When I walked up to my first exhibit at the British Museum last Monday, I was surprised, excited and humbled to find myself face-to-face with the Rosetta Stone.
|Thanks for the picture, Mark!|
Yes, this stone is the namesake of some of the best software for learning a foreign language (I think Pimsleur is better, but Rosetta Stone ain't bad). The reason for that is that the Rosetta Stone held the key for language scholars to decipher - לְפַעֲנֵח (le-fah-ah-NEH-ahkh) - Egyptian hieroglyphics, as it features the texts of three languages (one familiar to the scholars - Greek) all saying the same thing.
The word לפענח comes from the biblical Book of Genesis. It's the name that Pharaoh calls dream-interpreting Joseph when he appoints him as viceroy of Egypt: צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵח (tsahf-NAHT pah-NEH-ahkh). צפנת comes from the Hebrew root צ.פ.נ (ts.p.n), which is the concept of concealment. The non-Semitic root פ.ע.נ.ח (p.a.n.kh) is understood to mean interpreting or deciphering, making Joseph the decipherer of dreams... which makes sense.