An Ambiguous Tattoo: Modern vs. Classical

In my usual searches across the Internet for Aramaic tattoo oddities, I came across the following tattoo that illustrates an very important point about how different some dialects can be. Here is a transliteration of the text:
gbrt' yshw` mshykh'

This tattoo's owner believes it means "Jesus Christ Almighty," but ambiguity lies within the word gbrt'.

In some dialects of Modern Aramaic, Arabic loan sounds and loan words have creeped into the language. To represent these, some dialects use diatrics to represent Arabic phonemes by marking similar consonants.

For example, the set of diatrics used to write Arabic text in Syriac letters is known as "Garshuni" (or "Karshuni") where small loops and dots are added into the crooks of the letters to indicate the Arabic equivalents. In Assyrian dialects, a similar principle is applied, where a squiggle "~" (known as a Majliana) is placed under or over certain consonants.

The letter in question is the gâmal "G" at the beginning.

(The sounds Gâmal makes.)

When tattooing, sometimes these diatric squiggles can end up looking like standard vowel markers. Because of this gbrt' can first be read as a loan-word from the Arabic "jabbar" which means "almighty." Jbârthâ', however, should be masculine, not feminine as it would be an adjective (i.e. Jesus -is- mighty). This would make the entire translation read:

jbârthâ' yeshû` mshîkhâ'
"(She is) Almighty: Jesus Christ"

...which doesn't seem to be what the owner is after.

On the other side of interpretation lies gebârthâ' which is a word found in several dialects of Aramaic (most notedly Syriac) where it is the feminine form of gabrâ' which means "man" (i.e. "woman"). This would make the translation read:

gebârthâ' yeshû` mshîkhâ'
"The Woman: Jesus Christ"

...also not quite what they were after.

I won't repeat myself again as to how important it is to double-check your translations. :-) Aramaic Designs will do it for free so there is no excuse!


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