[b-hebrew] Ex 6:6 hiphil imperative 'bring' (K Randolph)

Ruth Mathys ruth_mathys at sil.org
Sat Jul 13 03:28:56 EDT 2013

> Even if the Masoretic points are 99% accurate, that averages out to one
> mistake every three to four verses. Often that 1% error can make a significant
> change in meaning. For me, unless I have verified the points in a verse, I
> don’t trust them. And I recommend to everyone else that he verify the points
> before he counts them as accurate.

I've been pondering this for quite a long time.  How do we quantify what is
the required level of accuracy to trust the Masoretic pointing, or what
level of inaccuracy would cause us to reject them?  I used to work at a
company that captions TV programs for the Deaf and hearing impaired.
Captioning programs live to air is done by machine stenographers, most of
whom have previous experience as court reporters before they shift to
captioning.  In court reporting, inaccuracy is not a big deal because (1)
the output is only being seen by the people involved in the case, and (2)
there is the chance to tidy up the output for the official transcript.  But
to be able to work live to air, stenographers have to be able to type at a
98% accuracy level.  That is, they are still allowed 2 errors per 100 words.
To gain this level of accuracy, they have to do months of training -- even
after doing similar work in the past which itself took intensive training.
And of course those 2 errors per 100 words can produce output that is
incomprehensible (usually) / hilarious (sometimes) / offensive or insulting
(hopefully rarely -- the stenos set their software so that they can't
accidentally type any of the naughty words).  But if you are Deaf/hearing
impaired, getting 98% of the audio is better than the alternative.

Another anecdote that I heard recently, from someone in the linguistics
field -- he and his linguist colleagues work in the same institution as
people in the 'hard' sciences.  They were lamenting that their work had a 9%
error rate.  The 'hard' scientists said, "You manage a 91% level of
accuracy?? Wow! We're always publishing articles and having to retract them
later because we found our results weren't accurate. You guys in the
humanities are such perfectionists!"

So if the Masoretes managed even 90% accuracy in their transmission of
vowels and other linguistic data, IMHO that is a considerable achievement.
Of course there are places where we might decide they have made a mistake,
but these need to be taken as individual cases rather than rejecting the
pointing en masse.  Even as a newbie to reading Tanakh, I find that when I
come to some text that I completely fail to understand, checking a
commentary often reveals that it is a textual crux or has weird grammar
(sometimes, of course, it reveals that I need to pay better attention!).  In
other words, most of the time the Masoretic pointing gives excellent sense,
and when it doesn't, it doesn't take a lot of Hebrew experience to detect
that something is wrong.

The other thought I have here is that in any textual emendation, the critic
has the responsibility to not just suggest a better alternative to what is
in the text, but also to explain how the version in the text came to be.
Again, it needs to be specific to the case being looked at; not a
generalised "they didn't know the language" but a specific "they
misread/misheard/miscopied/chose to reinterpret in this way".

What I'm interested to hear from those who (unlike me) actually know the
field is: does the Masoretic pointing as we have it cohere with what we know
of the Semitic vowel system from other languages, especially those that are
still spoken and/or have a reliable transcription of the vowels?  Can we
draw up sound-shift 'laws' comparable to those that have been made for

> (6) Finally, sorry Karl–making the assertion that the use of the word "strike"
> in baseball, meaning to miss, comes from a Norwegian or some other root, is
> not the same thing as demonstrating that such is actually the case.  It is
> much more plausible to suggest, rather, that "strike" referred originally to a
> ball that was struck foul, and then by extension came to cover balls that were
> missed entirely.
> Now you haven’t demonstrated that. That assertion is speculation on your part
> to defend your position. I at least have evidence for a common root from
> cognate languages, which give probability. Another example is German, “ein
> Strich gegen” is used almost identically to “strike” in baseball to refer to a
> mark against the batter, leading to his being counted out. Its verb is
> “streichen”. So which is more likely, your speculation, or a Germanic root
> still used in baseball?

I'm really not sure why this keeps coming up on a list about biblical
Hebrew, and I can't help noticing that nobody seems to have bothered to do
any actual research!  So I turned to our old friend the WWW and found these
(no idea how reliable they are):

>> Baseball sense is first recorded 1841, originally meaning any contact with
>> the ball; modern sense developed by 1890s, apparently from foul strike, which
>> counted against the batter, and as hit came to be used for "contact with the
>> ball" this word was left for "swing and a miss" that counts against the
>> batter.

>> According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of strike in baseball was
>> originally referred to as:
>> An act of striking at the ball, characterized as a fair or foul strike (see
>> quot. 1874); three ‘foul strikes’ cause the batter to be put out.
>> The literal definition is (there is also the figurative one of having "a
>> strike against you):
>> A ‘foul strike’, or any act or shortcoming on the batter's part which incurs
>> the same penalty. Hence, a pitched ball recorded against the batter; esp. as
>> one of three counts against the batter
>> It was first used in the 1800s:
>> 1841 Picayune (New Orleans) 25 May 2/2 If ‘Edith’ wishes to see ‘a great
>> strike’‥, let her walk down Water street‥and see the ‘bachelors’ make the
>> ball fly.
>> So a strike in baseball comes from the attempt to strike the ball. It seems
>> that it was used positively for a while--there are quotes referring to "great
>> strikes". It looks like our current use of strike could be a shortening of
>> foul strike--it only maintained its negative meaning. By the end of the
>> 1800s, it still referred to the physical act of hitting something:
>> 1896 R. G. Knowles & M. Morton Baseball 103 Strike.—When the batsman tries
>> and fails to hit a ball delivered to him by the pitcher, or refuses to strike
>> at a fair ball.
>> By the 1900s, however, it was a negative thing:
>> 1912 C. Mathewson Pitching in Pinch 12 It put me in the hole with the count
>> two balls and one strike.
>> This is the way we use it today.

Can we put this one to rest now? ;-)

Ruth Mathys

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