Aramaic, Magical and Naughty.

Aramaist Edward Cook has fun with recent pop-culture uses of Aramaic in his post “You Won’t Believe These Unbelievable Aramaic Expressions!!” (Great title, as is the name of his blog, Ralph the Sacred River.) He gives a noogie to Lev Grossman’s The Magician King, which purports to quote an actual sentence:

I’m not sure if Quentin recited the text from right-to-left, in which case the sentence runs backward (although the words are not backwards), or left-to-right (in which case the words are backwards, but the sentence gives the correct word order). Maybe it’s a Unicode thing, or just a magic thing.

Then he gets into the series Spartacus on the Starz network:

I’ve not found out who did the Aramaic, but I infer from the scripts (which are available here) that the language consultant employed mainly Talmudic Aramaic…

Also interesting are the “four-letter words” (obscene language). We don’t have any obscene language from ancient Aramaic — as far as I know — and it therefore presents a vexing problem in back-translation. I’m not going to go through all of them, lest I arouse distaste in some of my readers. However, the four-letter word par excellence, the F-word, gets a thorough workout in the scripts, and the back-translation is interesting, if not historically valid.

The whole thing is well worth it just for the philological exegesis of “Hare mezayyne. [Fucking shits.]” (Thanks, Paul!)


  1. The breathless quality of the headline reminded me of a funny line in Latin:

    Si hoc signum legere potes, operis boni in rebus Latinus alacribus et fructuosis potiri potes!
    If you can read this sign, you can get a good job in the fast-paced, high-paying world of Latin!

    Some of those unbelievable Aramaic expressions were brought to the fore in this LH post from early January.

  2. “Ralph the Sacred River” He runs?

  3. Down to a porcelain god, to be exact.

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