Chickenshit: a term worthy of a king

chicken Today, a linguistic dissection of the word “chicken” followed by videos about the real issue at hand – the art of war and diplomacy.

The chicken was first domesticated over 5000 years ago in Southeast Asia, most likely arrived in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC, was artificially incubated by the Egyptians in 1000 BC and did not reach Greece until about 300 BC. The bird was revered as a symbol of virility and was closely associated with combat. Greeks and Romans brought these birds into battle both as an example of valor and as a shamanic tool to predict the outcome of the war. The chicken was a symbol that was respected and feared.

So with this grand history in mind, I present to you Dr. David Neiman’s historical background to “chicken”:

CHICKEN. This ubiquitous fowl, all but universal in many lands as an economically valuable and reliable source of meat and eggs, has been a constant companion of human society in the western world for at least five millenia. The origin of the name chicken is hidden in the mists of Old English, going back to Old Norse and other Scandinavian roots. The Linaean classification of this paragon of edible comparison is Gallus Gallus, and related species are also classified as gallinaceous.  Where the Romans got this name from is unknown, and it is my suspicion that its source is by far more antique than Latin or Greek.

What we have learned since the decipherment and reading of the most ancient of scripts and languages; namely, Sumerian and Akkadian, is that this domestic fowl was at one time called tar-lugallu.  And without going into the semantic parsing of the syllabic elements in the name of this bird, the translation of its components turns out to be “The King’s Bird.” So it seems that chicken was once considered to be suitable, perhaps exclusively, for the royal table.  What a comedown for the earth-girdling distribution of their descendants that chicken salad sandwiches are standard fare in cafeterias. And I do believe that the tar-lugallu  of the royal palaces of Sumer and Akkad, had she seen in a prophetic vision the emergence of a food product known as “Chicken McNuggets,” would have been transformed into a mourning dove.

Tar-lugallu appears in Hebrew literature, in the slightly modified form of tarnegôl  (masc.) and tarnegôlet  (fem.) from remote antiquity to the present day.  That it was always a favored item on the Jewish menu is evident from its description in the Talmud as the finest of birds.  And the opinion expressed in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Metzia  86b, that it is the tastiest of fowl refers to the chicken (fem.), not to the rooster (masc.). Its universality as the tastiest of meats is accorded honor by others being compared to it.  Thus, in trying to convince someone to taste an unfamiliar morsel, the insistent urging recommendation would be “It’s really delicious; it tastes just like chicken.”

The chicken seems to have a special place in Jewish life, in particular in that motherly specialty of the Jewish housewife, Chicken Soup.  Chicken Soup has acquired mythic powers.  Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the reputation of Chicken Soup has approximated the power of the myth. Chicken Soup is supposed to be the panacea, the all-purpose medicament, the elixer cure-all.  It has been characterized as “Jewish Penicillin,” the miraculous medicinal magic that mollifies multiple mishaps of body and soul, eases aches and pains and heals all ailments.

– Dr. David Neiman

The issue of chickens is of course a sideshow, the real issue is war, diplomacy and courage. The following videos speak of the art of war and diplomacy practiced by Hammurabi of Babylon.

Hammurabi of Babylon Part 1

Hammurabi of Babylon Part 2

Hammurabi of Babylon Part 3

CONTEXT is a blog devoted to providing historical background to the situation in the Middle East. The history has been provided through video and audio recordings of my late father, Dr. David Neiman –an expert on the history of the ancient near east and the relationship between the Church and the Jews. He based his theses on historical records, linguistics and a deep understanding of the Bible and its origins. 


About the Author
Becky Neiman is a writer, producer, director based in Los Angeles. She has directed music videos, worked in advertising in New York and Los Angeles, and produced and directed the feature documentaries "Anne Stewart: A Most Successful Failure" and "Orphans of Apollo". The recordings of her father's lectures have been produced as audiobooks and video.
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