Sunday, March 01, 2009

Purim Torah and Hebrew Slang

There is a relatively recent vernacular occurrence that I have noticed Israelis use. It has annoyed me as a distortion of the Hebrew language. Often, I hear Israelis (especially work-men and repair-men) say, "אני יעשה את זה" or "אני יתקן את זה". Of course, the proper grammatical construction would be "אני אעשה" or "אני אתקן". It assails the ear to hear the third person being used instead of the first!

However, I believe that I have found a valid source for this seeming linguistic malformation. The fathers of modern Hebrew made sure to use Biblical Hebrew as their guide as much as possible. It must be that the slang of modern Hebrew is also rooted in the Bible. After an exhaustive search, I found the source and root of this alleged grammatical inconsistency! The book of Tehilim 38:14 says, "ואני כחרש לא אשמע, וכאילם לא יפתח פיו". The parallel structure of this pasuk implies an equation between אשמע and יפתח. This demonstrates to us that one can use the third person as a valid reformulation of the first.

(Of course, during any month but Adar, I would simply say that this perversion of correct Hebrew is a result of the yud sound of אני blending into the alef sound of future tense first person and, over time, becoming future tense third person.)