Philologos


Bogie Speaks Yiddish!

By Philologos

One never knows where one will find a Jewish linguistic question answered. It can even be in an old Humphrey Bogart movie.The movie I was watching on TV the other night was “The Big Sleep,” starring Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Made in 1946, it was directed by Howard Hawks and its highly entertaining screenplay has the distinction of havingRead More


Pursuing the ‘Rodef’

By Philologos

The rabbinic concept of din rodef is — unfortunately — back in the news. It last made the front pages at the time of the Yitzhak Rabin assassination. Two weeks ago it resurfaced — this time, in connection with the declaration of Avigdor Nebenzahl, the learned and respected rabbi of the Jewish QuarterRead More


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





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