Blasphemy = Women’s Stupidity?

What makes a dictionary entry noteworthy? In this case it’s a questionable etymological explanation that nowadays causes a raised eyebrow, at the least.

In the entry blas (stupid) the lemma is followed, as usual, by derivations. The first one is comparatively unexciting: blasfemus, which is translated into Middle Low German as gotschender vel bespotter – a blasphemer.

But then the second derivation blasfemia – blasphemy in the theological sense – is not translated, instead it’s explained as „women’s stupidity, because women’s talk is like that“, and is then translated as „tattle“. Although it’s not explicitly mentioned in the entry, that definition is clearly influenced by the pseudo etymology blas-femina.

A serious attempt at etymology or merely a pun?

blas 956 41v
Cod. Guelf. 956 Helmst., 41v

Blas grece stultus latine inde blasfemus -a -um theutonice eyn gotschender vel bespotter et blasfemia quasi stulticia mulierum quia muliebre est sic loqui theutonice vlok vel honsprake inde [blasfem]are

Translation: Blas, Greek, stupid in Latin, thus blasfemus, -a, -um, eyn gotschender or bespotter (blasphemer) in German. And blasfemia, quasi women’s stupidity, because women’s talk is like that, is vlok (curse, swear) or honsprake (tattle) in German, thus [blasfem]are.


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