Weekend Word Wrap: water and house

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I'm using the Word Wrap to dive into the micro today by looking at the origins of two words as they evolved from letters. As you may already know, written language began developing back in the Middle Bronze Age. Many think proto-hieroglyphs were even around as far back as the 33rd c BC. Whether that's accurate or not, certainly by the 14th c BC, Canaanites and Phoenicians were well on their way, and the Hebrews, who came out of the Canaanite hills, might have been developing their language as early as the 10th c. BC.

And while exact dates are always disputed, what isn't disputed is the fact that important words, such as water and house, started NOT as words, but as letters, which is to say that the evolution of these words started with the symbols that later became the letters that ultimately became the words.

I see with hindsight that reads about as intelligibly as an income tax return (no offense to the CPAs in the house), but it's really quite simple when you get right down to it.

Ancient man looked at the river and saw this:

water_heiro.jpg

That eventually evolved into an m. Surely you see the connection between the squiggly m and the simple drawing of the water. Most ancient words for water, start with an mm sound. In the Bible, for instance, the word in Hebrew is mayim. Before letters existed for the word mayim, there was the squiggle, which is actually the hieroglyph for water.And this is the Phoenician symbol for water:water_pho.jpg
The Hebrew, when written in cursive, even to this day, looks pretty much exactly like the Phoenician.

Same thing when we look at the word house. When ancient man wanted to write the word house, he wrote a box-like symbol:

house_heiro.jpg
In Hebrew, the word for house is beit, and starts with the letter bet, which is the bet in alphabet (from the Greek alpha beta, via the Hebrew aleph bet "“ the first two letters).

The print version of a bet, or house, looks like this in the Bible:

house_heb.jpg
Basically a box missing one side (and actually very similar to the house my wife and I are about to pay way too much money for here in LA -- especially when you consider IKEA doesn't sell cheap siding the way they do kitchen cabinets...)

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March 9, 2007 - 2:32am
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