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THURSDAY, AUGUST 05, 2021
[ toh-hoo-boh-hoo ]
chaos; disorder; confusion.
THE ORIGIN OF TOHUBOHU
Tohubohu, “chaos; disorder; confusion,” comes from Hebrew tōhū wā-bhōhū, a phrase occurring in Genesis 1:2, and translated in the King James version as “(And the earth was) without form, and void.” Tōhū wā-bhōhū is an example of hendiadys, a rhetorical device in which two similar words are connected by and to express a single idea, here emptiness, void. Tōhū means “emptiness, waste, desert, vanity, nothing.” Bōhū is traditionally translated as “void, emptiness”; it is used in Genesis for its paronomastic or rhyming effect. Another example of hendiadys comes from the Gospel of Matthew (7:14): “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,” which was later misinterpreted to be “straight and narrow (path).” Tohubohu entered English in the first half of the 17th century.
HOW IS TOHUBOHU USED?
What we have in poetry, it appears, is poetry in a vacuum, which is even worse than poetry in a Salad Shooter or a hot-air corn popper. There is no consensus about the culture, and therefore no common ground on which poets, critics, scholars, students or even readers (are there any left?) can share assumptions and discuss with some coherence the great questions of life and art.
To suggest this tohubohu in a manner that may be unfair but is quick, efficient and vivid, let me cite a few blurbs from the pile of poetry collections on my table … DAVID R. SLAVITT, "PASSIONATE INTENSITY," NEW YORK TIMES, FEBRUARY 12, 1995
The Atlantic declared 2015 “the best year in history for the average human being,” a laughable departure from our recent state of political and pandemic-born tohubohu. LAUREN PUCKETT-POPE, "AN EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK AT LAUREN GROFF'S MATRIX," ELLE, APRIL 1, 2021