Philologos


‘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


Flamenco’s Deep Roots

By Philologos

In the April issue of the magazine Moment there is a short item about the possible Jewish roots of flamenco or Spanish gypsy music. “Although not everybody finds Jewish overtones in the rhythmic dancing, the wailing style of songs, and the lush, intricate guitar playing,” writes Moment contributor Debra Bruno, “many believe that flamenco is closely linked to Sephardic synagogue music with its eastern influences and undercurrent of sadness….Read More


The Three ‘R’s

By Philologos

An e-mailer identified only as “Owen” writes:“I have a question that no one has been able to answer for me – even my rabbi. IRead More


Ghostly

By Philologos

Ira Epstein writes:“In several recent news reports in the English media, the Jerusalem street ‘Emek Refa’im’ was referred to as the ‘Vale of Ghosts’ or ‘Valley of Ghosts.’ While I know that the Hebrew word refa’im in the Bible can be translated as ‘ghosts,’ is there any special significance to the association of ghosts with…Read More


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