tohu vabohu (was: Re: new subscriber)
dwashbur at nyx.net
Tue Nov 30 12:19:19 EST 1999
> Another thought on "tohu webohu", espcially as the second word occurs
> only in close relationship with the first. In Azerbaijani, I think in
> Farsi, and also in Russian as spoken in Azerbaijan, there is a common
> colloquial idiom in which a word is repeated with its first consonant
> replaced by "m" on the second occurrence, with the meaning "and that
> sort of thing". The second word is thus actually a nonsense word if
> taken separately. For example, "harj" means "disorder" (weakened in
> Arabic from the Hebrew HRG = "kill"), and "harj-marj" means "time of
> disorder, chaos, anarchy"; and I heard "Andrey-mandrei" meaning
> "Andrei and people like him".
> Could it be that this sort of thing, which can easily spread from
> language to language as I have seen, may be happening with "b"
> (another bilabial consonant) rather than "m" in Hebrew? This would
> make "bohu" actually a nonsense word, and the hendiadys "tohu webohu"
> would be a close equivalent of "harj-marj".
This is a fascinating idea! I wonder if we can come up with some
similar pairs in Hebrew to test it? It reminds me of the colloquial
American brush-off phrase with "shm," as in e.g. "What's the boss
going to think of that?" "Boss, Shmoss, I'm doing it anyway." In
such a case, would you suggest a translation of tohu webohu as
something like "It was pretty much a chaotic mess"? (To again
resort to colloquialism...)
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.
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