Monday, May 21, 2007

More on Ruth's Name

As I gave the various etymologies in the previous post:
What is the etymology of Rus' name? Putting aside Rabbi Yochanan's explanation on Berachot 7b, which may very well not be an etymology at all ( מאי רות א"ר יוחנן שזכתה ויצא ממנה דוד שריוהו להקדוש ברוך הוא בשירות ותשבחות). Some scholars connect Rus to the Moabite רות, which parallels the Hebrew word רעות, friendship, since Moabite did not pronounce and thus eliminated the letter ayin. (I wonder, then, how Rus pronounced her mother-in-law Naomi's name.)
there was one post I neglected to mention. What is the relationship to the English word "ruth?" Can we say that Tov, that is, Ploni Almoni, was a ruthless character? :)

In fact, the English word "ruth" has a different etymology. As Webster defines it, it means "compassion for the misery of another," from Middle English ruthe, from ruen to rue. Indeed, this fits nicely into the Biblical Ruth as well.


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

how do we know that Moabites dropped their ‘ayins? Do you know if there's evidence from the Meisha‘ Stele?

joshwaxman said...

alas, I don't know. very good question. i first saw this a while back (IIRC) in some Semitic dictionary (of Moabite? I don't remember), so I didn't see the original research.

Omri Melech Yisrael is explicitly mentioned on that stele, (as per a quick Wikipedia search, and his name begins with an ayin.)

And that text
has plenty of ayins.
which would contradict what I remember reading about elision of ayins.

I'm stumped. It is quite possible I am remembering some detail incorrectly.

menachem said...

And what about Eglon Melech Moav?

joshwaxman said...

surely there is a difference between an initial ayin (as in Rus's father) and a medial ayin (as in Re'us herself). i would expect that an initial ayin would be much more difficult to drop.


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