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Minor stupid discovery:

Terry Pratchett's "Dwarvish" language looks exactly like phonetically-spelled Hebrew. This makes sense, given that Trolls and Dwarves in the Discworld are engaged in an Israel/Palestine/Egypt-type-feud.

..."A more frequent explanation is that it derives from one of two Hebrew expressions, hakol b'seder, "all is in order", or kol b'tzedek, "all with justice", which it is suggested were introduced into the USA by Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants. Yet other accounts say it derives from..."

I'll have to scan for more examples to see if this is an Obviously Intentional Thing that I missed. My knack for missing the obvious then getting excited by it later is pretty strong.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2005 02:30 pm (UTC)
For a given definition of obvious... ;)

The description of the grags is very, very close to your Orthodox rabbi in two major ways I can think of off the top of my head. First: in Thud!, when Angua or Vimes (I forget which) says that there's no dwarf law saying a dwarf has to be under six feet tall, Ardent (again, I forget if it's him) says that the grags ARE the law, interpreting tens of thousands of years of dwarf law and tradition. That's a pretty close definition of what a rabbi is -- if I remember my comparative religion right.

Second, the "daylight faces" are a pretty close connection/reference to "Shabbat goyim" (again, I hope I'm getting these terms right, may I be beaten with sticks if I'm profaning one of the more interesting religions I've ever studied). The idea is this: the Sabbath is, bar Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the year -- even though it comes every week. There's a huge and complex list of things you aren't allowed to do, such as start a fire (and that includes using electricity of any kind, considering that it tends to consist of kindling a spark). You're not supposed to do any kind of work, you're just supposed to take the day to honor God. The "Shabbat goyim" lived/live in a sort of symbiosis with their Jewish neighbors, doing that which those neighbors could not. In other words, if a Jewish family was going to have a hot dinner on the Sabbath, they'd have help from non-Jewish folks who made it their weekly business to give a helping hand. Concurrently, the "daylight-faces" take care of the business that the more devout dwarfs cannot and will not.

As far as dwarfish itself, I knew it SOUNDED like Hebrew, but I didn't know it sounded EXACTLY like Hebrew...
Nov. 22nd, 2005 06:25 am (UTC)
Hmm--thanks for the reminder on the "Shabbat Guyim". I remember them vaguely, but not specifically nough to remember that. Good comparison...
Nov. 23rd, 2005 09:52 pm (UTC)
Many fantasy worlds use Yiddish, or a varient thereon, for races that approximate dwarves. While the phrase 'hakol bisayder' is Hebrew (the Semitic language of Israel, Judea and Palestine), it really came to this country via Yiddish (a middle-high Germanic language with Slavic notes, typically written using Hebrew characters).

You can see the same thing in the Knockers from WWGS's Changeling: The Dreaming, who are arguably the most Dwarf-like (presuming we are going with a later, Western European dwarf, and not the demigod-like dwarves of early Germanic myth).

My suspicion is that this trend arose because Yiddish is a language that everyone has heard, but which is only spoken by a small minority, what one might call an elect. Additionally, because the language descends from Germanic and Slavic languages, it is throaty and rough, matching the image of dwarves in those fantasy worlds.

I can probably natter and ramble on further with more examples of Pratchet's applications of Yiddish.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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