Etymology

Etymology, Translation, Transliteration …

When I was in graduate school, doing ahem English, Otto Jespersen was hands down regarded as the greatest etymologist ever. It still tickles me to remember my favorite bit of Jespersen wisdom. As Knatz.com (censored 2006, 07) cautions, ’He estimated that 10% of the “knowledge” of his field was “certainly” right, 10% “certainly” wrong. Trouble was: no one knew which was which. The remaining 80%? “Probably wrong.”’

Now Reuters reports:A shard of pottery unearthed in a decade-old dig in southern Israel carried an inscription in early Semitic style spelling “Alwat and “Wlt,” likely Philistine renderings of the name Goliath, said Aren Maeir, who directed the excavation.

Uhh, Alwat and Wlt say “Goliath”? !?

Actually, it well may. I don’t know what the Hebrew Bible says. And I certain don’t read Philistine. And if I did — read both Hebrew and Philistine like a champ — would it follow that I knew how any of it had been pronounced back when little David was tending flocks? What we need to see is the anthropologist’s full argument, see what he knows about Philistine pronunciation, Philistine spelling.

Mark Twain made it simple. He asked if we realized that Moses was named after “Middletown” Ohio. “How do you get that?” he was asked. It’s easy, Twain said, “You just drop the -iddleton and add the -oses.”


Otto Jespersen (1860–1943) Danish linguist

Balance cut and pasted to Etymology Scrapbook.

Sentience & Semiotics

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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