Sunday, February 26, 2006

It’s All Semantics

I’ve always loved language. Not languages, but the English language in particular. I love to read it, speak it and constantly improve my vocabulary. I derive great pleasure out of hearing someone speak in beautiful, articulate English.
However, one of the drawbacks of being a ferocious reader at a young age is my innate ability to occasionally mangle words. Certain words just aren’t pronounced as they are read, and my mispronunciations still make for a good laugh 10 or 15 years after the fact.
I am also known for inventing my own words. My parents loved that I would blithely use a word, and when informed that the said word did not exist, would respond with, “Well, now it does.”

My latest attempt at word reformation was when I tried to recreate the meaning of the Yiddish word “shtup”. For those not in the know, shtup is the Yiddish word for intercourse (for alternative meanings, see here). I found shtup to be delightfully onomatopoeic and decided to use it as a passing verb. Let me demonstrate:

“Just shtup the box onto the shelf”

“Can you shtup that over here?”

“I shtupped all the way across town….”

You get the general picture. However, for those who understood what shtup meant, my casual usage usually put a stop to any conversation/action and for those who had to be explained the former and new meanings of the word (in my little world), they all assumed the similar “she’s nuts, but we like her” look.

I have a new word I’m crusading for, and it’s a real one. I take great issue with the Hebrew word for husband. The root of the word comes from old Norse and means “master of the house” or “a man who has land and stock”. While the meaning might be somewhat chauvinistic, those who speak modern English have no idea what the root is and accept this as the acceptable term with which to call a woman’s partner.

In Hebrew, the word is ba’ali. The root of the word is ba’al which means master, and is used it biblical terminology as the word for husband. Ba’ali means my master. On the one hand, kudos to Hebrew for maintaining its biblical ties. On the other hand, I pity the fool who would consider himself my master. Thankfully, the hubby is a wise man, and whenever he talks about us, he makes a conscious usage of the term “us” and consistently describes us a partnership. I never had to ask him to us terminology which would denote equality, that’s just the fantastic kinda guy he is. However, there are lots of people out there who don’t know how wonderfully emancipated and liberal my man is in the sex wars, which is why I have begun to use the term Ishi which means “my man”. Yup, it sounds Showboat-ish (Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man) and somewhat ghetto, but it really is just the masculine version of Hebrew's term for wife, which is Ishti which means “my woman”.

If you perchance have the opportunity to use the term ishi, try it. Only by introducing the term into common usage, will it become a known and used part of the Hebrew language and perhaps change some antiquated perceptions of what the husband-wife relationship ought to be.

7 Comments:

Blogger tafka PP said...

And can I also "shtup" your attention to the nicely egal term "Ben-Zug"?

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