This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Nuts and Bolts: alphabet soup.

What if you need to talk about a singing creature with hands, feet, and six wings?

Well, you can describe the thing carefully, appendage by appendage; or else you can draw a diagram.

Soon, though, you'll need a word for the thing.

You'll be lucky in this case, because there's a word already in existence. It's:

If this doesn't help much then not to worry, because that Hebrew word was transcribed nearly two thousand years ago into a more modern alphabet, like this:


And if that's all Greek to you (sorry) then it's okay because quite soon after that it was put into yet another alphabet - the Roman one, which is more or less the one we're using here today.

Then the word looks like this


I've been thinking about Hebrew words because I've been needing a word to describe the parents of my daughter's fiancé. Now, I've not had any luck with finding a word for that exact relationship, but Hebrew does have a word for the parents of a child's spouse.

The writer Adèle Geras, a very good friend of this blog, has put this word into our alphabet for us (thanks Adèle!):


(the mother is the machteniste* and the father is the mechuton*).

So there I am. Last weekend I had lunch with my prospective mechutonim.

How about that.

Word To Use Today. As many of you won't have mechutonim yourselves then perhaps seraphim might be an easier word to use.

People have been arguing forever about where this word originated, but it may well have something to do with the Hebrew word meaning to burn (seraphim are said to burn with love). The singular is seraph.

If you don't want to talk about angels (seraphim are the highest sort of angel) then there's a seraph moth (one pair of wings is deeply divided so it looks as if it's got six wings), and also a Swedish order of knighthood (just whom are they trying to kid?) and a fossil called a seraph, too.

*Hebrew doesn't bother will vowels much, so there are a variety of ways of transcribing each Hebrew word into our Roman alphabet.

1 comment:

  1. I am very proud to be a friend of this blog and I am going to tweet the link right now! Hurray.