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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hebrew Inked Celebs: Christina Aguilera

The pop singer Christina Aguilera followed the hottest trend by getting her very own Hebrew tattoo:


And like many others who follow this particular trend, her Hebrew tattoo is a bad one.

Christina was going for the initials of her husband, Jordan Bratman, so her tattoo is supposed to say JB. Unfortunately, when you look at it, you just see the number 12 (like in 12th grade), as that's what this letter combination means in Hebrew.

See, biblical Hebrew doesn't have the letter J, and whoever advised Christina was probably unaware of the modern alternative, and used the letter Yod instead. You don't need to be a Hebrew linguist to realize that a letter named Yod doesn't sound much like the J in Jordan.

The second, and bigger, problem is that in Hebrew you don't just write initials as a bunch of letters. For Hebrew initials and acronyms you use a special punctuation mark called Gershayim (and looks like double quotes), before the last letter. When writing foreign initials, you just spell out the letters fully.

As for JB, the best way is definitely to spell it out (Jay.Bee), using the modern spelling of J (Gimel with Geresh). This is what Christina Aguilera should have gotten:



11 comments:

  1. i must admit i strongly disagree with you on this one.
    first of all, gershayim would have meant writing י"ב which also means 12. Actually, without the gershayim it would be Yeb and only with them does it turn into 12.
    secondly, i'm actually quite a supporter of turning J into a Y when translating *Hebrew* names back from English to Hebrew. Jordan is a bastard version of the name Yarden, of course, which would make the initials Y.B. correct.
    I think the main problem with the above tattoo is the font used which makes it quite difficult to make out it's even Hebrew letters.

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  2. I knew someone would take me on the J thing! I do agree it is debatable, but the use of Gershayim absolutely isn't.

    In Hebrew you must use Gershayim for initials and acronyms, it's incorrect to ignore that. Also, for numbers (12), using Gershayim is optional. Sure, it would mean 12 either way, but had it been י"ב it could also stand for initials. As it is, it does not.

    See the Hebrew Academy site, the use of Gershayim in clauses 30-31 (http://hebrew-academy.huji.ac.il/decision5.html)

    As for the J, I'm a a fan of keeping true to a person's given name. Especially when they sound as different as Jordan and Yarden. This is just my personal opinion, though.

    To summarize, if the intention behind putting Yod for J, was to use the Hebrew name Yarden, then the correct way to write the initials would be: י"ב

    If, however, the intention was J.B as is, then the correct way would be: ג'יי.בי

    As for the font, and all linguistic debates aside, this tattoo looks rather poorly done. You'd think she could have afforded a better tattoo artist.

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  3. What does JB stand for?

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  4. it seems we're in agreemend here, since I also said that without the gershayim it would read Yeb and nothing else. Of course I'm aware that to make initials you need the gershayim, but from your post I was under the impression you were saying without the gershayim its 12 and with the gershayim it's initials (thus not 12 anymore). just a misunderstanding. :)

    as for the Y and J, I usually ask my customers whether they want a transliteration of the modern English pronounciation or a translation of the name back to its original Hebrew form. Since most people who want to get Hebrew tattoos do so because its, well, old and biblical - I think probably 90% of my customers want their names translated back to the original Hebrew.
    But I agree with you that if someone wants to stick with the English name with the J then the initials can only be written in the way you advised.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It may be time to confess to the Jeezo-throngs that Hebrew is a language with like, a couple problems, in spite of being gloriously unique in its triumphant resucitation. Some day we'll have the 'tak'ziv' (budget) to afford both CAPITAL LETTERS, and, while we're spending money, printed, normal vowels. Till then, Christ-in-a-girl's-body ought to just go with 'J.B.' v'ze'hoo. //After all, I didn't know if it was 'Space Girls' or 'Spice Girls, having only read an article in Yediot about them. (two yuds in the name are either a long 'A' or a long 'I'.)

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  6. Actually, even though the use of gershayim is correct, the use of it between Yud and Bet (י"ב) is so identified with the 12th grade, that in this case maybe I would separate the initals with dots
    - Yud.Bet. (.י.ב) - even though strictly speaking it is not correct.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Come-on.
    Drop the gershaim. The real issue is whether the letters are correct. And YUD-BET is the better way to write it.
    Adding gershaim or NEKUDOT is ugly (while more correct).

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  8. I totally agree that his Hebrew name should be Yarden and this tattoo is accurate, although still stupid.

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  9. i think you were being too harsh with this one. she obviously intended it to be yod as in yarden.

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  10. JB...? Kind of 12°alcohol? Illuminati's ritual for celebrities promotion to success ceremony?? Everything is posible :s

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  11. How would the names "Joshua Eli" and "Jacob Levi" as two separate tattoos correctly written?

    ReplyDelete

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