Philologos


A Shayle About Shayle

By Philologos

Reader Paul Malevitz of Los Angeles has a shayle about the word shayle. He writes:In the Yiddish spoken in the territories of the former USSR, northeastern Poland and most of Rumania, we pronounce the words for “meat and bones” as fleysh un/in beyner [“ey” being the linguistic notation for the vowel in a word like “say”], whereas in…Read More


LanLanguage of the H.erem

By Philologos

Reader Leon G. Goldstein writes:“I’m quite familiar with the Yiddish expression freg mir bekheyrem. But what is the source of it? Is it related to the Hebrew h.erem, meaning excommunication?”The kheyrem of freg mir bekheyrem, an expression that means “I have no idea” or “I haven’t a clue,” is indeed the same word as the Hebrew word…Read More


Get Thee to a Seminary!

By Philologos

Catching my eye on the front page of the June 10 International Herald Tribune was the following paragraph in an article on the Sharon government’s dismantling of “unauthorized outposts” in the territories: “The Bible says God gave us this country as the homeland for Jews — it is all Israel,” said Amichai Hadad, 22, a seminary studentRead More


Occupying Verses

By Philologos

The latest Hebrew word to become a media hit is kibush. Writing, for example, in the June 2 New York Times about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s widely reported May 26 speech to the Knesset’s Likud faction, the Times’ Israel correspondent James Bennet wrote:Read More


It’s Not Easy Being Green

By Philologos

Annabelle Weiss of Shaker Heights, Ohio, writes to ask: “Can you shed some light on the term ‘greenhorn’? Where did it originate? How did it come to be applied to new immigrants? Did it specifically refer to Jewish immigrants or had it also been applied to earlier waves of immigrants like the Irish?”Read More


No, Really

By Philologos

Writing in a recent column in The New Republic on the supposed linkage between the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz, remarks that “these issues have literally nothing to do with each other.” Although he is entitled to his judgment, the widespread use of the word “literally”…Read More


A Thorn in One’s Side

By Philologos

The Israeli government, so Defense Minister Shaul Mufaz was recently quoted by newspapers as saying, intends to hold the new Palestinian Authority leadership accountable for fighting terror al kotso shel yod, “to the tip of a yod.” This is a fine old Hebrew expression with an interesting history.If you look carefully at the printed letter yod…Read More


The Assassins: Part II

By Philologos

Where were we? Ah, yes: With the ninth-century Qarmatians in southern Iraq. In 899 they actually founded an independent state on the Persian Gulf under the leadership of Hamdan Qarmat’s disciple Sa’id al-Hasan al-Jannabi.Read More


Hash Heads

By Philologos

Aaron Demsky writes from Ramat Gan, Israel: Apropos of your [April 11] piece entitled “Thugs and Bandits,” perhaps you might want to discuss the word “assassin,” too.Read More


The First and Last Drops

By Philologos

A soft rain is falling outside my window. Possibly, it is the last, since this is the time of year when the rains in Israel stop and do not resume until the following autumn. This is why, in the Shemoneh Esreh or “Eighteen Benedictions” prayer recited three times daily, there is a difference of wording starting with the first day…Read More


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