Thursday, February 2, 2017

Complete vs dead

There's a play on words in a few verses that I have noted recently, notably in Numbers 14, 17, Jeremiah 44, and Psalms 102, 104 some time ago. The four letters yod-taf-mem-vav (יתמו) can be derived from one of two different words.

  • The word tamam, (תמם) to complete, tam means 'the end' as in a film or story. I have used complete only with this stem.
  • Or it can be derived from mut (מות), to die

The difference is in a Masoretic vowel, a or u. So this difference is Rabbinic interpretation. And it's good. Completion is positive. Death tends to be seen as not positive. Translations often translate tmm as consumed. I have that reserved for another word, kaf-lamed-heh (כלה), for which I have also used finish. And it has a number of homonyms, and closely related roots (like כלי and יכל though whether these are derived or not is another question).

My translations are awkward but you can make your own decisions on how to read them once you grasp something about my choices concerning both Hebrew and English homonyms, and Hebrew word play where I can find an English imitation.

Here are the choices to date for complete, finish, and end - how impossible language is! I find myself chasing my tail frequently. And we are not at the culmination of the semantic sub-domain of this group of words.

  • כלה bride, consume, consummation, daughter-in-law, faint, find an end, finish, (i.e. several homonyms in Hebrew)
  • קצץ brought to an end, end, outskirts, suburban, summation (wordplay Amos 8:2 with summer קציץ), sunder,
  • תמם complete.