Musing on Polysemy

In Hebrew, the words for “fat” and “milk” (חלב) are homonyms, a hint of the fact that they were once the same word, ḥalīb, in Proto-Semitic. In Laos, the word for “milk” (ນ້ຳນົມ) is literally “breast water” and similar compounding is found in the Hawaiian word “waiū” from wai (“water”) + ū (“breast, udder”). The Sanskrit word पयस् páyas referred to any fluid, especially milk, water, or rain. In Telugu, పాలు pālu means “milk” but it can also refer to the sap of plants.

“Way” is often the same word for such as “road” or “route.” (Tangentially, in the Gospel of John, “way” may have been a more appropriate translation of “logos” in the proclamation “θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος” which is usually rendered as “In the beginning was the word.”)

Given this sort of polysemy, it is plausible that given a few thousand years of semantic change and general confusion, the name for the Milky Way galaxy will be something like “the Path of Butter” or “the Law of Cream” or my personal favorite, “the Nipple’s Journey.”

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