Monday, July 24, 2006


In this weeks parasha (Devarim) we find that Moshe claims that God was angry at him:

גַּם-בִּי הִתְאַנַּף

What is the meaning of the root אנף? Here is another example of a "dropped nun" (more here, here and here). We are more familiar with the dropped form - af אף, meaning "nose" and "anger", I suppose due to heavy breathing during anger. (By the way, it is important to distinguish between אף - "nose" and עף - "fly". For years I thought that kadur-af -- volleyball -- was spelled כדור-אף, and couldn't understand why Israelis played it with their nose.)

Arabic has anf for nose, and in Aramaic, anaf אנף also means "face". Kutscher writes that in Lashon Chazal there are very few examples of af meaning "nose", and instead chotem חוטם was more popular. His explanation for the switch is a phenomenon where one word in Biblical Hebrew has two meanings (here both anger and nose), in Lashon Chazal, one of the meanings sticks (in this case "anger") and the other is replaced. (Another example of this is עץ and אילן - but I'll save that for a later post).

A derivative of אנף meaning "anger" is the bird anafa אנפה - "heron", which according to Klein originally meant "the quarrelsome bird".

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