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Into the belly of it
January 18, 2012 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Swallowed by a whale. If, I’ll pretend for a moment, you were swallowed, it would happen like this: You would first be chewed. Sperm whales’ teeth are 8 inches long – longer than most blades in your knife drawer. Then you would be gulped to the fauces, the back of the mouth, and forced down. Here is where Bartley apparently touched the quivering sides of the throat. You would also touch the throat, perhaps claw at the sides of the throat like you would sliding down an icy slope. There would be no air, and you’d suffocate in acid and water, but, we’re saying, you somehow survive. Imagine a black and mucous-smothered tube sock slipping over you.
posted by From Bklyn (125 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
More terrifying, with sharks in the diet, Americans who might have been swallowed by sperm whales would have had another thing to worry about: sharing the stomach of your predator with yet another predator. To be eaten after being eaten. To be the –en of the turducken.

I hereby endorse this use of imagery.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:52 PM on January 18, 2012 [38 favorites]


Imagine a black and mucous-smothered tube sock slipping over you.

No. No, no, no, no, no.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


Now imagine you're Boba Fett.
posted by bondcliff at 12:56 PM on January 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


This imagery is also endorsed by me:

In his search he found a different drawing of a sperm whale with a whaleboat in its mouth. The whale had attacked the boat from the bottom instead of the more common attack called “jawing over,” where the whale torpedoed upside-down and open-jawed along the surface. I thought of looking over a gunwale to see a 15-ton animal materialize in the water beneath me. I imagined the water might be still, the boat rocking under a gray sky, my fellow crew members hunched over their heavy oars. Someone might whisper, “Where is he?” and a few moments later the water would boil and a 30-foot jaw would appear on the side of the boat. We’d be thrown upward, the sky and sea blurring in the sound of snapping wood and bones.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:59 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


GoooOOOOOD THAAAaaaaang AAYYYY speeeeeeak WhaaaaAAAAAAALE.
posted by Kabanos at 1:00 PM on January 18, 2012 [33 favorites]


They cut the stomach open, and out rolled Bartley, unconscious but breathing,

You lucky bastard!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:00 PM on January 18, 2012


This is kind of dumb.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:00 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just finished reading Fluke, so now I am imagining whaley boys waving their prehensile penises around.
thanks.
posted by Seamus at 1:00 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Bible says it was a great fish. Not a whale.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am pretty sure that biology was not sufficiently advanced in biblical times to make the fish vs cetacean call.
posted by elizardbits at 1:03 PM on January 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


Imagine a black and mucous-smothered tube sock slipping over you.

Yes! Yes, yes, yes, oh god YES!!!

(what?)
posted by LordSludge at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


The Bible says it was a great fish. Not a whale.

Depending on the translation, that is.
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


In all reality, though, Jonah is like the best book in the whole Bible, because it's a story of a religious guy and God is like 'Dude, go to Ninevah and give them this keen prophecy!' and Jonah is like 'No that sucks, I hate Ninevah and I don't want them to stop being my enemies, seriously fuck those guys' and then God is all 'Dude for serious' and Jonah is like 'Nuh uh' and then he runs away and God is like 'Seriously?' and then shows his displeasure with this turn of events and finally Jonah is like 'ALRIGHT ALRIGHT I'LL GIVE THE STUPID PROPHECY TO STUPID NINEVAH' and then he does and then everyone in Ninevah is like 'Oh good! Let's all change our ways and be good now,' and Jonah goes 'I HATE THIS' and then pouts on a hillside and it's hot and sunny on the hillside and God makes a little shady bush over Jonah's head to protect him from the sun and Jonah goes 'Sweet!' and then the bush dies like a minute later and Jonah is like 'GOD YOU'RE A JERK' and God is all 'That bush didn't exist a second ago, and now I'm a jerk? You're all pissy because you want to divide the world into people you like and people you don't,' and then God gets wicked sarcastic and the book ends with a rhetorical question.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2012 [149 favorites]


Jonah was swallowed by a cyborg alien whale fashioned by aliens stranded in a trench deep in the Mediterranean. They downloaded their knowledge to him and programmed him to think it was prophecy as knowing about extraterrestrials would've been too disturbing for him.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:09 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


My translation says that Jonah was swallowed by a giant squid. It's why you can't get good calamari in Israel.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:09 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: gulped to the fauces.

Metafilter: you somehow survive.

Actually every phrase in that description.
posted by michaelh at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2012


I'm inside a whale right now.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


My day was notably short on nightmare-fuel, thanks!
posted by Theta States at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Bible says it was a great fish. Not a whale.

it was charlie tuna, wasn't it?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The Greek word (for which the Authorized Version translates as "whale" in Matt 12:40) is ketos , which the standard BAGD lexicon defines as "sea-monster", of which Mounce's lexicon defines as "sea-monster, great fish, or whale", and of which the Louw and Nida UBS lexicon defines as "big fish, huge fish."

When you pretend to know something based on a translation (of a translation), you pretty much can always be proven wrong. This is why I've never understood why Christians can't be bothered to learn (at least) Aramaic, Greek, & Hebrew.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Imagine if you were the shark in the whale, further devouring that which has already been devoured by the leviathan.
And then imagine you were a member of Congress.

But I repeat myself.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:12 PM on January 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


...and God is like 'Dude, go to Ninevah and give them this keen prophecy!' and Jonah is like 'No that sucks, I hate Ninevah and I don't want them to stop being my enemies, seriously fuck those guys' and then God is all 'Dude for serious' and Jonah is like 'Nuh uh' and then he runs away and God is like 'Seriously?'...

I hate the New Eric Cartman Translation.
posted by PlusDistance at 1:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [24 favorites]


> This is why I've never understood why Christians can't be bothered to learn (at least) Aramaic, Greek, & Hebrew.

Aramaic is mostly superfluous. Even though Jesus probably spoke Aramaic the Gospels were written in Greek.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:13 PM on January 18, 2012


The Bible says it was a great fish. Not a whale.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:01 PM on January 18


Bloody hell, good thing you pointed that out. We wouldn't want to be inaccurate about what really happened.
posted by Decani at 1:14 PM on January 18, 2012 [38 favorites]


Imagine a black and mucous-smothered tube sock slipping over you.

*PRIMAL SCREAMS*
posted by Decani at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is why I've never understood why Christians can't be bothered to learn (at least) Aramaic, Greek, & Hebrew.

Aside from the ability to sound more sophisticated when arguing about it, I'm not sure there's any great reason to become a scholar of a text that is primarily used as a post-hoc authority to rationalize independently-fomulated positions.
posted by The World Famous at 1:17 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Stop all this blubbering, people.
posted by jonmc at 1:17 PM on January 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


We are two mariners
Our ships' sole survivors
In this belly of a whale
AAAAAHGH! AAAAGHGH!
CCHHHKHKH!! NNNNGH!
GLLLLLLUUSCHPH.

posted by zamboni at 1:18 PM on January 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


I hate when this happens.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:18 PM on January 18, 2012


The phone calls are coming from inside the whale!
posted by TedW at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


Anyway what I meant to say is that the GREAT IRONY (or perhaps just STUPID MISFORTUNE) is that the Jonah-in-the-belly-of-the-whale thing is one of the best-known and most-taught stories in the Protestant world and yet no one seems to notice that the book isn't about LOL DON'T GET ET BY SUM FISH but rather it's more about DUDE FOR REAL, STOP PRETENDING LIKE YOU AREN'T SUPPOSED TO LOVE EVERYONE
posted by shakespeherian at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2012 [28 favorites]


...and of which the Louw and Nida UBS lexicon defines as "big fish, huge fish."

Red fish, blue fish.
posted by griphus at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


True story: An ancestor of mine back in the 1800's was bitten by a whale, but survived. I've got a picture of the guy back at my house.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:26 PM on January 18, 2012


Its ribs our ceiling beams
Its guts our carpeting
I guess we have some time to kill. . .
posted by Danf at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2012


no one seems to notice

It's creepy when adults only hang out in the children's books department.
posted by michaelh at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2012


yet no one seems to notice that the book isn't about LOL DON'T GET ET BY SUM FISH but rather it's more about DUDE FOR REAL, STOP PRETENDING LIKE YOU AREN'T SUPPOSED TO LOVE EVERYONE

I would happily subscribe to a newsletter in which shakespeherian distills the entire Bible into LOL and/or surfer-speak parable by parable.
posted by jamaro at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2012 [33 favorites]


Aramaic is mostly superfluous.

I hate you too, mister-superfluity-man! Nyaahhhh!

*pout*

...and now, back on topic, this is all Reason Five Million in my list of reasons why we as a civilization should try to find a way to exterminate all life in the oceans. The oceans are horrible horrible places. Let's burn them.
posted by aramaic at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, this surely beats discussing phallic and homo-erotic references in Moby Dick.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Independent of the subject, the article is a pretty great description of what it's like to do archival research. The irrelevant diversions you find along the way are what keep you from going out of your skull.
posted by awenner at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


True story: An ancestor of mine back in the 1800's was bitten by a whale, but survived. I've got a picture of the guy back at my house.

This guy?
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2012


I have learned from experience that a modicum of snuff can be most efficacious.
posted by djseafood at 1:35 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Spoiler alert for this article:
there is, as far as author can determine in one day visit to very comprehensive archive, no record of an actual swallowing.

But I agree that it's a good description of what it's like to do archival research.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I speak Whale!
posted by mlis at 1:38 PM on January 18, 2012


i feel coiled
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:39 PM on January 18, 2012


Your best hope is to be swallowed by a baleenic whale, which will spit you back up after a little while.
posted by orme at 1:42 PM on January 18, 2012


I'm inside a whale right now.

I'm inside a manta ray.

Well, a part of me is.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Now what if the whale swallowed an army of five year olds who travelled back in time to battle thirty asian hornets? What then, Professor Speculator? What then?
posted by not_on_display at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would happily subscribe to a newsletter in which shakespeherian distills the entire Bible into LOL and/or surfer-speak parable by parable.

Me too.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2012


But Geppetto makes it out okay, right? RIGHT?!?
posted by argonauta at 1:48 PM on January 18, 2012


basically ok, but a little worse for whale
posted by pyramid termite at 1:51 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


My university network gave me a warning flag for the article. I believe it was due to the phrase "2,403 stomachs of sperm". Sad times.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu: "Well, this surely beats discussing phallic and homo-erotic references in Moby Dick."

Oh, yeah, scaly baby, SWALLOW IT! SWALLOW ME!

Unnnnnnnnnngh...

thud
posted by Samizdata at 1:56 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would happily subscribe to a newsletter in which shakespeherian distills the entire Bible into LOL and/or surfer-speak parable by parable.

It's not shakespeherian (at least I don't think it's shakespeherian) but what you want exists at http://bettermyths.blogspot.com/ or would do if it wasn't on strike today.
posted by Hogshead at 1:57 PM on January 18, 2012


Also, the true connoisseur's swallowed-by-a-whale (fictional) story is of course Burt Dow, Deep Water Man.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:57 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look up - look down. You're in a whale.
The air is now stomach acid.
posted by belissaith at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thumbed through Venereal and found, slid between endless Syphilis cards, an archaic Lady’s Fever, the whimsical Blue boar in groin, and the enigmatic doby itch.

Chilblains! Pimp Skitters! That Thing That Happens To Babies When Their Gas Is Not Fully Articulated!
posted by FatherDagon at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2012


The inherently fascinating subject aside, this is a gorgeous piece of writing. I'm going to look for more from this author.
posted by empath at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2012


He shook his head and waved dismissively. “Sperm whales’ throats are small. They can’t swallow people.”

I'm disappointed in Mr. Dyer. He knows that the throat of a whale is too small for it to swallow a person, but he doesn't bother to explain how this state of affairs came about.

It's all the doing, oh best beloved, of a certain man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity
posted by tdismukes at 2:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Bible says it was a great fish. Not a whale.

Technically, the bible says it was a דָּג גָּדוֹל
posted by empath at 2:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hereby endorse this use of imagery.

And I hereby endorse THIS:

"Then, liquidated, you would ooze into the intestine, and eventually leave the whale as excrement, floating out of the anus and into the cold deep ocean, dissolving still further until you had become so small as debris that you were indistinguishable from the ocean itself. You would lap against whaling ships looking for whales."

Oozing, yes, but smelling so heavenly sweet.



...whaley boys...

Best part of the whole dang book!
posted by BlueHorse at 2:07 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Bible says it was a great fish. Not a whale.

Depending on the translation, that is.


You're not kidding: the great fish first appears in the KJV at Jonah 1:17 ("Now the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." I pulled down a couple of French bibles to see if it was a baleine or a grand poisson and hey presto, the same book (Jonas) has sixteen verses in French: le grand poisson arrivent en Jonas 2:1.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:08 PM on January 18, 2012


and hey presto, the same book (Jonas)

Puts a whole new spin on the Jonas brothers.
posted by aught at 2:09 PM on January 18, 2012


I don't have a relative that was injured by a whale, by a moose once bit my sister.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:10 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


True story: An ancestor of mine back in the 1800's was bitten by a whale, but survived. I've got a picture of the guy back at my house.
Is it Edmund Gardner fingerless and gnarled, as mentioned in the article?
posted by unliteral at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2012


This is an extremely thorough lyrical critique! I wonder what he'll make of "the choo-choo train left right on time / the ticket costs only your mid", when he gets that far.
posted by gilrain at 2:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


*mind
posted by gilrain at 2:13 PM on January 18, 2012


I probably need to start a band called Le Grand Poisson. You know, for the double entendre.
posted by The World Famous at 2:13 PM on January 18, 2012


Imagine a black and mucous-smothered tube sock slipping over you.

Yes! Yes, yes, yes, oh god YES!!!

(what?)
posted by LordSludge


Epornisterical
posted by Kabanos at 2:14 PM on January 18, 2012


Though jokes aside, a couple online sources say the original Hebrew was "great fish" (dag gadol), and that the confusion with whales came centuries later when St Jerome translated the same Hebrew term, which also appears in Matthew, as "cetus."
posted by aught at 2:15 PM on January 18, 2012


> Though jokes aside, a couple online sources say the original Hebrew was "great fish" (dag gadol)

Which is of course the proto-Lovecraftian root of "dagon".
posted by Burhanistan at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I probably need to start a band called Le Grand Poisson. You know, for the double entendre.

If you do, you'll have to play at (Le) Poisson Rouge in NYC just for the confusing show flyers.
posted by griphus at 2:19 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be eaten after being eaten. To be the –en of the turducken.

Whalsharman, is the proper term, I believe.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:20 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Relevant
posted by bjork24 at 2:20 PM on January 18, 2012


Iwas swallowed by a whale once. It was $20. Same as in town.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:26 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jonah was swallowed by Megalodon.
posted by drinkcoffee at 2:29 PM on January 18, 2012


Which is of course the proto-Lovecraftian root of "dagon".

Actually, Dagonites were one of the various competitor religions during the period described by the OT - the Philistines who captured Samson were going to offer up a sacrifice to Dagon in thanks for their good fortune, before Samson brought the temple down.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:32 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: Which is of course the proto-Lovecraftian root of "dagon".

Nope, Dagon was a Philistine deity. In accordance with xenophobic tradition, a kindly deity worshipped by foriegners wa turned into a monster.
posted by idiopath at 2:33 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If being swallowed by whale is not sufficiently terrifying to imagine, note that a blue whale's aorta is large enough for a human to be stuck in.

Granted, it's hard to imagine a circumstance that would lead to someone being stuck in a blue whale's aorta.
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:34 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, in 1 Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant beat up an idol of Dagon when the Philistines left them alone in a room together.
posted by griphus at 2:34 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, Dagon was represented as a half-man half-fish, so technically, you're both correct.
posted by griphus at 2:38 PM on January 18, 2012


Also, Dagon was represented as a half-man half-fish

Now that's a great fish.
posted by The World Famous at 2:47 PM on January 18, 2012


Metafilter: the -en in turducken.
posted by daisystomper at 2:48 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whalsharman, is the proper term

Please don't squeeze the whalesharman.
posted by zippy at 2:49 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sperm whales would rather eat squid, which require little chewing, and not the hairy, bony things we are.

Me too.
posted by goethean at 2:57 PM on January 18, 2012


Well, this surely beats discussing phallic and homo-erotic references in Moby Dick.


There once was a man from Nantucket...
posted by darkstar at 3:07 PM on January 18, 2012


We have seen the whale, and the whale is us.
posted by Brian B. at 3:25 PM on January 18, 2012


Pfft. This data is for what would happen if you were swallowed by a coach whale. Jonah was swallowed first class. Lot's more room. Complimentary pre-filtered krill. Gently exfoliating stomach acid scrub. The only way to be swallowed by a large fish under the command of a vengeful god.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:28 PM on January 18, 2012


Well, this surely beats discussing phallic and homo-erotic references in Moby Dick

Dorks
posted by Capricorn13 at 3:29 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Y'know, I could have sworn it was pretty well established that "swallowed by a great fish" was an idiomatic phrase like "in a pickle."

Unless this means that in a thousand years' time (give or take), people will wonder what salty vinegar had to do with baseball.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:35 PM on January 18, 2012


/strikes item off of bucket list.
posted by Artw at 3:38 PM on January 18, 2012


Don't go injecting reasonable explanations!
posted by Burhanistan at 3:38 PM on January 18, 2012


"big fish, huge fish."

Red fish, blue fish.


Cardboard box!
posted by benzo8 at 3:49 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


This article is like asking what it would be like to be pecked to death by a flock of passenger pigeons.
posted by markvalli at 4:00 PM on January 18, 2012


If I ever get swallowed by a whale, I'll grab him by the tail and turn him inside out.
posted by asnider at 4:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


From griphus' link:
Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the temple of Dagon and set it by Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon’s torso was left of it. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

And *that* is how the omnipotent Creator of All Things settles a turf war. By knocking other idols over when no one is looking. Bad ass.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:07 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, too: Disappointed, was expecting Raiders-style face-melting.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck Dagon.
posted by Artw at 4:17 PM on January 18, 2012


Yahweh—what an asshole.
posted by fleacircus at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2012


And then the Ark went to crash on Baal's couch, and in the morning it kicked Baal in the nutsack so hard that all his priests felt it, and that's why they kneel that way, you know. True story. Then the Philistines were scared and that's why they brought the Ark back to us with gifts and stuff, because they're jerks like that. Guess they just couldn't handle the glory of how cool and important our Ark is, and how nifty it is to be us. Then, well, we touched the Ark wrong and it killed shitloads of us for no fucking reason. SORRY ARK, WE WILL DO BETTER.
posted by fleacircus at 4:47 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


dephlogisticated: ... being stuck in a blue whale's aorta.

If I had a nickel for every phrase I've read online that made me think "well, there's a phrase I never expected to see", I'd have just added another nickel to the pile.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:48 PM on January 18, 2012


Onstage tonight: Le Grand Poisson (opening band: Blue Whale's Aorta)
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:49 PM on January 18, 2012


shakespeherian: "You're all pissy because you want to divide the world into people you like and people you don't,' and then God gets wicked sarcastic and the book ends with a rhetorical question."

But when you hear it being chanted to you on Yom Kippur in Hebrew, at that point in the afternoon you're not even hungry anymore, it makes perfect sense.
posted by falameufilho at 4:49 PM on January 18, 2012


This is why I've never understood why Christians can't be bothered to learn (at least) Aramaic, Greek, & Hebrew.

1) Many do. Specialists on Daniel know Aramaic (chapters 2-7 are in Aramaic), and Talmudists (including Rabbis) certainly know Aramaic, but not everyone. Anyone who studies the New Testament seriously knows Greek.
2) Non-specialists don't know Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, and it's crazy to expect them to learn even one language. Why? Because as a grad student who is learning all three, it is a heinous pain in the ass. You'll confuse your Aramaic and Hebrew (same alphabet). Greek declensions will make you tear out your hair in frustration. The letter than looks like an H in English means, to me, either "H", a badly-formed "chet" (like "Bach"), "za" (Ethiopic/Ge'ez), or roughly "ee" (Greek, eta). I'll look at my notes and realized that I used the wrong "H"-alike in a word, because I was tired, and have to puzzle out what the hell I meant.

Back on topic, the question of my favourite misunderstood Bible translation, relating to sea monsters.

"Tan" is a Hebrew word meaning wild, nasty, predatory animal, usually "jackal" (plural "tanim"). "Tanin" (ended with an N) means "sea monster."

Let's go to Lamentations 4:3, now (NRSV).

"Even the TANIN offer the breast
and nurse their young,
but my people has become cruel,
like the ostriches in the wilderness. "

This is what traditional Jewish thought has called a kri u'ksiv problem. "Kri" means what is read, what you say; "ksiv" means what is written. There's a long history in Jewish thought of playing with words ("do not read [bleh], but [blah]") because Hebrew omits the vowel markings, so you can play around with a lot, and there's an acknowledgement in Jewish circles that these things happen. Sometimes kri u'ksiv (or ktiv) is based on Jewish practice: the "kri" for the Tetragrammaton is "Adonai," never any attempt to pronounce YHVH.

Why is this a kri u'ksiv problem? Because it makes no sense for there to be discussion of tanin (sea monsters) in the ruins of Jerusalem, suckling their young. There is a distinct lack of bodies of water that could hold sea monsters near Jerusalem (chapter 4 begins with references to the "sacred stones" at the head of every street). It probably should be read "tanim," and make reference to the fact that even tanim (symbols of destruction) are being more motherly than refugees at this point. No the first line in the NRSV reads "Even the jackals offer the breast..."

But, let's go to the KJV, which relies on the Greek (which, of course, translates tanin as "sea monster").

"Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness."

Whales, flopping around Jerusalem, nursing. Or jackals, feeding on the dead in Jerusalem, nursing.

So this is an occasion where the Jewish and Christian (or, at least, KJV-ian) ideas of sticking to the text are actually truly different, which is one of the many reasons I have seriously issues with the use of the word "fundamentalism" to describe non-Christians, because the Christian approach to the "fundamentals" can't be mapped as neatly to other religions as people might like to think.

I prefer jackals, but you got to admit, whales is pretty funny.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:59 PM on January 18, 2012 [28 favorites]


Or, like, Nessie.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:13 PM on January 18, 2012


I'm highly nutritious here, in the belly of the whale...
posted by buzzkillington at 5:41 PM on January 18, 2012


Oh! to float around the ocean encased in ambergris.
posted by unliteral at 7:33 PM on January 18, 2012


Two whales are drinking at a bar. Three hours pass, and neither say a word to each other. After several drinks, one whale turns to the other and says "MMMEEHOOOOYYYYYUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRR" (make whale voice).

The other whale says "Dude! You're fucking wasted!"
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:42 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ostriches?
posted by carping demon at 10:47 PM on January 18, 2012


(nearly) Swallowed by a whale
posted by eddydamascene at 11:32 PM on January 18, 2012


I seem to recall seeing Cruel Desert Ostriches open for the Grateful Dead at the Silver Bowl in Henderson back in the early '90s.



Or maybe that was Santana.
posted by darkstar at 11:34 PM on January 18, 2012


Am I admitting a huge level of ignorance if the thought that there ostriches near Jerusalem in biblical days is one of the more shocking parts of this discussion to me?
posted by DigDoug at 6:36 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I pulled down a couple of French bibles to see if it was a baleine or a grand poisson

The Russian Bible has "И повелел Господь большому киту поглотить Иону; и был Иона во чреве этого кита три дня и три ночи," using the phrase большой кит [bol'shói kit], which means 'big whale,' the word кит 'whale' being from Greek κῆτος [kētos] (also the source of Latin cētus). The interesting thing is that there used to be a false etymology of κῆτος as coming from κεῖμαι 'to lie down, be laid down' (they loved fake etymologies in the Middle Ages), so some early Russian writers coined a word лежахъ [lezhákh], literally 'lier, someone lying down,' to translate κῆτος. This has been your Random Linguistic Moment from languagehat.

You can see a bunch of foreign versions of the verse here.
posted by languagehat at 8:00 AM on January 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


This has been your Random Linguistic Moment from languagehat.

Every thread should have one.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:13 AM on January 19, 2012


Currently Playing: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - "Whales, Flopping Around Jerusalem, Nursing."
posted by griphus at 8:28 AM on January 19, 2012


Currently Playing: Thee Silver Mt. Zion - 'The daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:39 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Currently Playing: Joanna Newsom - Walnut Whales
posted by Theta States at 8:48 AM on January 19, 2012


I'm sorry I believe the name of that group is now The People's Democratic Republic of Thou Silver Mt. Zion Ice Cream Shoppe.
posted by griphus at 8:48 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, fun facts about Ostriches in the Hebrew Bible:

One, there was a species of Arabian Ostriches that are now extinct (died out in the 1960s, if I remember correctly). In fact, during my research todayo n this topic, I came across a 1930 article in The Science News-Letter entitled "The Ass and Ostrich Still Wild in Syria," with the great sentence "And wild ostriches still make their nests about the ruins of the once proud Greco-Roman city of Palmyra." The article states that this was a surprise.

The ostriches in the bible would have been those type of ostriches.

I admit to not knowing much about ostriches in the Bible, so I went to my usual sources and now I know a lot more.

So the Hebrew word for ostrich is renen, after its cry (verb ranan, to give a piercing cry).

A few ostrich mentions are re: kashrut (ostrich isn't kosher), so let's instead focus on the metaphorical uses of ostriches. All translations are NRSV.

Micah 1:8
For this I will lament and wail;
I will go barefoot and naked;
I will make lamentation like the TANIM (jackals etc.),
and mourning like the ostriches.

Isaiah 1:13-14
Thorns shall grow over [Zion's] strongholds,
nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the haunt of TANIM (hyenas),
an abode for ostriches.
Wildcats shall meet with 'IYI(Y)M (jackals),
goat-demons shall call to each other;

Isaiah 43:20
The wild animals will honour me,
the TANIM (jackals) and the ostriches (not renem, but banot ya'anah, "daughters of bird," I wish I could go into more detail about this but I recently moved and can't find my best bibles and commentaries right now);
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,

Job 30:39
I am a brother of TANIM (jackals),
and a companion of ostriches (again, "daughters of birds").

etc. etc.

So, themes:
-destruction of Jerusalem
-mourning, possibly related to the ostrich's doleful cry and to a passage in Job 39 where the ostrich is said to lack wisdom because its nests are constructed such that eggs can be easily (mistakenly) trampled by other creates, so ostriches mourn their dead children without knowing the ostrich caused the death by protecting her children thus
-wilderness
-jackals (or wild beasts) and ostriches ("daughters of bird") chillin' like homies.

So why jackals and ostriches? I guess that they're just especially emblematic of the wilderness encroaching on a formerly glorious, now ruined, city. Add in the jackals cruelty and the ostrich's cry, you have a perfect metaphor.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:49 AM on January 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Bolshoi Kit & the Daughters of Birds is my new band name.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:15 AM on January 19, 2012


Ooh! Some more on the bat ya'anah (ostrich)/banot ya'anah (ostriches) front.

Yes, I am this huge of a nerd. I am excited about finding out more about how to say the word 'ostrich' in Biblical and Classical Hebrew. At 2:20 in the morning.

First up: I normally try to avoid trusting Strong's (after all, under 'tan,' it has both 'tanim' and 'tanin', a necessary problem given the methodology used), but I did for my translation of banot ya'anah. It probably doesn't mean "daughters of bird." Mea culpa.

Secondly: what does ya'anah mean? Judit M. Blair agrees with some other scholars that ya'anah, in this case, either comes from the Syriac for "greed," or here means "wilderness" (page 76ff of Blair's "De-demonizing...") By contrast, Gary Rendsburg (a Jewish history prof) devoted an entire column to the problem of translated bat ya'anah, and thinks it more likely that ya'anah, like renen, derives from a verb that would describe the ostrich's cry: "the daughters of crying out" while renen effectively means "[the beast] who cries out in song." That said, I don't know enough about Syriac to judge the Syriac connection.

So "Bolshoi Kit and the Daughters of Wailing" might be it.

A quick glance couldn't find me a cognate in Ethiopic (the neglected Semitic language, living in a cupboard under the stairs), so that doesn't help.

I stand by what I said about Hebrew being a heinous pain in the ass to learn. But sometimes, it's a gorgeous little puzzle and I enjoy it thoroughly.

Then I get back to memorizing verb forms and hate it again.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 11:29 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, we'd sometimes go to a park that featured a whale with a walk-in mouth. That blue skin! Those crinkly little eyes! My secret mental image of a whale is still exactly like that.

(Should I tell you what was in there? Little fishtanks.)
posted by tangerine at 11:30 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pfft. This data is for what would happen if you were swallowed by a coach whale. Jonah was swallowed first class. Lot's more room. Complimentary pre-filtered krill. Gently exfoliating stomach acid scrub. The only way to be swallowed by a large fish under the command of a vengeful god.

Ah, time for a quick musing:

As unpleasant, certainly, as being swallowed by a great sea creature would be, without the great fish being there Jonah would have drowned. God PROVIDED the circumstance, which altho it sounded and was absolutely dreadful, was also absolutely lifesaving (not only for Jonah but for the Ninevites who repented at his preaching.)

That'll preach.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:01 AM on January 20, 2012


St. Alia of the Bunnies: As unpleasant, certainly, as being swallowed by a great sea creature would be, without the great fish being there Jonah would have drowned. God PROVIDED the circumstance, which altho it sounded and was absolutely dreadful, was also absolutely lifesaving (not only for Jonah but for the Ninevites who repented at his preaching.)

So God sends a storm to get Jonah thrown overboard. Then lets Jonah almost get to the point of drowning. Then saves him but makes him very uncomfortable for a while till he does what he wants.

I've got it everyone: God, the original waterboarder!
posted by JauntyFedora at 4:26 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, in God's defense, Jonah was a very cranky guy, both before and after his sea adventure.


The only real surprise is that the sailors put off tossing him overboard as long as they did.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:47 PM on January 27, 2012


I prefer my summary.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:16 PM on January 27, 2012


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