Slaaf, sklav, and esclavo

For those who can speak Dutch, German, or Spanish know what we are about to dive into: slave. Where did this word come from? It didn’t automatically come into the English language when our ancestors were putting the Native Americans and African natives to work in America centuries ago. Nope, but we can thank the Slavs.

Slave comes from the word Slavs, an Indo-European ethnolinguistic group. While the word slave varies between Western language, the Slavs were everyone’s original slave. The Dutch slaaf, Germans Sklav, Spanish esclavo, and Italians schiavo.

Medieval Italians became lazy fast when declaring their enslavement, “I am your slave.” The Italian phrase is “Sono vostro schiavo.” Like all languages, this shortened to schiavo, then ciao. When Italians are saying ciao, they really are declaring their enslavement to you.

Then, the Italians wanted to join the Second World War, but was quickly booted off the show by the American and British troops. These troops heard ciao and brought it back to their countries, introducing ciao to the English language in both vernaculars. When you hear someone say ciao, remind them they declared their enslavement and they can thank the Italians.

Contrarily, ciao can also mean “Hey, man.” In the United States before the Civil War fully addressed slavery wasn’t good for the Land of the Free, slave-owners called their slaves boy. Why you hear movies and other true accounts have boy being used and usually referring to black men. It’s not something Hollywood made up.

When the Battle of Gettysburg freed the slaves, slave-owners kept being abusive to their ex-slaves and called them boy. Naturally adopted into the English langauge when referring to any black man as “Hey, boy!” Then, in the 1940s, black Americans started fighting, greeting each other as “Hey, man!” A reaction against the white Americans who were confused at the sudden gesture back at them.

It worked, and by the sixties everyone started calling each other man until the originality was lost. But, this was just America. What about the other countries who had slaves and robots?

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