Oz and Uz

While L. Frank Baum claimed that he took the name “Oz” from a filing cabinet drawer, there’s some doubt as to whether this is actually true or just something he thought was more interesting than the truth, I couldn’t say. I believe his widow did discount the filing cabinet explanation at one point. Considering how short the word is, it’s no surprise that people have tried to connect it with all sorts of other things: the abbreviation for ounces, the Egyptian King Ozymandias (actually a Greek transliteration of “Ussermattre,” or “Ra’s mighty truth,” part of Ramesses II’s throne name), the ohs and ahs of delighted children, Charles Dickens’ pen name Boz (this was the name of Ozma’s grandfather in Ray Powell’s Mister Flint in Oz, and the original name of Nox the Ox in Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Handy Mandy in Oz), etc.

Nowadays it’s a common nickname for Australia, said to date back to 1908, eight years after Baum first used it as a place name. In his 1907 book Ozma of Oz, he had Dorothy and Uncle Henry visit Australia, but made no indication of any relation between the names. And any modern reader of the Book of Job is likely to think of Oz when reading that the Bible story takes place in the Land of Uz. In fact, I remember Gili Bar-Hillel mentioning years ago that the first translation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into Hebrew called the place Uz. As I mentioned before, nobody really knows where Uz was located, if it was even supposed to be a real location at all, but references to it in the Bible link it to Edom.

In the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, Uz is identified as a son of Aram, legendary forefather of the Arameans of modern-day Syria. In the Greek Septuagint, the land is called Ausitis. The Wikipedia entry mentions that the name “may also be related etymologically to the word oz, meaning ‘east,'” but gives no citation for this and doesn’t say what language that word is. Most of what I’ve found online has it that, in Hebrew, uz means “counsel” and oz means “strength.” Whether either of these has any link to the Land of Oz (whether in fact or in fiction), I couldn’t say. It does appear that the Biblical Uz is a fertile land surrounded by desert, however, so the two places have that in common. And Job and Dorothy both hung around with three friends, although Dorothy’s were a lot more helpful.

This entry was posted in Christianity, Etymology, Judaism, L. Frank Baum, Language, Oz, Oz Authors, Places, Ray Powell, Religion, Ruth Plumly Thompson and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Oz and Uz

  1. The Hebrew “Oz” is pronounced “Ohz”, not “Ahz”. And Job’s home in Hebrew is “Utz”.

  2. Pingback: A Show of Patrioztism | VoVatia

  3. Nick says:

    THNX GREAT ARTICLE. (Was jus now reading book of Job and thought to google “Uz seems similar to Oz”

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