Philologos


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


The Buzaglo Test

By Philologos

As scandal swirls around the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and some political commentators wonder why he isn’t held more strictly to accounts while others protest that he has been tarnished unfairly, almost everyone in Israel agrees that he should be subject to the Buzaglo Test.Read More


Also Known As...

By Philologos

‘Bombay — Forty-five people were killed and at least 135 were wounded Monday by the explosion of two bombs placed in a pair of taxis in the heart of India’s commercial capital, the police said.”That’s from a front-page New York Times report on August 26. Further on we are told:“At the scene of the first blast, the state’s tense and…Read More





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