Paging All Linguists for a Caesarean Dissection

Jason English

While enjoying a Bloomin' Onion at our neighborhood Outback Steakhouse, my wife and I were discussing the origin of the term "caesarean section." (Shockingly, we were dining alone.) We decided that it was somehow related to Julius, and that we could wait for the upcoming -- and untitled -- mental_floss book on the origins of everything for confirmation.

But later that night, I had all kinds of time and no kinds of patience. So I Googled. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, the term came from "the traditional belief that Julius Caesar was born by this operation."

Sounded about right. But not the whole story. From WordOrigins:

"The term comes from the name of Julius Caesar, who according to legend was delivered by this method. Although this is where the term Caesarean comes from, this legend about Julius's birth is almost certainly false. While surgical deliveries were known in ancient Rome, they invariably resulted in the death of the mother and Julius's mother, Aurelia, lived well into her son's adulthood."

And those quirky Wikipedians had this to add: "The term may be simply derived from the Latin verb caedere (supine stem caesum), 'to cut.'"

I'll turn the floor over to any armchair linguists in the audience.