12 Mar 2007

The real names of Egyptian deities

Let me tell you a little story about little Nancy. Little Nancy contracted a disease called Egyptomania when she was 16 years of age, sometime between her bouts of the Mayan Fever and Indo-European Flu. She learned everything she could about the Egyptian language, how they wrote it, how to conjugate a verb, what the word order was, etc., but her spidey senses knew that something wasn't quite right.

At that age, she had never thought of going to a university library to find the information that she was craving. It was too intimidating for her. She was but a young child with the typical teen-angst-enduced self-esteem issues. Besides, only older people went to university and they would probably look at her funny whispering "What is that kid doing here?". So to avoid controversy, she naively limited herself to what she could get her hands on at the school library (pretty much nothing but books from 1932) or the public library.

Unless you can get an academic book on the subject, the real Egyptian language as it was spoken by real Egyptian people is all but inaccessible to the average joe. The scribes didn't normally write vowels, aside from words and names of foreign origin, and even then, not consistently. In most garden-variety books, the words have been ever so (un)kindly "recodified" for the unwashed masses by inserting e's and other vowels that never belonged there in the first place, all to render it more "pronounceable". Is it misinformation? Technically, but who cares about that if little Nancy can write her ill-conceived essay for social studies class. As long as she has a bibliography, little Nancy might get an A- without any guidance whatsoever from the clueless teacher who also probably knows as much about the Egyptian language as the students. (In the idealistic good ol' days, teachers also understood the topics they taught. Oh well.)

I have a confession to make. I... yes, I... I was once little Nancy and it breaks my heart to see the next generation of little Nancies walking around with a forlorn look on their misinformed faces just because the government has no more funds to keep libraries open and well stocked. So this tasty table of raw data is for you, little Nancy. Live, long and prosper:


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