Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's in a name?

The reading for this coming Wednesday's Mass is from the Book of Kings, and I think they are going to ask me to read it. It's the account of Elijah challenging the Baal-worshippers. How, methought, the devil do you pronounce "Baal"?
 In Hebrew it is represented by the three characters: בעל - BET AYIN LAMED - (AYIN being a sort of glottal stop), giving [1] /BAH' L/, though the ayin is often ignored by those not aware of its existence in the word [2]. The anglicised (originally Lutheran?) version of Baal rhymes with “hail” [3], though some add a weak /ə/ (schwa) to darken the L [4].

[1] BAH-ahl /'bɑːɑːl/
[2] BAHL /'bɑːl/
[3] BAYL /'beɪl/
[4] BAY-uhl /'beɪəl/
I prefer the Hebrew pronunciation, but that leads to inconsistency, eg, if BA'AL is to be pronounced in the Hebrew way, then surely Elijah (which we pronounce to rhyme with “oblige-a”) should really be Eliyahu (Hebrew אֱלִיָּהוּ, as I am sure you all know . So, much I'd love to show off by pronouncing Baal in the Hebrew manner, I'd better not. Don't want old Luther turning in his urn, do we?

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