Philologos


Bendel Business

By Philologos

What do Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Britney Spears and Demi Moore have in common? Don’t tell me — yawn! — that all four are practicing kabbalists. That’s old news.No, all four have been spotted wearing bendels. The gossip columnists tell us that the latest to be seen with one is Moore, who has been appearing in public with a red bendel onRead More


No Sex With Buildings...

By Philologos

I had never heard of an Italian Renaissance book entitled “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,”a Greco-Latin title rendered into English by the its recent translator, Joscelyn Godwin, as “Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream,” until I read a front-page article about it in the New York Times.Read More


Questioning the Marks

By Philologos

Ordinarily the Hebrew vowel signs are not headline material, but they made the front page of the newspaper Ha’aretz on June 4. The subject was a proposed spelling reform put forth by Dr. Mordecai Mishor, a member of the Language Committee of the Hebrew Language Academy — and although Dr. Mishor’s proposal will not lead to rioting…Read More


‘Peoplehood’ From the Jews?

By Philologos

I was writing an article the other day that had in it the phrase “Jewish peoplehood,” when my computer underlined “peoplehood” in red. That’s its smart-alecky way of telling me that I’ve misspelled a word or that it doesn’t exist. Although I knew the computer was wrong (its internal word list is small, and it often thinks words…Read More


Another ‘Da Vinci’ Mystery

By Philologos

‘Have you read ‘The Da Vinci Code’?” a friend asked me recently about the runaway best seller.“No,” I said. “Is it any good?”“It’s only the worst novel I’ve ever read,” my friend said. “But you might get a language column out of it. There’s a chapter there about an ancient Hebrew code called Atbash.Read More


A New Mixed Marriage?

By Philologos

A few weeks ago, my wife and I attended a wedding in Israel — the exact ambience of which I couldn’t put a finger on. The bride and groom and their families both came from what is known in Hebrew as the dati-le’umi — the “national religious” community — the closest American Jewish equivalent of which might be “modern Orthodox.”Read More


The Name Game

By Philologos

I had to go to the dictionary the other day when I received a book with the title of “These Are the Names: Studies in Jewish Onomastics.” “Onomastics,” it turns out (from Greek onoma, “name”), is “the study of the origin of names.” Published by Bar-Ilan University Press in Israel, “These Are the Names” is Volume 4…Read More


A Long Linguistic Chase

By Philologos

Sometimes a seemingly trivial etymological question can lead to a long linguistic chase. Such a query was recently sent to me by Raymond Henkin, who asked:“In Uriel Weinreich’s Yiddish dictionary, the Yiddish word shmergl is translated as ‘emery.’ A search shows the origins of ‘emery’ to be either Greek orRead More


Slavs, Slovaks, et al.

By Philologos

The Slovenes of Slovenia, the northwest corner of the former Yugoslavia, have, according to an April 17 New York Times article, a problem — which is why they’re about to change their flag. People confuse them with the Slovaks of Slovakia, the eastern half of the former Czechoslovakia, who have a similar flag. And ifRead More


The Adorable Moses Cow

By Philologos

Yosi Gordon writes from St. Paul, Minn.:That most adorable of insects, the ladybird or ladybug, is in Hebrew parat Moshe rabbenu, ‘Moses’ cow.’ A myth or legend must be lurking behind that name, but I have been unable to find it. Can you help?Indeed I can. It is not only Mr. Gordon who finds the ladybug (“ladybird,” the olderRead More





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  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
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  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
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  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
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  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
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