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Tattoos: The Human Body as a Work of Art

of Tahiti because of the monotonic sound the act of tattooing produced

while puncturing and opening the skin:

ta-to ta-to ta-to

...” (emphasis in

the original).

5

We do not know of any contact between the Tahitians and

speakers of Biblical Hebrew, but we can say that the words

qa‘aqa‘

and

tatao

share a common origin, since their sounds mimic the same sounds

that were produced by one of the tattooing method of the ancient world.

We can even go so far as to stipulate that if the Bible would not have

provided us with the word

qa‘aqa‘

, and we would have to invent a word by

way of onomatopoeia today, we might have chosen to call this action ‘to

buzz’ since these are the sounds our tattooing machines produce, and the

products of the act – ‘buzzes’.

After examining the supposition that the word

qa‘aqa‘

(tattoo) was

originally onomatopoeic, I would like to now focus on the verb derived

from it,

leqa‘aqe‘a

(to tattoo). I intend to show that it is a member of a group

of verbs with a similar form, which also share a common meaning.

Modern Hebrew has around one hundred verbs of the

pi’el

verb

derivation template with two reduplicated root consonants, and around

eighty of them have a meaning which is associated with plurality.

6

These

kind of verbs indicate an action which is made of a plurality of small

or short sub-actions scattered over time or space. For instance,

tiftuf

(dripping) is made of a plurality of a drop of a

tipa

(drop of water),

difduf

(leafing through the pages) – of a plurality of turning over a

daf

(page),

and

qiwquw

(marking lines) – of a plurality of drawing

qawim

(lines). The

plurality is an integral part of the meaning of these verbs: if only one

tipa

(drop of water) falls, it could not be considered a

tiftuf

(dripping). In

the same exact logic, if we turn over only one

daf

(page) it could not be

considered

difduf

(leafing), while if we only draw one line, it could not be

considered

qiwquw

(marking lines). Another characteristic of this type of

verbs is that sometimes the sub-actions of the event which they indicate

are themselves made of exactly two sub-actions, which are an exact mirror

image of one another. For instance: the sub-action of

hinhun

(nodding) is

made of lowering and lifting the head, the sub-action of

mi

mu

(blinking)

– of opening and closing the eye, and the sub-action of

hivhuv

(blinking

32e