says that the noun ‘живіт’ means both ‘stomach’ and ‘belly’ in Ukrainian. This is interesting because the word ‘život’ (Bosnian/Croatian) as well as the word ‘живот’ (Serbian Cyrillic) means ‘life’ in BCS.

If we follow this Greek-Latin-English-Slavic word trip in the light of BCS, we discover that the body parts ‘stomach’, ‘belly’ and ‘mouth’ are inseparable from the word ‘life’. Does it mean that the hidden meaning of this trip is what we already know: there is no life with no stomach, belly and mouth? We eat and live. As long as our stomach works well, we are alive. Interesting?! So, we can stop here, but! There is one more thing outside the Indo-European world that is intriguing too.


Do you speak Chinese?

Let me mention that the word 水 (shuǐ) in Chinese (both traditional and simplified) means ‘water’. We know that the Chinese language has always used ‘complicated letters’. We sometimes forget that those symbols are simplified pictures of what people had used for centuries. For this reason, we can learn Chinese words by heart, but if we go deeper into the language, we will see that each picture has its background story.

The Chinese word ‘water’ is an example. According to one explanation, the central picture line is a river since the other two ‘broken’ lines depict two streams flowing into the river. It is worth mentioning that the Chinese symbol for ‘water’ looks like the Cyrillic letter Ж that, for instance, exists in Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian. And yet this letter is the first letter of the word ‘живот’ that means ‘life’ in both BCS and Bulgarian. Should you understand the connection between ‘water’ and ‘life’, ask some evolutionary biologists about it.


Coincidence or what?

The Russians and Ukrainians say that ‘stomach’ is ‘живот’ or ‘живіт’. The word ‘life’ in these two languages also starts with the letter Ж. Those who use the Cyrillic script can notice that the letter Ж looks like the Chinese word 水. Looking at these words, as a native speaker of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, I must say that all these guys from China, Russia and Ukraine are definitely right. What is life but belly; what is life but water? However, I keep wondering who and when put these words, letters and meanings in touch. Maybe it is just a coincidence, even though it is expected from all of us to come to terms in the same way with what ‘life’ is. Yet, we are all the same human beings…

NOTICE: This text is not peer-reviewed. It aims to inspire and motivate language learners of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian to think about possible cultural patterns when learning this/these language(s).