Imagine a Latin text—e.g. the first verse of the Latin Vulgate Bible:
In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram Terra autem erat inanis et vacua et tenebrae super faciem abyssi et spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas.
Most of us don’t know Latin, but at least we can read it, and guess at the meaning of some words—or look them up.
Yesterday, after ten years of research and development at the University of Waterloo—including two years of collaboration with yours truly and a small collection of other selected translators and editors around the world—I took delivery of a device that will allow me to take real vacations (not the kind pseudo-vacations I usually have, where I furtively try and get some work done as Mrs. Autumn Light yells at me to get off my laptop and join her in seeing the sights or just truly taking it easy on the beach).
When I read this question, I was convinced that it’s about the word שיבה (pron. sheevah), which means “return”, and is key to the notion of return to Zion, which underpins Zionism and modern Israel.
Modern-day Ecclesiastes is a poem to illustrate how the spelling distinctions between homophones in modern Hebrew are irretrievably lost in the conventional quasi-phonetic transliteration of Hebrew in Roman characters. It is a useful tool for testing the fidelity and reversibility of any Hebrew-to-Roman transcription system.