On the Sound and Form of the Hebrew Words qa‘aqa‘
lights) – of turning the light on and off.
The act of tattooing is also made of a plurality of small and short sub-
actions scattered over time and space: puncturing the skin with a needle
soaked in pigment. These actions are, in turn, made of exactly two mirror
image sub-actions: lowering and lifting the tattooing needle. Therefore,
the form of the verb
(to tattoo) is not arbitrary, but rather places
it as a member of a group of isomorphic verbs, which are characterized by
indicating sense of plurality.
In conclusion, as this essay shows, the sounds of the biblical word
suggests that it originally mimicked the sounds of one of the
tattooing methods of the ancient world, and that the form of the verb
derived from it,
, places it in a group of verbs which indicate a
sense of plurality, since in this ancient method, tattooing was conducted
by repeatedly puncturing the skin with a pigment soaked needle, while
each perforation produced a tapping sound.
1 English translation from:http://www.sefaria.org/
2 See: M. Bar-Ilan, “Magic Seals on the Body among Jews
in the First Centuries C.E.”,
, 57 (1988), pp. 37-50
3 B. Harshav, “Does Sound Have Meaning?”
The Art of
, Carmel Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2000
(1986): p. 63 (Hebrew).
4 In Biblical Hebrew, the letter
a uvular consonant, commonly transcribed as q, while
today it represents a velar consonant, commonly
transcribed as ‘k’. The letter ‘
a guttural consonant, commonly transcribed as ‘,
whereas today it represents the vowel a. Considering
these differences, while “tattoo” is today pronounced
in Hebrew as qaaqua, in biblical Hebrew it was
pronounced as qa‘aqa‘.
5 D. Mosko,
The World of Tattoos: Secrets from the
, 1980: p. 4 (Hebrew).
6 Y. Greenberg, “Event internal pluractionality in Modern
Hebrew: A semantic analysis of one verbal reduplication
Brill’s Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and
2.1 (2010): p.125.