☆ (theidolhands) wrote in 1word1day,


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Tim·shel (′timˌʃɪl):
origin: coined by John Steinbeck, in his book East of Eden (1952)

noun {second person imperfect; an act that has not yet occurred}
1. the choice between good and evil.
2. a phrase constructed of four Hebrew words taken directly from The Bible, that loosely translate to: "thou mayest".

"Timshel" is a word born of Steinbeck's midrash (interpretations of biblical text, specifically the Talmud) on the classic tale Cain and Abel: of sibling rivalry, jealousy, ego, murder, and desire for (parental) love. East of Eden stands out not only as a classic in literature and film, but additionally as a most modern midrash on the subject.

Ultimately, the word is meant to reflect the freedom and empowerment that every human has, every day and moment of their lives, to its very last, to do good -- amid the struggle and cruelty that can be life -- beyond the curse, the weight of knowledge that we may also choose to do otherwise.

There is a difficulty rendering this word in transliteration. When it stands alone, it is pronounced timshol, with a long “o” in the final, accented syllable. But in this passage, as often happens in Hebrew, the word is connected to the word that follows, and therefore loses its accent. So, instead of a long “o” the vowel is reduced, and the word is most correctly pronounced timsh’l. Steinbeck chose to render this sound with an “e” and the word is usually pronounced timshel.

source: John Steinbeck’s Midrash on Cain and Abel

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Tags: biblical, made-up, noun, t, wordsmith: theidolhands

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