Thursday, May 18, 2006

Those funny squiggly letters

This image is explained in this post and this post.

I'm reposting this so that I can then link to this post on my sidebar, since its a recurring subject that I get emails about.

Briefly, it spells "On the Main Line" in paleo-Hebrew letters, and for no reason other than I like it. I made the image using a font based on a particular Phoenician inscription. Further, I didn't divide the words with dots, which would be how an actual ancient Hebrew text would read: on.the.main.line. The reason why is because it didn't look that good! However, some ancient Phoenician (as opposed to Israelite) inscriptions don't divide words using lines, and the Ramban was of the opinion that the original Hebrew of the Torah didn't divide words, so I felt free to use a little creative license.

As for the transcription, it doesn't make a lot of sense if you consider that I transcribe "the" as "תחה." Now, why would I do that?

The answer is because there really is no good way of writing English using Hebrew characters, since the sounds don't match. That's why the great American president becomes "לינקולן" in Hebrew--and Hebrew doesn't have a silent ל!

So I decided to use the equivalent letter as best as possible. Since the Roman alphabet which is used in modern English is descended from Greek, which is descended from Phoenician, which is the same as Hebrew, it is possible to find some sort of one-to-one correspondence.

Thus, for "the" I was faced with two choices. I could have considered that the "th" sound in English is similar to the Greek "theta," which is based on ת, and then used a ה which became an "epsilon" in Greek and an "e" in Roman/ English, or I could have done what I did, which was note that the ת was the ancestor of "t," the ח the ancestor of "h," the ה the ancestor of "e" &c.

Truth is, I think its time for a revision of that image, but meanwhile here is the explanation anew.

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