Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was familiar with Rehoboth Beach as a desirable family destination for a hot summer day (note: this was in the days when the phrase "gay outing" simply meant "a fun day at the beach"). We never stumbled over the pronounciation of this word; everyone I knew said ruh-HOE-buth without blinking an eye. It was not at all like the controversy over roof vs. roof or water vs. water. Oh... I forgot. You can't really tell the difference when these words are just written! Let me clarify: ruf (rhymes with woof) vs. rewf (rhymes with goof) and wooder vs. wahter. It wasn't until membership in Rehoboth Academy began to increase that I became aware of the fact that not everyone agreed on how to pronounce the name of our school. After creating the mini-FAQ on pronounciation, I did a little more research. Since the origin of our school name comes from the Torah, it makes some sense to investigate how a Hebrew speaking individual would pronounce this word. Wow... did that open up a can of worms. Here is what I learned.
Ancient Hebrew is a "dead" language. That is, it ceased being spoken at some point in history (scholars disagree on the date). As a result, no one really knows how Rehoboth would have been pronounced by Isaac when he was digging the wells. Modern Hebrew began to be spoken in the late 19-th century, but there are many dialects so there is still no agreement on pronounciation.
There are some general rules that are followed for Biblical Hebrew. The one I remember from conversations with my brother, is that the accent usually goes on the last syllable. Of course, if we follow this rule, then all of my Pennsylvania friends would have spent a lifetime pronouncing Rehoboth incorrectly.
To fine tune the vowel and consonant sounds, I consulted a friend of mine who has studied Biblical Hebrew. He offered the following comments.
Taking these into account, re-hoe-VOTE would perhaps be a more accurate rendering of Rehoboth. My Hebrew scholar however left me with this comment. "whatever you do, pick a pronounciation and say it consistently." Since I cannot consistently say re-hoe-VOTE when I look at Rehoboth, I will probably continue to say it in accord with my Pennsylvania roots (does that rhyme with boots or puts?)
Now... what about that other word, "Academy"?
Many thanks to my friend Tim for his insightful analysis.