"Turtle" or "Turtledove" in Song of Solomon 2:12 et al.?
"The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;" (Song of Solomon 2:12, KJV)
The Online Etymological Dictionary says:
"turtle (2) "turtledove," O.E. turtle, dissimilation of L. turtur "turtledove," a reduplicated form imitative of the bird's call. Graceful, harmonious and affectionate to its mate, hence a term of endearment in M.E. Turtledove is attested from c.1300."
"Turtle" is the shorter form of "turtledove". William Shakespeare wrote the famous love poem, "The Phoenix and the Turtle" - the "turtle" being a turtledove. The short form "turtle" is appealing in a poetic context due to it being an onomatopoeia of the bird's call. As the quote from the Online Etymological Dictionary above says, the Latin derivative "turtur" is the "reduplicated form imitative of the bird's call". In fact, the Hebrew word for "turtle/turtledove" is "תּור (tor)" - the same onomatopoeia of the bird's call as in Latin. The passage in Song of Solomon 2:12 says:
"The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;"
How fitting it is to use the onomatopoeia form, "turtle (turtur)" - an imitation of the bird's call - in a poetic passage that specifically refers to the "voice" of this bird.
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