Sunday, July 05, 2009

How dad actually *is* Aramaic for teeth

So over Shabbos, I was telling over the dvar Torah for parshas Balak, and the pasuk which referred to the medical "fact" of Jews having one more tooth than gentiles.

One of three difficulties with that interpretation of the pasuk, in levadad = Le"v Dad = 32 teeth, was that he asserted that in Aramaic, Dad means Shinayim, teeth.

This left me scratching my head, because dad does not seem to mean teeth, or even tooth, in Aramaic. I even looked it up in Jastrow! Rather, it means breast or nipple. See the comment thread on that post for a suggestion from Mississippi Fred MacDowell.

However, my father-in-law pointed out that he is indeed correct that it means teeth in Aramaic. It is right there in Jastrow! See if you can spot it, in the picture on the right.

Yes, the third translation is "teat"!

It is possible that this is more than a joke, but rather an explanation of how this assertion came about. After all, he did not assert that דד means shein, tooth. He claimed it meant shinayim, teeth in plural. He might have looked up דד in Jastrow, in order to see what the word meant in Aramaic. Then, either not knowing how to spell English or else asking someone what "teet" meant, he would arrive at shinayim.

If so, heh.


Hebrew Student said...

"dad" in Aramaic means breast (or nipple or teat) as Jastrow says, not tooth. This is of course related to the Hebrew shad (plural shadayim) which also means breast, where the "sh" in Hebrew gets switched to "d" in Aramaic. There are many similar Hebrew and Aramaic words where these letters get interchanged, such as "shor" (= bull) in Hebrew becoming "tor" (=bull) in Aramaic. Like it says in Bereshit 11 at the Tower of Babel, YHWH mixed up the languages of mankind.

joshwaxman said...

i am not certain you got this the first time, but this post is a joke, rather than a serious suggestion that it means teeth in aramaic. read it again. it was that an Israeli pronunciation of "teeth" might me equal to "teat."

in terms of switching letters, i don't believe this is the case here. Jastrow notes b.h., that "dad" is from Biblical Hebrew.

and in terms of switching letters, the switches are shin with tav only, and daled with zayin only. and that is only certain instances, consistently. that is, there is a Hebrew shin that matches an Aramaic tav, and a Hebrew shin that matches an Aramaic shin. And the same for daled/zayin. scholars suggest (and i agree) that this was because of a sound in between. Thus, there was a /dh/ sound as in "either" and in Hebrew it maps to zayin while in Aramaic it maps to daled, because it is somewhere in between.

it certainly does seem that DD is preferred in Aramaic and $D in Hebrew, but i don't think it is exclusive. thus, in Mishlei 5:19, we have DD in Hebrew:
אַיֶּלֶת אֲהָבִים, וְיַעֲלַת-חֵן:
דַּדֶּיהָ, יְרַוֻּךָ בְכָל-עֵת; בְּאַהֲבָתָהּ, תִּשְׁגֶּה תָמִיד.

kol tuv,

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Right. This is hilarious, and there is a strong chance that this is actually the source for the error, since the root dd simply does not turn out to relate to teeth in any dialect of Aramaic. As for sound shifting/ switching, d and z interchange. D and th interchange. But shin and daleth do not. Nun and daleth do not. It is exceedingly difficult to derive dd from the semitic stem sh-n.


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