Israel A. Cohen izzy_cohen at bmc.com
Wed Sep 11 14:19:47 EDT 2002

By the Skin of my Teeth is a Hebrew pun

Job 19:20 -- My skin and my flesh are stuck/glued to my bones and 
             I am escaped/saved/delivered by/with the skin of my teeth.

vav-aleph-sof-mem-lamed-tet-heh = and I escaped/slipped away/am
delivered/am saved

bet-aiyin-vav(oh)-resh = by/with the skin

shin-nun-yod = my tooth/teeth

This phrase is widely interpreted to mean "barely, hardly, with
I agree with the interpretation. But I have never seen an
explanation of why this meaning is appropriate.

Representing aiyin by 3, I presume B'3oR SHiNai is a euphemism for
B'QoSHi = barely, hardly, with difficulty... and that Job uses this phrase
to avoid literally saying how close he came to not escaping. That is,

B'QoSHi ---> B'3oR SHiNai --trans--> skin of my teeth.

Is there any other explanation for why this (generally) agreed-upon 
meaning is given to this phrase?

Incidently, the English translation of this phrase is widely understood 
by native English speakers even though few of them know its origin.

The closest analogue I could find in English is:
SCaNT = barely enough --> SKiN of (my) Teeth
For scant, Random House online does include the meaning:
 7.  Dial. scarcely; barely; hardly.

Israel Cohen
izzy_cohen at bmc.com

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list