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The verse states (Ruth 4:1):

וּבֹעַז עָלָה הַשַּׁעַר, וַיֵּשֶׁב שָׁם, וְהִנֵּה הַגֹּאֵל עֹבֵר אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר-בֹּעַז, וַיֹּאמֶר סוּרָה שְׁבָה-פֹּה פְּלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי; וַיָּסַר, וַיֵּשֵׁב
Now Boaz went up to the gate, and sat him down there; and, behold, the near kinsman of whom Boaz spoke came by; unto whom he said: 'Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here.' And he turned aside, and sat down.

Why is everyone so convinced that Ploni Almoni is meant to be a placeholder of sorts and not actually his name? And if it is a placeholder, then what is its root? P-L-N? What does that mean?

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In high-school I once gave my Rebbe an idea (he used to do a weekly quiz) to ask the question: "What Biblical name appears the most in the Talmud?" And of course, the answer is Ploni. – Hacham Gabriel Mar 11 '12 at 22:08
@HachamGabriel Really? I would have guessed it would have been something like Yehuda or Yaakov. – Double AA Mar 11 '12 at 22:27
@HachamGabriel See judaism.stackexchange.com/q/4301/759 – Double AA Sep 9 '12 at 14:02
up vote 7 down vote accepted

In hebrew wiki, you can see usage of this term in Shmuel 1 21:3 as a placeholder of a place (hmm...), so it couldn't be a name of a person.

This is also supported by linguistic connection of the words Ploni and Unknown

הפרשנים הסבירו את מקור המילה "פלוני" כגזור מ"פלאי", סתום, ואת "אלמוני" מלשון "אלמון", דהיינו כאדם אלמן, או מלשון אילם, שכן אין יודעים לקרוא לו בשם.‏

However, there also brought an opinion (of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi) that in Ruth this is really a name of a person.

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Why does its being a name of place preclude its being the name of a person? Especially if the person came from that place. – Double AA Mar 11 '12 at 22:18
If a person is called after a place the name is bit altered, like בבלי for someone from בבל. It doesn't sounds reasonable to call exactly same way to a man and a place. Especially when you have linguistic explanation of connection between Ploni and Unknown. – jutky Mar 11 '12 at 22:25

Malbim says "ploni" is from the root *p*l*e*, meaning "conscious control"; and "almoni" from a*l*m as in "me'almim alumim betoch hasadeh."

Thus, he is "in conscious control of the bind we're in."

(But sadly Ploni doesn't exercise that conscious control -- I really want to help you, but what people will say -- I just can't, sorry.)

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In ancient Semitic languages such as Akkadian and Sumerian, the root P-L-N means an anonymous person. Both of these languages are contemporaneous with or older than Megillat Rut. This is the case in Arabic and Farsi as well.

Source: I heard this from someone familiar with these languages.

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Which other Semitic languages? Any old usages? If it's just Arabic this could be an effect of Ruth, not the cause. – Double AA Jul 14 at 23:59
Source: I have seen this in Arabic and confirmed it with someone familiar with many other Semitic languages. – mevaqesh Jul 15 at 0:00
@MoriDoweedhYaa3qob updated answer. It well precedes Arabic, although I would sources regarding the Sumerian and Akkadian, if you or anyone could find them. – mevaqesh Jul 17 at 4:42
@mevaqesh i have an akkadian dictionary and other semitic language dictionaries in my library. i looked through the akkadian one but very lazily as its too much work to guess what the word would be in akkadian. if you want to look up the akkadian dictionary its in my 7th folder. drive.google.com/file/d/0B8F_PW9P6dqlaFhFOExUcU4tS2M/… maybe this is helpful too drive.google.com/file/d/0B8F_PW9P6dqlNUlJSS1zYjhhMjQ/… drive.google.com/file/d/0B8F_PW9P6dqldWh5R2Y5QXppVHc/… – MoriDoweedhYaa3qob Jul 17 at 4:52

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