[b-hebrew] "th" and "b"

joel at exc.com joel at exc.com
Sun Jun 15 09:55:27 EDT 2008

>Two transliteration things I see a lot are:
>-Taf without a dagesh transliterated as "TH" as in "B'nai BriTH,"  
>"Temple BeTH Shalom" - I see this most often in names of older Jewish  

The H was originally a scholarly convention, used to indicate the lack
of a Dagesh.  We still commonly see it in the combination "Kh."  As it
happens, though, the "th" combination has a sound in English, and when
people saw the scholarly "Th" they pronounced it the usual,
non-technical way, giving us, e.g., the town Bethel or the synagogue
"Beth Torah," and so forth.  (People who work at these places
frequently get callers asking, "Is Beth there, please?"  It's a dead
give-away that the caller is a telemarketer.)  Likewise, we have
"sabbath" in English.

Similarly, the letter J was used for a Yud, but not because it was
ever supposed to be pronounced the way a J is pronounced in English.
("Jehovah" is thus a double error, the second involving a
misunderstanding of a Masoretic convention.)

Most of our English names come from the Greek translation in the LXX.
The LXX has a different letter for T and for Th, so we see the
difference in English.  By contrast, the LXX does not distinguish
B/BH, so most English names just have a "B": "Jacob," e.g.


Joel M. Hoffman, PhD

Chair, CAJE 33
http://caje33.wordpress.com (blog)
http://www.CAJE.org (registration)

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