Sunday, 21 September 2008

Water water

The way this word begins with two back vowels, and hinges its 'oh'-'eh' vowels around that sharp central consonant ... sharp, but ambiguous (alveolar ejective? Personally I'd voice a glottal stop). Ambuguity is appropriate to this substance, of course.

William H Propp ['Water', in Metzger and Coogan (eds) The Oxford Companion to the Bible (OUP 1993), 792] points out that Syria-Palestine historically relied and relies upon ground- and rain-water for fertility: 'its people venerated storm gods, among them Yahweh, often accompanied by the tempest [Exod 14:21, 15:8-10 and many other examples] ... Water is God's gift par excellence ... which he may withold in punishment.'

This is a sense of water that is predicated primarily upon fresh water: which is to say, water is fresh and only in a secondary consideration brine. But the vast majority of water in the world is salt, with fresh as a minor variation. Noah's flood was presumably salt: a gift of god? A gift that went on giving. The gift that overwhelms and kills.

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