Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shopping Malls and the Book of Exodus

I made a strange connection a while back while reading about The Munsters. With good reason, I should point out. The great Bryan Fuller — who I believe made Pushing Daisies specifically or my enjoyment — has announced that he will reboot everyone’s second-favorite creepy family as something fantastic and wonderful, possibly in a way that includes Kristen Bell. Anyway, I couldn’t recall what Yvonne De Carlo, who played Lily in the original series, had done with the rest of her career. Turns out that pre-Munsters, De Carlo played Moses’s wife in the famous, Charles Heston version of The Ten Commandments. Her Wikipedia page even uses a still from The Ten Commandments. So there’s that.

But what surprised me is that her character isn’t noted as being Tzipporah, as I’m used to seeing it, but Sephora, which also happens to be the name of the cosmetics store chain. So what gives?

According to Sephora’s website, the chain’s name comes from a combination of Tzipporah (because ol’ Mo-mo’s wife was quite the looker, apparently) and the Greek word sephos, meaning “pretty.” The Wikipedia for the store, however, says sephos means “beauty.” And finally both this Greek-to-English dictionary and all of Google seem to say that sephos means nothing outside of Sephora-related claims. Even more strangely, Tzipporah (which apparently means “bird” in Hebrew) simply translates into Greek as Sephora, independent of any made-up word that means “beauty” or “pretty” or “clean-pored mallrat princess.”

Weird, then, but it’s not unheard of for a company to fudge its history or etymology to make itself sound better. But there’s one more aspect from the whole Sephora brand that makes me think the name might still be tied to its Old Testament roots. The logo:

That slender, “S”-shaped figure that appears above the text may look a bit like an abstract women’s body, but Wikipedia claims it’s actually an abstracted, “S”-shaped flame. Considering how fire plays into Exodus and particularly how God first speaks to Moses, I wonder if the symbolism may have been intentional, at least at some point.

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