May 11, 2005

Yom Ha`asma'ut

Today is Yom Ha`asma'ut (יום העצמאות) - Independence Day. It is a day of celebration and, coming as it does immediately after Memorial Day, sears in our consciousness the connection between the two: Independence is not often bestowed without being earned, but normally comes only to those who are willing to fight, and perhaps die, for it. Conversely, Memorial Day is not a day of mourning for "senseless deaths", as much of the western media would have you believe, but for those who died for their country, for freedom, or simply (as is lately so often the case) because they were free.

Israelis are usually aghast when they hear what has become of American Memorial Day: a time of picnicking, shopping, and sales. In Israel, Memorial Day is a workday, but not quite an ordinary one: m'qomot biluy (מקומות בילוי) - places of recreation are closed. The next day, Independence Day, is almost exactly the opposite: it is a holiday, and everything but m'qomot biluy are closed.

The word `asma'ut (עצמאות) - independence is from the root `-s-m. Perhaps the most basic word from this root is `esem (עצם) - bone, which figuratively means something like "the most essential thing" - `esem ha`inyan (עצם הענין) means "the heart of the matter" (literally "the bone of the matter"). This word is also used to form the set of pronouns which in English end in -self: myself, yourself, himself, etc. are `asmi (עצמי), `asm'kha (עצמך), `asmo (עצמו), etc. It is from this sense of the word that `asma'ut is derived, the -ut suffix has the same meaning as the -ness suffix in English, so 'independence' in Hebrew is something like, "selfness", `asma'i (עצמאי) being the adjective form, 'independent'. Now, you might wonder why there is an alef in this word: Why not use `asmut (עצמות) and `asmi (עצמי)? It is because these words are already taken: `asmut means something like essence or "most essential self" and `asmi is an adjective which has the same meaning as the English prefixes auto- or self-, for example: gol asmi (גול עצמי) - own-goal, nihul `asmi (ניהול עצמי) - self-management.

Here are some more words from the same root:

`osma (עוצמה) - strength, power

b`esem (בעצם) - actually (Comes from b'- + `esem. The way to form adverbs from nouns is to prefix it with b'-, which means 'with' - though only the kind of 'with' that we see in 'I ate with a fork' and NOT the 'with' in 'I ate with a friend'!)

`asma'it - independently (The feminine singular form of adjectives can also be used as an adverb.)

Posted by David Boxenhorn at May 11, 2005 10:26 PM | TrackBacks
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A tidbit: Software engineers may be interested to know that "object-oriented" is translated to modern Hebrew (sorry about the nonstandard transliteration) as "muncheh atsamim" - using the word "etsem" to mean "object".

Posted by: Zman Biur at May 15, 2005 11:40 AM Permalink

re:LINGUISTICS - "cobesedac"when I came back to states in end of 51 after 5 years in Israel that word hit me - from goyim with a midwest drawl - how could a few hundred american volunteers have brought back KOL BESEDER and snuck it into the american slang! 35 years later I was taping a lecture by MUBARAK AWAD at Beit Agron - he kept saying OOMPH over & over -then I connected it with the translator repitition of VIOLENCe - this was the eve of the 1st INTIFADA and AWAD was expert on "violent-non-violent-activism"" then it dawned on me that the few hundred US Marines who pursued the pirates of ARABY in late 1790s came back with " OOMPH"

Posted by: moshe at May 15, 2005 06:23 PM Permalink

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