Monday, May 14, 2007

Bamidbar vs Bemidbar

Some of us pedants are always amused/ angry that folks call the forthcoming sidra/ sepher Bamidbar (בַּמִדְבָּר) instead of the pedantically accurate Bemidbar (בְּמִדְבַּר).

Since you can prove anything with Google:

Bamidbar: an impressive 218,000 results!
Bamidbor (alt.): 665 results.


Bemidbar: Only 49, 600.
Bemidbor (alt.): just 7.

Of course there are a few oddballs, eg, B'midbar with 9,250 and B'midbor, with 3.

And yet, oftentimes instinct makes a great deal of sense, and it would seem that people's instinct is to prefer the technically incorrect. Why?

Well, how about this for a guess? Although the book is named for the word במדבר which appears in the first verse (Numbers 1:1) the word in that context cannot really stand alone. בְּמִדְבַּר means "in the wilderness of," so it needs the following word, Sinai. However בַּמִדְבָּר means "in the wilderness." No, בַּמִדְבָּר / "in the wilderness" is not actually part of the first verse. But "in the wilderness" doesn't hang like "in the wilderness of" does.

Masses 1 Pedants 0

edit: Looks like I was scooped by Philo "Hillel Halkin" Logos. But I think I was funnier.

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