Philologos


Wimpels Made Simple

By Philologos

Medieval Jews wrapped baby boys in ornate Torah ties called wimpels after circumcision, a long-lost tradition that Philologos explains.Read More


Walk Softly and Carry a Big Shtick

By Philologos

The vice president recently used the word “shtick” incorrectly. Philologos wonders if we should be sad that Yiddish words are slipping from our grasp.Read More


We Will, We Will Rock You

By Philologos

Philologos likens a recent dispute over the wording of the Yizkor prayer for fallen soldiers, to a quarrel that delayed Israel’s declaration of statehood more than 60 years ago.Read More


Philologos: What’s That On Your Head?

By Philologos

Philologos, our language columnist, uncovers the French, German and Latin roots of sheytl, paruk and other Yiddish words for wigs.Read More


The Language Bibi and Bam Used

By Philologos

As settlement policy continues to roil U.S.-Israeli relations, our language columnist says that some linguistic common sense could have avoided the mess.Read More


Shabbat by Way of Babylon

By Philologos

The holiday of Shavuot has arrived — and with it, a d’var Torah, a commentary on a biblical passage, customarily delivered by a rabbi or member of a congregation, from Edward Reingold of Michiana, Mich. For his subject, Mr. Reingold has chosen the verses in Leviticus 23 that tell us when Shavuot is to be celebrated — that is, seven weeks plus a day, or 50 days, from the commencement of the Omer, the “sheaf-offering” of the barley harvest that begins during the week of Passover. (This is why the holiday is called ḥag ha-shavu’ot, “the feast of weeks,” in Hebrew, and Pentecost, from Greek pentekoste, “fiftieth,” in English.) Leviticus 23:10-11 reads, in the Jewish Publication Society translation: “When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its [barley] harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. He shall elevate the sheaf before the Lord for acceptance in your behalf; the priest shall elevate it on the day after the Sabbath.”Read More


Fermisht but Not Fergotten

By Philologos

Our language columnist takes on a question about the Yiddish prefix “fer–” — as in ferklemt, ferblondzshet, ferkakt, ferdreyt, fermisht — and whether or not it has any relation to the English prefix “for.”Read More


How To Live Like God in Odessa

By Philologos

Two Yiddish saying seem to paint very different pictures of Jewish life in Odessa during the 19th century. Our language columnist attempts to reconcile the two maxims.Read More


Can We Mix Jewish and Italian?

By Philologos

Stanley Sadinsky of Waterford, Conn., writes: “In recent stories in the Forward about the Triangle tragedy, the victims of the fire were referred to as predominantly ‘Jewish and Italian’ immigrants. Since ‘Jewish’ is a religious connotation and ‘Italian’ refers to country of origin, this descriptive mix was wrong. What should have been said was that the victims were predominantly ‘Jewish and Catholic’ immigrants, or conversely, ‘Russian and Italian.’ At the Forward, it would seem, ‘Jewish’ overrides national origin.”Read More


And Rains in Their Due Season

By Philologos

It rained fairly heavily in Israel the week after Passover, and since anything more than a few drops is rare here after April, it was probably the year’s last downpour. Real rain is unlikely to fall again before late September or October, and there are years in which the first autumn showers don’t come until November. The winter months of December, January and February are the rainiest ones, after which precipitation starts tapering off again.Read More





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