Interchangeable Letters

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By Isaac Mozeson


What could be more American than the AMBER waves of grain? Yet our Dictionaries acknowledge that AMBER comes from Arabic aNbar (ambergris), a slight change of nose-made sounds (nasals) from N to M. In Hebrew we can even see the shape of the nose in the letter Nun. In the graphic for letter Mem we can see the lip and mouthful of required air behind the nose (nun) to make the Mem sound. There are many unacknowledged Nun words that gave us English M words, including the elM tree from the ilaN (shade tree), or the moron from the NaR (youth). Just as Greek moros (foolish) developed from moro (child), a foolish adult in Yiddish is accused of NaR(ishkeit).

Now let's look at Mem words that gave us English N words. While most mommy words of the world are forms of IMAH (mother), the Eskimo, Hungarian and Turkish moms are N words... just like those substitute moms, the NANNY and NUN. Similarly, a kerNel (seed or grain) is devolved from Hebrew carMel (a corn, grain or wheat term). Hebrew carMel is even translated "kernel" in Leviticus 2:14.

The last group of interchangeable sounds from the same part of the mouth are the are the throaty gutturals. Notice how the Hebrew Kuf is just an elongated Hey, or how the Khet or Het is merely a closed off Hey. The graphics are showing us comparitive air flow in these throaty sounds that are as hard for American Jews to pronounce as for Brits and Germans. My favorite example of an Ashkenazic and Sephardic accent for the nations involves the Ayin (a guttural that Ashkenazim soften to a vowel). The raven, Ayin-Resh-Bet in Hebrew, is rendered a soft Hraefn in Old English, but a Latin raven is the harder Corvus. Derivatives like French Corbeau (raven) or English Crow may be seen to come from the Sephardic, Mediterranean side of the family.

Not using their head, linguists don't link Head with Hat, even though both are derived from harsher gutteral K etymons.Both should be traced from Hebrew Kuph-Dalet, as Kod[koad]means the crown of the head. Have you noticed that the English C and K look like a Khuph and Gimmel reversed in a mirror? We all know that Camel, Greek Kamalos, is from Semitic Gamal, but we don't acknowledge that the Knave is a Ganav (thief). You have just learned about Nun to M and Kuf to H changes from Edenic to English. In an earlier column you saw how P and B interchange. You are now ready for a triple threat word that requires all three root letters changing, and you don't have to be high on marijuana to see that HeMP and CaNNaBis are cognates. Where are both of these long lost cousins from? From Semitic terms like Arabic qunnab.

Are you ready for an even more challenging review of the letter changes we have learned? How about JuNGLe? We know it comes to English from Hindi (India), since there are no jungles in Europe or the Middle East. The closest we get in Hebrew is Ya'AR (forest) that's Yod, Ayin, Resh. Well, we saw the Yod turn to J in many names from John to Judith (Yohannan to Yehudit). The Ayin properly hardened to G in Gaza/Aza (source of the Gauze pad). And the Resh could always be rendered like an L, the other liquid, and we've already seen the N that crept into YaNkle from Yaacov (Jacob). Don't worry, JUNGLE is my most complex derivative. Every other human word flows from Edenic using only one or two of these conservative and universally accepted rules of sound shifting. Percentage-wise and vocabulary-wise, English is more obviously a dialect of Hebrew than of Latin, Greek or French. These languages are ancestors, but we are talking patriarch, the grandaddy of 'em all.


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