Philologos


Listen to Me a Chess Move?

By Philologos

From Zelde Krulewitz comes a letter asking about the Yiddish expression folg mir a gang. “I would dearly love to know,” she writes, “not only the literal translation of this phrase but its meaning and correct usage — i.e., under what circumstances one would say such a thing.”A literal translation of folg mir a gang (folg mikh a gang inRead More


Money Hole

By Philologos

‘Knesset member Meli Polishuk-Bloch accused officials of the ministry’s Bureau of the Budget of ‘viewing everything through the hole in the grush,’” Ha’aretz reported in a November 18 news item regarding the Israeli Finance Ministry’s decision to scale back a number of projected desalination plants for financial reasons.Read More


Losing ‘Hope’

By Philologos

Harold J. White of Gloucester, Mass. writes:“Recently, friends asked me about the Hebrew word for ‘hope,’ tikvah, which they wanted to use in some announcement. Out of curiosity, I checked the concordance to the Bible and [the biblical dictionary of Wilhelm] Gesenius. The word tikvah does not occur there. And yet Hatikvah, ‘The Hope,’ is…Read More


Speak Like a Sailor

By Philologos

Modern Hebrew, as is well known, has had to come up with many new words for concepts and things that did not exist in the language before its late-19th-century spoken revival, or that were themselves 20th-century innovations. There are thousands of such words in Israeli Hebrew today, and dozens more of them continue to enter it every year. ButRead More


A Real Metsiya!

By Philologos

The Forward’s features editor, Erica Brody, tells me she knows a dedicated subscriber whose Yiddish-speaking family had a “hullabaloo” about the word metsiya. What precisely this “hullabaloo” was about I don’t know, but I can imagine. How many words are there that also mean their opposite and can be confused with their homonym in the…Read More


Pardon My Turkish

By Philologos

In the Israeli writer Amos Oz’s autobiographical account of childhood and adolescence “A Tale Of Love And Darkness,” to be published in English translation this spring, Oz’s father, a Hebrew University librarian with a love for words and their etymologies, says at one point to his son, “And as for your [Hebrew word] gazoz, it comes to…Read More


By Me, By You

By Philologos

In an e-mail entitled “Schadenfreude,” reader Sam Weiss of Paramus, N.J., writes about my September 5 column on foreign place names:“I couldn’t help noticing your misuse (a classic among Yiddish speakers) of the word ‘by’ in the sentence, ‘Or take the Chinese, who don’t mind our speaking of Shanghai when by them…Read More


Goats to the Slaughter

By Philologos

‘And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat…. And the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him and to let him go for a scapegoat unto the wilderness.”This passage from Leviticus 16 stands at the heart of…Read More


Upping Yor Ante

By Philologos

This being the week of Rosh Hashana, I took advantage of the occasion to ask the Israeli scholar Shmuel Gelbart, an expert on Jewish custom and Yiddish usage, a question that has been bothering me. Why is Yiddish the only language in the world whose speakers make a practice of wishing each other a good year every day of the year?Read More


Rav, Rebbe, Rabbi

By Philologos

M r. Rosenberg writes from Kansas City: “A group of us were discussing the derivation of the word ‘rabbi.’ We know what it means, obviously, and are aware of its various permutations — rov, reb, rebbe, rebenyu. But what is the root meaning of the word?”The root meaning of the Hebrew word rav, “rabbi,” is “large,” “great” or…Read More





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