Variety in Language.

This passage from Kugel’s How to Read the Bible (see this post) combines Biblical study with linguistics, winningly starting off with a personal anecdote:

Every language changes over time—in fact, in a remarkably short time. This lesson was brought home to me once when I was reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to one of my children. It starts off with Dorothy’s house being swept up by a cyclone and carried off to parts unknown. “What’s a cyclone?” my son asked, and I answered immediately, “a tornado.” That word he knew. The book had been written only seventy-five years earlier, but in that time the previously disdained “tornado” had come back to replace “cyclone” in normal American usage. Words also vary from place to place. Depending on where you were born in America, you refer to what I call “pancakes” as “griddle cakes,” “hotcakes,” “flapjacks,” or yet something else. Traveling around the country, I have noticed that local TV reporters in some regions refer to what New Englanders call an “accident” on Route 91 as a “crash.” Of course, both words exist for all speakers; it is just a matter of local preferences.

The same thing happened with biblical Hebrew—it varied from place to place and also changed over time. When scholars looked closely at the Psalter, they began to realize that its language was not all of one piece. Some psalms, like Psalm 1 or 119 or 145, used terms or expressions that were simply not found in the earlier parts of the Bible but that existed in abundance in its latest datable books. It seemed unlikely that David, even if he were a prophet, would have used a word that his own contemporaries had never heard of. Other words actually changed their meanings. To David, the word shalal meant “spoils of war, booty” (2 Sam. 3:22); this meaning persisted into later times, but then a new meaning developed, “wealth” or “treasure” (as in, for example, Prov. 31:11, “Her husband’s heart relies on her, and wealth will not be lacking [in the household]”). Why would David have used the word in the latter sense (“I rejoice in Your words as someone who has found great shalal,” Ps. 119:162) when his contemporaries would have misunderstood him to be comparing God’s words not to precious treasure but to plundered goods?

What’s more, David was a southerner, born and bred in Judah. But a number of psalms are written in a distinctly northern Hebrew—for example, they say mah to mean “don’t,” an altogether northern way of speaking (Song 5:8; 7:1; 8:4 [cf. 2:7]). When scholars find this mah, along with other northernisms and even evocations of northern geographic sites, clustered together in Psalm 42, it seems to them that the author of this psalm must have come not from Judah but some northern location. In short, the great chronological and geographical span indicated by the Psalms’ language ruled out a single author or even a single period: the Psalms were written in different places and over a long span of time.

Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure that I learned both “cyclone” and “twister” from watching the movie of The Wizard of Oz.

    On the other hand, I have always thought that the translation “spoils” in that psalm, which is actually fairly common nowadays, works just as well as the more neutral “treasure.” It fits with the oppositional tone of the previous verse: “Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.” Whether either verse sounds like something that could plausible have been written by David is another matter.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    spoils, treasure

    Spoils would emphasize the warlike nature of the society and the manner in which the treasure or the wealth was acquired.

    This reminds me of rob, robe which are actually related, through a Germanic root meaning ‘plunder’ and the like. Richly ornamented clothing must have been a very desirable component of booty in antiquity.

  3. marie-lucie has (probably inadvertently) used another word that illustrates the way languages change. Modern American high-school students generally do not know that ‘booty’ is an old-fashioned word for ‘plunder, loot, spoils of war’. They only know it as vulgar slang for ‘buttocks’, as in ‘shake your booty’ (while dancing). The change in meaning complicates teaching (e.g.) The Iliad, and teachers have a terrible temptation to say that slave-mistresses like Briseis and Chryseis were two kinds of ‘booty’ in one.

  4. Oops, I shouldn’t have said ‘only’. Most high-schoolers have heard of ‘baby booties’, but they still giggle and stare if a teacher mentions ‘booty’ in a context of plunder. Do they assume the buttock meaning for singular ‘booty’ since baby booties are almost always mentioned as plurals, even when ‘baby’ is omitted?

  5. marie-lucie says:

    MH: Thank you for reminding me that “booty” has fairly recently acquired the meaning ‘rear end’. I have seen it in print enough to know this new meaning, but the word is not one that I would use with that new meaning, nor one that I often hear since I am not currently in contact with teenagers, so indeed I was only thinking of the original meaning ‘plunder, spoils’. The old “booty” is the same as French le butin, which as far as I know has not changed its meaning.

  6. fairly recently

    What’s recent is for it to not be an exclusively African-American usage. HDAS has a 1928 quotation. (And an 1838 one, but with the sense ‘body’.)

  7. This reminds me of rob, robe which are actually related, through a Germanic root meaning ‘plunder’ and the like.

    It’s curious how unrelated languages sometimes display parallel sense developments. Hebrew מעיל mi-il means coat. Hebrew מעילה mi-ila means embezzlement.

  8. To David, the word shalal meant “spoils of war, booty” (2 Sam. 3:22); this meaning persisted into later times, but then a new meaning developed, “wealth” or “treasure” (as in, for example, Prov. 31:11 . . .

    The original meaning of שלל shalal seems to have been “to draw out”. The sense of booty remains in Modern Hebrew. The root has cognates in several Semitic languages.

    This root is relatively unusual in that it has an identical consonant L in second and third positions. Further, and I think this happens in other languages too, L can sometimes become R.

    When you draw out, or plunder, you deny something to its original possessor. In Hebrew, this led to the development of שלילה shlila, meaning deprivation, rejection or negation, and שלילי shlili, meaning negative (adjective). Modern Hebrew needed a word for a photographic negative and came up with תשליל tashlil.

    Rejection and drawing out can be ascribed to bodily functions, so we also have שלשול diarrhea.

    A gate in the Old City of Jerusalem is called the Chain Gate. Its name in Arabic is Bab al-Silsileh. A major street in the Old City is called Street of Chains. In Hebrew that’s רחוב השלשלת reh.ov hashalshelet, though the everyday Hebrew word for chain is שרשרת sharsheret.

    Over to you, Lameen.

  9. Of course, ‘cyclone’ is a very common word in Australia, not in the meaning of ‘tornado’ but as the local name for a typhoon or hurricane.

  10. I would assume many children in the greater New York area are still familiar with “cyclone” because of the Coney Island roller coaster of that name and the minor league baseball team in Brooklyn named after that ride.

  11. Huh. For some reason I was under the impression that the Cyclone had been torn down; I’m glad that’s not the case. I greatly enjoyed riding it thirty-odd years ago.

  12. A propos of the Hebrew language and embarrassing changes in the meaning of words, there’s the hilarious incident recounted by Amos Oz in his autobiograpy, as reported by Amoz Elon in his NYRB review (12/16/04):

    ‘After independence in 1948, with Israel in only partial control of Palestine, Begin had emerged from the underground and was running for the Knesset on a platform that still demanded a Greater Israel on both sides of the river Jordan. At a rally at Edison Hall, Jerusalem’s largest auditorium, Amos sat in one of the front rows between his father and his grandfather, and next to other like-minded followers of the far right.

    ‘Most of the leading right-wing politicians as well as Begin himself spoke the perfect, classic Hebrew that they had learned out of books or in one of the Tarbuth gymnasiums in Eastern Europe, while those sitting further back in the large hall, mostly working-class immigrants from Middle Eastern countries, used colloquial street Hebrew. Begin, a great orator, was attacking the readiness of the great powers to arm the Arabs. In biblical Hebrew, but not in the Jerusalem vernacular, the same word was used at the time for “weapon” and the male sexual organ. In the vernacular, the verb “to arm” was the same as “to fuck.”

    ‘In rising, melodious cadences Begin was, for most of those present, complaining that Eisenhower and Anthony Eden were “fucking” Nasser day and night. But who is fucking us? he asked in an outraged voice. “Nobody! Absolutely nobody!” A stunned silence filled the hall. Begin did not notice. He went on to predict that if he were to become prime minister everyone would be fucking Israel. Faint applause rose from the elderly intellectuals in the first three rows. Behind them, unable to believe their ears, the large crowd remained uneasily silent. Only one twelve-year-old, until this moment a devoted Beginite, could not contain himself and burst out laughing. Horrified looks were fixed upon Amos from all sides. In a rage, his grandfather pulled him from his seat and dragged him out by his ear; Amos was still choking with laughter. Outside, his grandfather finally silenced him by furiously slapping him on his cheeks.’

  13. The Begin story is exactly the sort of thing that has probably been posted on the Languagehat site before. If so, apologies. But it’s too relevant to the thread, and too good a story, not to post again.

  14. That northern Hebrew ma “don’t” is the result of an interesting semantic-pragmatic development: it originally means “what”, and presumably acquired its negative meaning via the context of rhetorical questions. “What” expanded in sense to mean “why”, and “Why are you doing that?” is often the pragmatic equivalent of “Don’t do that!”. (The “what/why” meaning actually still makes sense in the context of Psalm 42, and this is how that verse is usually translated, e.g. KJV: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?”)

    I suspect that a similar interrogative-to-negative development may underlie the negative existential ayn “there is not” (cf. min-ayn “from where?” etc.), but I don’t know if the comparative data support this.

  15. In biblical Hebrew, but not in the Jerusalem vernacular, the same word was used at the time for “weapon” and the male sexual organ.

    I’ve seen many incredulous Israeli visitors to our state gasp upon hearing that Zion National Park, so named for its divine grandeur, is pronounced Zayn rather than Tsion :)

  16. The Begin story is exactly the sort of thing that has probably been posted on the Languagehat site before.

    I didn’t know that particular Begin story. Quite the hoot. I referred to the dual meaning of ‘armed’ and ‘fucked’ a few weeks ago on this post.

    Administrative note to Hat: The site’s search function doesn’t work with words rendered in the Hebrew alphabet. I found the link through Google.

  17. The Begin story is exactly the sort of thing that has probably been posted on the Languagehat site before. If so, apologies.

    No need to apologize! In the first place, I don’t remember its having been posted before (not that my memory proves anything), and in the second place, even if it has, a good story is worth repeating.

    I’ve seen many incredulous Israeli visitors to our state gasp upon hearing that Zion National Park, so named for its divine grandeur, is pronounced Zayn rather than Tsion

    To appreciate this, you need to know what Paul Ogden said here: “זין zayin in today’s Hebrew is a crude word for the male member.”

    Administrative note to Hat: The site’s search function doesn’t work with words rendered in the Hebrew alphabet. I found the link through Google.

    Sorry to hear that; I guess we’ll all have to use Google for that purpose. Russian works fine on the site search, for some reason.

  18. Apparently it’s not clear whether or not zayn ‘penis’ comes from zayn ‘weapon’. It’s not hard to imagine how it might, but since zayn is also the name of a letter, the sense may have originated in an “F-word”-style abbreviation of an earlier ‘penis’ word, e.g. the now-obsolete zereg.

    (For that matter, I can’t find an etymology for the root z-y-n ‘to arm’; it’s not in Brown-Driver-Briggs, so presumably doesn’t occur in the OT.)

  19. So how do Hebrew-speakers navigate the multivalent nature of zayin? Of course English cock and prick are multivalent, but at least in America we’ve responded by basically giving up on the homonyms: we use rooster and poke (or various other synonyms) respectively. Do young Israelis giggle every time they recite the alphabet?

  20. J.W. Brewer says:

    Even fairly young AmEng speakers are likely to be familiar with the “spoils, plunder” sense of booty if only via exposure to narratives about pirates, which remain almost as interesting to young boys as dinosaurs do. There’s even a derived-sense snack food wide popular with the preschool set: http://www.piratebrands.com/pirates-booty/veggie. It may still be a double entendre that cannot be used without eliciting snickers from teenagers, but it really is double – it’s not because they don’t know both senses. However, when my now twelve-year-old was perhaps seven, she took a brief interest in vexillology which had been one of my fascinations as a kid, so I bought her a current flags-of-the-world reference book. In the Africa section, she concluded that Djibouti was the most hilariously-named country in the world, on account it rhymed with “booty.” (At the time a college friend of mine was serving in the U.S. Embassy to Djibouti, so I probably had pointed it out as a country of especial significance.)

  21. I have spellings “bootee” for the babyshoes, “bootie” for the buttocks, and “booty” for the treasure. Alas, I seldom have cause to say any of them.

    “Shake Your Booty” dates from 1976; my spelling preference may derive from the 1998 song “Bootie Call”.

  22. So how do Hebrew-speakers navigate the multivalent nature of zayin? Of course English cock and prick are multivalent, but at least in America we’ve responded by basically giving up on the homonyms: we use rooster and poke (or various other synonyms) respectively. Do young Israelis giggle every time they recite the alphabet?

    Presumably that’s why the ‘arm’ sense of the root became obsolete; it’s harder to retire a letter name, which has no synonyms. But it’s not a big deal. Israeli culture is much more relaxed about obscenity than the Anglosphere, and in any case, in my mind at least the two meanings of the word are distinct enough that I don’t consciously think of one when saying or hearing the other.

  23. Djibouti

    And, of course, its traditional leader, the great Sheik Djibouti.

  24. Trond Engen says:

    Oman.

  25. wonderclock says:

    Not to mention (i.e., to mention) Frank Zappa’s epic Sheik Yerbouti, featuring “Dancin’ Fool.”

  26. Here in Saskatchewan in the ’70s twister was used to refer to high winds, rotating in a circular fashion, that weren’t strong and fast enough to be a full out tornado. I suspect that usage is a bit archaic now.

  27. Apparently it’s not clear whether or not zayn ‘penis’ comes from zayn ‘weapon’. It’s not hard to imagine how it might, but since zayn is also the name of a letter, the sense may have originated in an “F-word”-style abbreviation of an earlier ‘penis’ word, e.g. the now-obsolete zereg.

    For many years I had assumed that זין zayin penis was etymologically related to זונה zona whore. Same neighborhood and all that, ya know. That the word also meant sword or implement of war was not a hindrance. Major thud when the assumption crashed as I tried to, uh, get to the bottom of this.

    There’s a tricky passage in Jeremiah (5:8) that KJV translates as ‘They were [as] fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbor’s wife.’ The Hebrew: “סוּסִים מְוֻזָּנִים \{מְיֻזָּנִים\} מַשְׁכִּים הָיוּ אִישׁ אֶל אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ יִצְהָלוּ” It’s possible to read the verb מְוֻזָּנִים mivuzanim as ‘fed,’ but it’s also possible to read the verb as מְיֻזָּנִים myuzanim — which reads to me as ‘those who have a male member.’ (I pasted from a Hebrew Wiki entry ([זין [סלנג), hence the diacritics and the bracketed verb in the sentence. The previous verse: ‘When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses.’

    (For that matter, I can’t find an etymology for the root z-y-n ‘to arm’; it’s not in Brown-Driver-Briggs, so presumably doesn’t occur in the OT.)

    זין zayin meaning sword is apparently accepted as far back as Proto-Semitic and accounts for the shape of the letter. I also don’t see it in BDB, but the Hebrew Wiki and Wiktionary entries provide many citations from the Talmud that show an adjectival form meaning armed. זין zayin meaning (crudely) male member is apparently a neologism, possibly born in 19th century Eastern Europe as a euphemism for Hebrew זנב zanav tail, a calque from German/Yiddish Schwantz tail that can also carry that meaning.

  28. The Hebrew: “סוּסִים מְוֻזָּנִים \{מְיֻזָּנִים\} מַשְׁכִּים הָיוּ אִישׁ אֶל אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ יִצְהָלוּ” It’s possible to read the verb מְוֻזָּנִים mivuzanim as ‘fed,’ but it’s also possible to read the verb as מְיֻזָּנִים myuzanim — which reads to me as ‘those who have a male member.’

    That latter reading does make a lot more sense in the context, but the form should be mezuyanim; what’s up with that metathesis?

  29. That latter reading does make a lot more sense in the context, but the form should be mezuyanim; what’s up with that metathesis?

    I dunno. Maybe it’s a case of scribal error. You know: bad penmanship meets good swordsmanship. Or something like that. In any case, the parsing is tricky here. I erred in my earlier post when I described the word(s) in question as verbs. Mezuyanim could equally be described as an adjective, which would give the meaning “armed-with-a-male-member horses.” Read another way, mezuyanim means “gotten-laid horses.”

    Update: I found a curious reference that I’ll post in full (except for the jpg-ed Syriac and Samaritan words, which I’ll indicate with an asterisk):
    ________________________________

    זוּן verb feed (Late Hebrew Biblical Aramaic id.; Syriac * ; Samaritan * , * ); —

    Hoph`al Participle סוּסִים מוזנים Jeremiah 5:8 (Kt; i.e. מוּזָנִים; Qr מְיֻזָּנִים from יזן q. v.) well-fed horses, figurative of adulterers; DlPr 73 f. compare Assyrian zanânu, be full (i.e. of sexual desire).

    [יזן] verb only

    Pu`al Participle plural מְיֻזָּנִים Jeremiah 5:8 Qr (< Kt מוּזָנִים see זון); meaning dubious (compare by Schu and others with Arabic weigh, whence furnished with weights, i.e. testicles, but sense remote and very uncertain).
    _______________________________

    I also found on the Хасидус по-русски site an explanation (or translation) of the verse in Russian, which I'll let the Russian speakers of the шляпа магазин translate into English: Они насытившиеся к утру жеребцы: каждый ржет жене другого.

  30. Did I miss a mention of this: Surely the meaning of zayin as “penis” has been at least reinforced by the shape of the letter?

  31. I think you’re right; that occurred to me too. (For non-Hebrew speakers, the letter is ז; judge for yourselves.)

    סוּסִים מְוֻזָּנִים \{מְיֻזָּנִים\} מַשְׁכִּים הָיוּ אִישׁ אֶל אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ יִצְהָלוּ

    Actually, the next word after meyuzanim (or whatever it is) in that verse is mysterious too. Nobody can agree how to translate it: KJV has “in the morning”, but the New American Standard Bible says “lusty”. Once you’re thinking along anatomical lines, mashkim looks like it might be related to אשך eshekh/ashakh “testicle”. And indeed, BDB say:

    Participle as adjective in סוּסִים מוּזָנִים מַשְׁכִּים הָיוּ Jeremiah 5:8 usually, horses… roaming at large they have become (compare Ethiopic ); — but meaning lustful needed; Aq Theod ἔλκοντες, Jerome trahentes (that is, genitalia), i.e. משְׁכִים; read with Arnheim Du Dr מַאֲשָׁכִים, i.e. fed stallions (literally growing אֲשָׁכִים [testicles], Leviticus 21:20; compare מַקְרִין, מַפְרִים).

    So maybe the proper translation is “well-hung studs”.

  32. “in the morning” . . .”well-hung studs”

    Maybe the scribes were particularly sloppy that day, but you really do need to insert another letter in משכים mashkim to arrive at testicles.

    I’d sooner go with “in the morning:”

    The much-loved Israeli folksong אל גינת אגוז El Ginat Egoz (both G’s hard) To the Nut Tree Grove, whose words come from the Song of Songs, contains the verb נשכימה nashkima “we’ll rise early” in the sixth line.

    אֶל-גִּנַּת אֱגוֹז יָרַדְתִּי
    לִרְאוֹת בְּאִבֵּי הַנָּחַל;
    לִרְאוֹת הֲפָרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן,
    הֵנֵצוּ הָרִמֹּנִים.

    לְכָה דוֹדִי נֵצֵא הַשָּׂדֶה,
    נָלִינָה בַּכְּפָרִים, נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים.
    נִרְאֶה אִם-פָּרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן,
    פִּתַּח הַסְּמָדַר.

    עוּרִי צָפוֹן וּבוֹאִי תֵימָן,
    הָפִיחִי גַנִּי יִזְּלוּ בְשָׂמָיו;
    יָבֹא דוֹדִי לְגַנּוֹ
    וְיֹאכַל פְּרִי מְגָדָיו.

    I went down into the nut tree grove,
    To see spring’s green shoots in the vale,
    To see whether the vine has put forth buds,
    And if the pomegranates have flowered.

    Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field.
    Let us lodge in the villages and go early up to the vineyards.
    Let us see whether the vine has put forth buds,
    And its flower bloomed.

    Awake, north wind; and come, you south!
    Blow on my garden, that its spices may flow out.
    Let my beloved come into his garden,
    and taste its precious fruits.

    Folk music lovers can listen to several versions here. (Doesn’t works well with Firefox.)

  33. But “in the morning” doesn’t work – it should be משכימים mashkimim. That final -im has to be the plural suffix, not part of the verb stem.

  34. Oops. You’re right. It doesn’t. Unless the scribe was having another bad quill day.

    So . . . if the KJV guys, the BDB boys and assorted other worthies struggled over this without resolution, and we can do little more than cite them, there’s but one recourse: Anybody at the Hattery know Robert Alter?

    Ahh, but wait. We haven’t looked at French sources.

    The Martin Bible has:
    Ils sont comme des chevaux bien repus, quand ils se lèvent le matin, chacun hennit après la femme de son prochain.

    Which looks to me like “They are like well-fed horses, rising in the morning, each whinnying after the wife of his neighbor.”

    But André Chouraqui’s translation has:

    Chevaux dopés, tôt levés ils sont à draguer
    chaque homme la femme de son compagnon, et ils hennissent.

    Peut-être quelqu’un qui connaît le français serait-il répondre.

  35. John Cowan says:

    Horses have never been big on the Tenth Commandment.

  36. J. W. Brewer says:

    The NETS Englishes the LXX version of Jeremiah as “lusty stallions, each neighing for his fellow’s wife,” with no time-of-day reference. But I haven’t looked at the actual Greek.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    PO: French speaker at your service:

    The Martin Bible has:
    Ils sont comme des chevaux bien repus, quand ils se lèvent le matin, chacun hennit après la femme de son prochain.

    My translation: They are like horses after eating their fill, when they get up in the morning, each one is neighing/whinnying after his neighbour’s wife.

    The word repu is not quite the same as “well-fed”, since the latter is more general. You can only be repu after eating so much that you can’t eat any more. It does not mean that you are generally well-fed.

    As for le prochain, this word refers to a ‘neighbour’ in the religious sense, not a person living next door (which would be le voisin).

    But André Chouraqui’s translation has:

    Chevaux dopés, tôt levés ils sont à draguer
    chaque homme la femme de son compagnon, et ils hennissent.

    My translation:
    (As/Like) drugged horses, up early in the morning, they are on the prowl,
    each man trying to pick up his neighbour’s wife, and they are neighing/whinnying.

    I find Chouraqui’s translation rather bizarre.
    - The verb doper means ‘to drug’ (for instance an athlete, or a race horse, with stimulants which are probably illegal).
    - The original meaning of draguer is ‘to dredge’ (as the bottom of a river or channel). But here it is a colloguial term referring to young men “cruising” along the streets, trying to pick up girls (whether or not they are successful). The word implies that the girls in question are not known to the dragueurs, and I don’t think the word would normally be used for attempted adultery (but I may be behind the times!)
    - As for the verb referring to the sound made by a horse, it would be tolerable (as in the original text ?) in the early context of horses (even figuratively), but it seems really out of place after the context has shifted to a typically human activity.

  38. Horses have never been big on the Tenth Commandment.

    You’ve been listening to too many Houyhnhnms.

    For Jeremiah 5:8, LXX has

    ἵπποι θηλυμανεῖς ἐγενήθησαν ἕκαστος ἐπὶ τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ πλησίον αὐτοῦ ἐχρεμέτιζον.

    My Greek being, uh, just a micron short of optimal, I can say only that I think I recognize the words for horse and woman.

  39. Literally, “They have become female-crazy horses; they neighed each after the wife of his neighbor.” Which obviously captures the gist, but doesn’t tell us whether the LXX translators knew what the mystery participles meant and were too demure to translate more directly, or were as stumped as we are.

  40. If I may be permitted to go back to ‘booty’, m-l cites Fr. ‘le butin’. I suppose that could be the etymological source, with denasalization. Cf. canuck ‘eh’ pron.’ay’, which I have guessed comes from fr. ‘hien’ (or is that too ancient?).

    But when I worked in a bar in Barcelona in the early Seventies, the tip-jar was called ‘bote’ (pron. botay’ and I assumed that was the origin of our ‘booty’, with visions of 17th century English-Spanish rivally, piracy, etc.

    Or are they all three related?

  41. marie-lucie says:

    iakon: booty ~ butin

    The Online Etymological Dictionary agrees with you:

    booty “plunder, gain, profit,” mid-15c., from Old French butin “booty” (14c.), from a Germanic source akin to Middle Low German bute “exchange.” Influenced in form and sense by boot [see freebooter below] and in form by nouns ending in -y.

    And the definition continues with the origin of the ‘modern’ meaning: Meaning “female body considered as a sex object” is 1920s, black slang.

    freebooter (n.)
    1560s, loan-translation of Dutch vrijbuiter “plunderer, robber,” from vrijbuiten “to rob, plunder,” from vrijbuit “plunder,” literally “free booty,” from vrij “free” + buit “booty,” from buiten “to exchange or plunder,” from Middle Dutch buten, related to Middle Low German bute “exchange”

    The TLFI gives butin as from the same Middle Low German origin, with bute as the noun and buten as the verb meaning ‘share, exchange, allot’ (in this case referring more specifically to the sharing, distribution and exchange of the spoils of war).

    The French word butin has a derivative, the verb butiner used mostly of the activity of bees: ‘to go from flower to flower, gathering pollen’, pollen being the bees’ butin that they bring back to the hive. I have known the verb since primary school but it had never occurred to me to relate it to butin.

    eh ~ hein

    Possibly, but could be coincidence since both are very short exclamations.

    The Online dictionary has under eh: ’1560s as an exclamation of sorrow; with questions, from 1773.’ No mention of a possible origin. French hein and similar exclamations are attested from the medieval period, usually indicating surprise or a request for repeating.

    The TLFI mentions one source that considers hein as a ‘nasalized double’ of (French) eh, but they are not used with the same meaning, since eh calls a person’s attention or announces a statement, while hein indicates a reaction to or comment on a previous utterance.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    Spanish bote could also have the same origin, specifically from Dutch, since the Netherlands were part of the Spanish empire around the time of the borrowing of booty.

  43. >Iakon
    You’ve probably heard the surname of the man who is the president and majority stockholder of the first Spanish bank : Botín. Is it an aptronym or anti-aptronym?

  44. >Marie-lucie
    I’ve just read “bote” came from “pote”. Curiously, this last word came from Catalan “pot” and means “bote” (jar). Our Academy has looped the loop!
    According to our Academy, “botín” came from Provençal “botin” whose origin is the Germanic “bytin” (prey).

  45. mystery participles

    I found a source for Jeremiah that includes the Targum of Jonathan (into Aramaic), plus the medieval commentaries in Hebrew of Rashi and David Kimchi (רד”ק Radak) and others whose names I don’t recognize, and a Yiddish translation/commentary to boot; 18 in all per the publisher’s introduction. This book started life in Lublin, probably in the late 19th century, was reprinted in NYC, then more recently in Brooklyn, and has since fortuitously been made available online to the curious and learned alike. Discussion of the mystery participles is to be found on Page 49. I remain mystified.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    Jesús: Gracias. It makes more sense with the meaning ‘jar’.

    The “Germanic “bytin”‘ is probably the French “butin”, which is of Germanic origin as I found above. “Provençal” (= Old Occitan) botin would now be pronounced “butí”, having lost final n like Catalan).

  47. Jesus: If I had read that name, I’ve forgotten, but I don’t think I would have connected it to booty. Your question is a good one!

    m-l: Thanks for the Germanic source, and bringing in the word freebooter. If the Spanish Academy is right, the original context is hunting culture, which fits. hein:eh: In my time, ‘eh’ was non-nasal too, and pronounced 3 (that’s as close to IPA as I can get). I thought that the nasalizaton came from the Ontario side of the Ottawa valley, a very long-time bilingual region.

    I agree that ‘bote’ is more likely ‘pot’. English and Catalan pronounciations are different only in the vowel, by the way.

  48. a source for Jeremiah

    Interesting stuff. If I’m interpreting the commentaries correctly, all of the commentators understand mashkim as “in the morning”, and all but Rashi take meyuzanim to mean “well-fed”; but Rashi says מזויינים בקושי אבר, which seems to mean “armed with hardness of member”, followed by a word תשמיש which I don’t understand.

    “They were as horses with morning wood”, then?

  49. >Iakon
    Speaking of hunting and booty, I tell you an interesting piece of gossip: Emilio Botín owns more than 7700 ha near my job to go shooting. On the other hand, one of his grant-fathers discovered a famous cave but it has nothing to do with Ali Baba’s den: the Cave of Altamira.

  50. horses with morning wood

    I’ll say. At least if Rashi is to be believed.

    The word תשמיש tashmish is derived from the root שמ”ש sh-m-sh. The root is in everyday use with the meanings ‘use’ and ‘serve.’ The commonest form is likely הוא השתמש hu hishtamesh he used (plus preposition and noun: he used [made use of] the car to get to work). תשמישי קדושה tashmishey kiddusha refers to religious ritual objects — what Wiki English calls ‘Jewish ceremonial art’.

    Now here the stallion rears. Poking, as it were, through the dictionary, I learned that תשמיש tashmish also means coitus, and תשמיש המיטה tashmish hamitah refers to a legal sexual act, i.e., between husband and wife and in observance of the biblical injunctions on the matter. Wiki Hebrew has detail.

    At first it seems that Rashi is saying that the horses are armed with a hard coital organ and they rose early in the morning, though just what rose he doesn’t clarify. Google returns about 500 hits for אבר תשמיש ever tashmish (possibly) coital organ. The references all seem to be biblical or exegetical.

    Anybody recall if הנס החכם Clever Hans could read Hebrew?

  51. Speaking of humping in the bible, the New York Times has just published a story that says camels had no business in Genesis.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    Jesús: An illustrious descent. According to what I read, the grandfather went into the cave of Altamira with his four-year-old daughter, who looked up and saw the paintings of “toros”,
    becoming the first person to see them in millennia.

  53. >Paul Odgen
    Well, I won’t dismantle my crib or, at least, dismount the Three Wise Men because they have dromedaries and, moreover, that depicts a scene of New Testament.

  54. >Paul Ogden
    I’m sorry! I’ve changed your name. Damn dyslexia!

  55. @Jesús: The Three Wise Men appear 1,500 years or more after the Genesis stories and about 1,000 years after the local domestication of camels. You needn’t dismount.

  56. >Paul Ogden
    Yes. For that I wrote it [the crib] is a scene of New Testament. Anyway, I must confess I’m surprised with that piece of news.

  57. J. W. Brewer says:

    There’s obviously a bit of a leap from a) we haven’t (thus far) found evidence of domesticated camels in such and such region that we can date to more than about 3000 years before the present; to b) there therefore definitely weren’t any domesticated camels whatsoever in that region prior to that time. It might be right, but you’d need to know a heck of a lot about the awesome completeness of the known archaeological/fossil record for the Levant over the millenium preceding that date before you ought to be comfortable drawing inferences based on what is absent from that record.

  58. obviously a bit of a leap

    No kidding. But blame that on the breathless prose of the Times (and a similar article in Forbes).

    The paper itself is far more nuanced, though note that it appeared in a Tel Aviv University publication, not a peer-reviewed journal.

  59. It’s not exactly a new idea. W. F. Albright said similar things in 1942 in his Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, and Richard W. Bulliet in The Camel and the Wheel (1975) wrote:

    There are no sound grounds for doubting Albright’s contention that camel domestication first became a factor of importance in the Syrian and north Arabian deserts around the eleventh century B.C., and, as will be seen, there is much to support the contention besides the absence of camelline remains in Holy Land archaeological sites of earlier date, which was Albright’s primary datum. On the other hand, this date need not be taken as the beginning date of camel domestication in an absolute sense. Closer attention to the process of domestication indicates that the camel was actually domesticated long before the year 1100 B.C., but in southern rather than northern Arabia, where the practice did not indeed penetrate, although evidence of it may have, until the period put forward by Albright.

  60. J. W. Brewer says:

    I am baffled by the final half-sentence of the Bulliet quote. Evidence of the practice may have penetrated to the north but the practice itself did not? Huh?

    Albright’s point as summarized by Bulliet seems more nuanced – we can’t rule out the possibility that there may have been a little bit of domesticated camel use earlier on, but there wouldn’t have been too much of it, and it would have been marginal rather than central to the way the cultures worked. The trouble with that nuanced approach is that it doesn’t make it obviously *impossible* for a given individual to have been doing stuff with camels in a time and place consistent with the relevant bits of Genesis, and, indeed, it doesn’t even make it overwhelmingly unlikely, unless you think that human history consists entirely of people who are boringly typical of their time and place who in turn spend 100% of their time engaging only in those activities that are similarly boringly typical.

  61. marie-lucie says:

    JWB: Evidence of the practice may have penetrated to the north but the practice itself did not? Huh?

    I think that means that people in the North may have heard of it (perhaps from travellers from the South), or even witnessed it, if they travelled to the South, or if Northerners and Southerners met in some intermediate location where they gathered for trading, etc. As am example, riding elephants is not a European or American practice, but that does not mean that some travellers to India might not have had the opportunity to ride elephants there, as indeed many tourists do, and most others have at least seen pictures of people riding elephants, without causing the people of their own culture to have a need or desire to raise elephants for this purpose. As for camels in antiquity, adopting the practice of camel raising would have meant learning to catch and tame wild camels, etc. Even after it was possible to acquire already domesticated camels, handling them, feeding and breeding them would still have required quite a bit of training and habituation. The practice eventually spread when it became useful and even necessary for people in other regions to adopt it, just as American Plains Indians readily adopted the horse when they saw how useful this animal was for the conquerors and how many advantages it could provide for themselves.

  62. marie-lucie says:

    About the lack of domesticated camel remains in the archeological record, “domestication” is not the same as taming, it involves anatomical and physiological changes from the wild animal, and this process takes time. We cannot take it for granted that camels, even tame ones, or those beginning to be raised by humans more than three thousand years ago, were as different from wild ones as their descendants are now. As an example, pictorial representations of pigs in medieval or earlier times shows those animals as substantially different from modern ones, and much closer to their wild boar ancestors, even though the pig must have been domesticated quite a long time before those pictures were made (since the existence of this animal is attested by words going back to Proto-Indo-European).

  63. John Cowan says:

    I don’t see that a PIE word for pig shows that the pig had been domesticated in the full sense of the term. PIE words for hedgehog, tortoise, lynx, snake, otter, squirrel, wolf, fox are all reconstructible, and none of these animals have ever been domesticated (though many have been tamed).

    The two Old World camelids (one-humped and two-humped) are special in that their wild relatives are extinct: only domesticated and feral camels remain.

  64. marie-lucie says:

    JC: OK, I see your point about ‘pig’.

    I know that there no wild camels any more but there must be fossils or other traces of them.

  65. I’m a bit late to the party, but:
    @Hat:So how do Hebrew-speakers navigate the multivalent nature of zayin?
    There are usually no workarounds, so if you need it, you use it, with due caution. For example, school grade levels are marked by Hebrew letter numerals, rather than Arabic numerals. So when a seventh grader is asked what grade he or she is, their twelve-year-old self will answer kita zayin, and may or may not be embarrassed, but will not have any recourse. Seventh grade teachers presumably have to pretend nothing is wrong on the first day of class. Eventually everyone gets used to it, out of necessity.

    According to one anecdote, the Israeli politician Zerach Wahrhaftig Hebrew-ized his last name to Amitai (אמיתי), from the root אמת (ʔmt ‘truth’). So far so good. Unfortunately, goes the story, his name would appear with the initial and last name, and without vowel marks, ז. אמיתי ; people would read the name אֲמִתַּי /ʔamiˈtai/ as אֲמִתִּי /ʔamiˈti/ ‘real, true’, and the combination would come out as /ˈzayin ʔamiˈti/ ‘real penis’; the result was that the guy, a leader of the religious-Zionist party, changed his name back to Wahrhaftig.

    The etymology of the modern zayin, as I heard it, is that it is the initial of זנב zanav ‘tail’, a loan translation of the Yiddish שוואַנץ shvants, literally ‘tail’, and slangily ‘fool’ as well as ‘penis’. There is a detailed Hebrew Wikipedia entry on the subject.

    Another theory is that zayin is the initial of another slang word for penis, זרג zereg. That word, coined in the early 20th century and now fairly obsolete, is supposedly a reversed form of גזר gezer ‘carrot’. However zayin is apparently attested in Eastern Europe in the 19th century. An eruditearticle (in Hebrew), “The metamorphosis of a tail: from Hassidic courts to Israeli slang”, by Assaf and Bartel, discusses all this and more.

  66. It turns out, in fact, that a population of about 600 wild Bactrian camels has been found in the Gobi. They are genetically distinct from domesticated Bactrian camels, but not so much that they cannot interbreed, so they are threatened as a separate subspecies. The ancestor of all living camelids lived in North America, from which they were extirpated when the Palaeo-Indians arrived, but some of them had passed over both the Bering Strait and the Isthmus of Panama a few million years ago. These became the ancestors of dromedaries and Bactrians on the one hand, and guanacos/llamas and vicuñas/alpacas on the other. (Guanacos and vicuñas are wild, whereas llamas and alpacas are their respective domesticated descendants; the four South American species are well differentiated but are all capable of having fertile offspring.)

  67. doing stuff with camels

    Sir: This is a family site.

  68. It’s OK, the family is the Addamses.

  69. John Cowan says:

    We’re not that perverse. Just broad-minded.

  70. We’re not that perverse.

    Kinky is when you do it with a feather. Perverse is when you do it with the whole chicken.

  71. Trond Engen says:

    No reason to be prudish. There’s not an unhumped cameloid in the Old World..

  72. The metamorphosis of a tail

    Excellent article. I’ve forwarded it to several friends.

  73. marie-lucie says:

    JC, where did you find the info about the 600 Bactrian camels? Were there pictures as well?

  74. The Wiki entry on camels says there’s a population of about 1,000 wild Bactrian camels in the Gobi Desert area. No photos, but two citations. There’s a link on that page to an entry on Bactrian camels that gives a slightly lower number. Many references at the bottom of the page.

  75. John Cowan says:

    Apropos de perversion and doing stuff with camels, there is the immortal verselet (or rather song):

    The sexual life of the camel
    Is stranger than anyone thinks,
    For when the camel gets randy
    He tries to bugger the Sphinx.

    But the Sphinx’s posterior opening
    Is blocked by the sands of the Nile,
    Which accounts for the hump on the camel
    And the Sphinx’s superior smile.

    (There are many, many variants due to the folk process.)

    In Aristophanes’ The Acharnians, there is a Boeotian who arrives at the hero’s house to sell him birds (for eating) and eels, accompanied by his slave, who is carrying most of the merchandise, and a troupe of flute-players. His opening lines are, in a fairly literal rendering:

    By Heracles! my shoulder is quite black and blue. Ismenias, put the penny-royal down there very gently, and all of you, musicians from Thebes, strike up on your bone flutes “The Dog’s Arse.”

    But in Douglass Parker’s translation, where he becomes a stage Englishman, bally-fool-with-eyeglass variety, the lines come out like this:

    I rawthah feel as though I’d maimed my shouldah.

    He hands the bunch of mint to the still struggling Ismenias.

    Ismenias, old thing, do try to deposit this gently.

    To the flute players

                                                            I say, you chappies with the whistles,
    you’ve been awf’ly decent to tweet us all the way from Thebes,
    but could we have another tune? Something spicy, don’t you know?
    Could you whistle up “The Sphinx’s posterior opening …”?

  76. That’s quite delightful.

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