Wednesday, April 10, 2013

er, um

A strange linguistic confluence occured to me and I started to research it yesterday. If you speak Hebrew and English, I hope you find this as fascinating as I do. If you speak only English, then I'm sorry but, while you might be able to pick up on what I'm getting at, the specifics will elude you. If you speak only Hebrew, well, then, shalom. And if you speak neither English nor Hebrew then dskjfa kjdfjhae hsaoern. And Shalom. I'll let google translate have its way with that.

So I was thinking about suffixes. I do that sometimes, usually at the end of the day. In Hebrew, the guy who makes shoes is a sandlar (I am not typing in Hebrew for speed's sake...I have to drive carpool in exactly 10 minutes). I asked a teacher who is a native speaker and she surmised that the construction was based on the root for sandal, combined with a reish suffix as "one who does/makes." I thought it was interesting that in both English and Hebrew the same suffix (-er in English if you aren't paying attention) would develop. I have found roots and full words which mean the same thing in both languages but which are etymologically unrelated, but I never saw it so for a prefix or a suffix. Now, it is true that in English, the -er is not added to the noun/item generally, but to the verb, making the construction "one who does the verb" and I haven't checked to see if, in Hebrew, sandal is a verb (in the same way that "shoe" is a verb in English) so there is more work to be done. My follow up to this was about the Hebrew word for waiter -- meltzar. I was wondering if the construction of the word was a root plus the reish suffix. The root thing here would be m-l-tz (often used in prayer as meilitz, intercessor). The root means "one who recommends or translates" and I could see the role of the waiter as either a recommender of food or one who takes the patron's order and transmits it to the chef. Neat thought, right?

So I took a look in the Klein text I have which is an etymological dictionary of Hebrew. I'm sure you can find it on Amazon but the car has to leave in 7 minutes so I'll leave you to look it up. And I'm sure that many people might argue with Klein's conclusions but be that as it may, he lists both words as post Biblical Hebrew. That's fine. Sandlar is a talmudic term for sandal maker which has evolved into a more general term for a shoe maker. Fine. But he says that meltzar is from the Akkadian word "massaru" meaning "waiter." This means that there is no root and suffix and my theory should be, at least in this case, blown to smithereeens and possibly back.

But it dawned on me that there is a bigger issue. Why would there be an ancient Akkadian word for waiter? There must have been ancient Akkadian restaurants! I had never thought about this. Were there ancient Akkadian fast food joints? Or just the fancy kind? What about Akkadian menus? And how do you say in Akkadian, "Sorry, that's not my table"? Why are there no Akkadian restayrants today where I can order my favorite Akkadian delicacies? I notice that the root word isn't Ugaritic, because the idea of an Ugaritic restaurant is laughable. But Akkadian? Yum.

1 comment:

  1. Per Google - yours is the only web page with the phrase "dskjfa kjdfjhae hsaoern".

    Klaatu barada niktu...


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