Is the theory that Hebrew and Arabic words descend or derive from Greek correct?

Already posted this as a comment:

… The business with Yahuda’s supposedly suppressed book is a longstanding urban legend in Greek nationalist circles (such as Davlos magazine).

An urban legend uninformed by the existence of Worldcat:

Or Amazon:

The nearest copy of the book to me is in the Australian Catholic University. 18 km from my house, and across the road from the Catholic Education Office, where I have routine business. Next time I’m there, I should get a photo…

Strike that: some soul has uploaded the book to Hebrew is Greek : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Oh, and no book reviews ever? People *do* realise that the academic press is Googlable nowadays, don’t they?

Bible and Interpretation: The Collected Essays of James Barr

with the wonderful summation:

It is, therefore, just as if one were to claim that Milton’s Paradise Lost was a text in Russian. If the reader objected that it looked very like an English poem and not at all like a piece of Russian, he would be shown a set of permutations of vowels, consonants, prefixes and terminations, from which it would emerge that each word of Milton’s text was in fact a Russian word; and, since the Russian words, remarkably, added up to pretty much the same general meaning as the English had had in the first place, it would have been demonstrated that Russian and English are the same language anyway.


For scholarship, then, this book, though learned-looking, full of words in Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic script, attractively printed, extending to nearly 700 pages in length and being correspondingly expensive to buy, is of no importance or interest. The author simply does not know what he is talking about.

And the sample etymologies from Yahuda that George Stamatis supplies—

Cain < Ka-en < Κα ην < Γα ην < Γηινος (‘from the earth’)

Israel < Eis-ra-el < εις (‘powerful’) + ρα (‘king’) + ηλ (‘sun’)

don’t make me dispute James Barr’s conclusion.

Is Serbo-Croatian a language?

A2A, because apparently I have a great big “kick me” sign on me. (Only joking, Snežana Đorić (Снежана Ђорић)

or am I?)

Look, my personal opinion, as a taxonomist of the world (a Lumper and not a splitter) , is to look at what used to be one language, turned into four over a decade, of which at least two are identical, and exclaim Oh FFS.

But my personal opinion doesn’t matter.

Nor indeed does my professional opinion. Because I’m not professionally a linguist. But also because this isn’t really a linguistic matter.

Every time someone says “a language is a dialect with a military”, like Daniel Nikolić did here, a little piece of Zeibura S. Kathau dies (Zeibura S. Kathau’s answer to Do you agree that the difference between a dialect and a language is an army?). But, well, it’s not like Daniel’s wrong here.

Linguists want the distinction between languages to be about mutual intelligibility. But if the weird dialect is spoken by your fellow nationals, you’ll expend that much more effort to understand it and call it your own; and if the not-as-weird dialect is spoken across the border, you’ll expend that much less effort.

Sociolinguists want the distinction between languages to be about Abstand and ausbau: separateness and development. The development comes with status; the separateness… well, the separateness can end up manufactured. When Serbo-Croat was one language, the separateness was quashed; when Serbo-Croat became four languages, the separateness was cranked up.

A language is deemed a language when people call it a language. I can think it’s silly; I can exult that the Montenegrin-language Wikipedia did not go ahead. But it’s not up to Nick Nicholas to tell the Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins and Bosnians that they’re speaking the same language, FFS, or to roll his eyes when the same polling booth in Bosnia uses Jekavian in Latin alphabet and Ekavian in Cyrillic alphabet (Mjesto, Место).

(… That’s a Russian Italic т, isn’t it. Sucks to be Serbian/Macedonian, I know.)

There are linguistic and sociolinguistic criteria for whether it’s one language or four; but if the language speakers are convinced one way or the other, well, that’s how it is.


Are there any Placeholder names we can use to represent different kinds of person?

The typical use in English of placeholder names for persons is to emphasise their random selection, or their representativeness. Hence the rich assortment of List of terms related to an average person, including J. Random Hacker for computing, Tommy Atkins for the British Army, or The man on the Clapham omnibus for the legal system.

Going through the Wikipedia language list for all the following:

  • Dutch makes a class distincion between the average couple Mieke en Janneke, and the lower class average young couple Sjonnie en Anita. That’s easy to replicate in the various dialects of English, with whatever given names happen to be in vogue in a particular community.
  • Hebrew has Buzaglo for a simple lower-class citizen (a Moroccan Jewish surname, reflecting the lower status of Mizrahi Jews).
  • Finnish has Pihtiputaan mummo (“the grandmother from Pihtipudas”) for someone who’s the last to adopt new technology. Again, I’m sure other languages have equivalents. Ditto French Madame Michu as an unsophisticated computer user.
  • Hungarian Gizike and Mancika are “stereotypically obnoxious and ineffective female bureaucrats”. (This sounds like Patty and Selma from the Simpsons.)
  • Legal Latin as codified by Justinian used Titius and Seius as names for Roman citizens, and Stichus and Pamphilus as names for slaves.
  • In Portuguese, João Ninguém or Zé Ninguém (Jack Nobody) are used for someone who is unimportant.
  • In Russian, Dzhamshut is a derogative placeholder for a gastarbeiter from southern Former Soviet countries.
  • In Tagalog, Hudas (= Judas Iscariot) is a placeholder for people the speaker considers to be a malefactor or treacherous.