Diana Abu-Jaber ["The Truer Palestinian Face," op-ed, Nov. 14] is not quite accurate in her characterization of the etymology of the word "philistine."

The Oxford English Dictionary doesn't exactly identify it as coming from the word for "Palestinian." "Philistia" seems to be the root of both words. Philistia was a district in the southwest of what was known as Canaan around 1200 B.C. Canaan was then primarily ruled by Egypt. The Philistines were one tribe among many living in the area at the time.

After the Philistines had unsuccessfully attacked Egypt during the reign of Ramses III, they returned to Canaan and trounced the Hebrews -- but they ruled for only about 20 years. Then the Hebrews ruled themselves in a couple of divided kingdoms for a few hundred years before they were trounced again by another tribe -- the Assyrians. During the initial war between the Philistines and Hebrews, the Philistines supposedly took the Hebrews' Ark of the Covenant as the spoils of war. This is how "philistine" came to be a synonym for "someone to whom nothing is sacred." The meaning of "philistine" expanded to encompass the meaning "coarse or uneducated" -- someone uneducated enough to be unable to discern the difference between that which is sacred and that which is not.

Nothing to do with Palestinians at all, as far as I can see.

-- Marla Brin

Alexandria