Hebrew Names to English Words
In this column I will be piecing together the myriad miracles of Edenspeak, the primordial Mother Tongue best seen in Biblical Hebrew. Before proving to you that Adam gave us animal names (Genesis 2:20) that still offer us profound meanings, before demonstrating Hebrew's unique root system that links synonyms and antonyms, and before tracing how the neurological phenomenon at Babel (Genesis 11) made Hebrew the missing link between the world's words, let us begin with the more conservative thesis that scores of English words not credited to Hebrew are unacknowledged borrowings from the mildly corrupted Hebrew of bible readers.
Let us recall that The Good Book was often the only book, and that bible reading was a dominant form of entertainment for many centuries of literate gentiles since the Greek translation. Transliterated Biblical Hebrew names were widely adopted, and although Hebrew alluded all but a few scholars the language was universally respected.
Even in the New World, the Continental College nearly voted in Hebrew as the official language of Americans, who saw themselves as the new Israelites in a Promised Land. More impressive than the Hebrew motto of Yale College is the title of Harvard College's first dissertation: Hebrew Is the Mother Tongue. When Noah Webster's original dictionary traced many English words beyond German, French, Latin and Greek to their "Shemitic" origin, no one raised an eyebrow. Every learned person knew that Hebrew was the Mother Tongue.
But on the Continent, late Nineteenth Century German scholars were inventing modern linguistics. Their racist ideas about the supremacy of Aryan tongues created barbed wire language barriers and even hung Mother Hebrew out on a limb of the language tree called West Semitic. There was soon so much antipathy towards Hebrew elements of etymology, that linguists were loath to admit that anything beyond a dozen words like Amen, Cherub, Hallelujah and Jubilee might be influenced by the Hebrew. Before I convince some of you skeptics that words like Skeptic (Greek), Samurai (Japanese) and Taboo (Polynesian) are from Hebrew S[H]aKaP[H] (observe), S[H]oMeR (guardian) and ToAIB[H]ah (dreadful sin), let me prove to you how reluctant our dictionaries are to acknowledge simple Hebrew name borrowings which were mildly corrupted by bible readers.
The most famous curse-monger in history is Balaam of Numbers 22-24. Correctly pronounced Bil-LuM in Hebrew, this character who became synonymous with cursing to millennia of bible readers is the unacknowledged source of the word BLAME. BLAME meant to curse (as in,"I hurt my blamed foot!"), yet the best the dictionaries can come up with is Greek blasphemein (to profane).
The Anglicized Goliath comes from Hebrew GoLioS (I Samuel 17:4), which the Greeks rendered Kolios (just as they turned the GaMaL into a camel).>From the Greek version of Goliath, therefore, comes COLOSSUS, COLOSSEUM and all things COLOSSAL. Another giant oversight in our etymologies involves Og, the giant king of Bashan (Numbers 21:33). The language historians suppose that a French writer (d. 1703) coined the terms for the OGRE and his lovely OGRESS.
Let's take the acknolged Hebrew borrowing AMEN for another example. In your dictionary the word after Amen is AMENABLEe. Amen is the common Hebrew refrain of belief, affirmation, and verified acceptability. That is the essence of AMENABLE, not the offered Latin etymon minari (to threaten). Will Hebrew need an "Amen corner" of supporters to knock out these incorrect cover-ups from our reference books?
Similarly, the Jubilee year (Lev. 25: 8-17) is signalled by the blowing of the YoBHaiL or JoB[H]aiL (ram's horn) by the JUBILANT Israelites. Latin jubilare (to exult, raise a shout of joy) is clearly an echo of the older culture's custom. In fact, there are so few "J" words in Latin, that the historic ties between judex (English Judge) and Judaea (home of law and famous judges) ought to be clear.
GONORRHEA (its spelling influenced by the attempt to give it a Greek source) ought to be linked to Gomorrah, just as surely as SODOMY is traced to the twin city of Sodom (Genesis 19:24). If this famously salty area gave us another term, it would be SODIUM. Latin soda (foundation, just like Hebrew [Ye]SoD) has nothing to do with sodium. Speaking of place names, a JORDAN (chamber pot) and a SCAM should come from the biblical Jordan and Shechem, while the most relevant and covered up English word from a Hebrew place name has to be BABBLE. The Oxford English Dictionary is so troubled by a biblical source for BABBLE (Babel), that it warns readers that "no direct connection with Babel can be traced" and declares the term to be of "unknown origin."
Check the given etymologies, for what they're worth, but [HI]JACK, JINX, JUDGE, JOVIAL, and VULCAN are really from the bible's Jacob, Jonah, Judah, Jehovah and [Tu]val-Cain (Gen. 4:22).