Fight the Future? (#12 of ??), aka Backf-rmati-n of deity?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/04/11 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

Content of Michael Kaplan's personal blog not approved by Microsoft (see disclaimer)!
Regular readers should keep in mind that all I said in The End? still applies; the allusion to the X-Files continues for people who understand such references....

If you are a habitual or semi-consistent reader here, you may recall one or more of the times in the past when I have talked about back formations.

Like here and here, for example.

Anyway, earlier this week my cousin Julie gave me yet another one!

In a last-minute email telling us about the upcoming weekend, she mentioned:

Hope you are all ready for an exciting weekend!!  The g-ds must have been looking down on us, as the weather is going to be picture perfect (see below).

Apr 10

Scattered Strong Storms


50 %

Apr 11

Isolated T-Storms


30 %

Apr 12



20 %

Apr 13



10 %

Do you see it?

That reference to g-ds,I mean.

The usage of the hyphen here is explained on this site:

Jews do not casually write any Name of God. This practice does not come from the commandment not to take the Lord's Name in vain, as many suppose. In Jewish thought, that commandment refers solely to oath-taking, and is a prohibition against swearing by God's Name falsely or frivolously (the word normally translated as "in vain" literally means "for falsehood").

Judaism does not prohibit writing the Name of God per se; it prohibits only erasing or defacing a Name of God. However, observant Jews avoid writing any Name of God casually because of the risk that the written Name might later be defaced, obliterated or destroyed accidentally or by one who does not know better.

The commandment not to erase or deface the name of God comes from Deut. 12:3. In that passage, the people are commanded that when they take over the promised land, they should destroy all things related to the idolatrous religions of that region, and should utterly destroy the names of the local deities. Immediately afterwards, we are commanded not to do the same to our God. From this, the rabbis inferred that we are commanded not to destroy any holy thing, and not to erase or deface a Name of God.

It is worth noting that this prohibition against erasing or defacing Names of God applies only to Names that are written in some kind of permanent form, and recent rabbinical decisions have held that writing on a computer is not a permanent form, thus it is not a violation to type God's Name into a computer and then backspace over it or cut and paste it, or copy and delete files with God's Name in them. However, once you print the document out, it becomes a permanent form. That is why observant Jews avoid writing a Name of God on web sites like this one or in newsgroup messages: because there is a risk that someone else will print it out and deface it.

Now if you think about it, using g-ds rather than gods is a backformation that in its own way tends to smite the intent of the practice, which is to differentiate the polytheistic idolaters who would have more than one deity from those more monotheistically bent.

Note how it is not capitalized, which supports the differentiation between the one G-d and the many g-ds quite nicely, even if the second hyphen refutes some of it....

Though I thought it was funny how quickly this occurred to me. :-)


This post brought to you by (U+12c4, a.k.a. ETHIOPIC SYLLABLE KXWEE)

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referenced by

2008/05/30 Backf-rmati-n -f deity, revisited

2008/04/11 Fight the Future? (#13 OF ??) aka Naming God in a lawsuit?

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