On Language


A Truffle, and 10 Words for ‘Potato’

By Philologos

Irving Zlotnik writes: “There seem to be two commonly used words for the potato in Yiddish, kartofl and bulbe. I know the first comes from German Kartoffel, but where does bulbe come from?”Read More


How To Understand Yeshivish

By Philologos

Browsing on the Internet while working on last week’s column, which had to do with a blessing in the morning prayer, I came across the following: “The lechatchila time for shacharis is neitz. B’dieved, if a person davened from amud hashachar and onwards he is yotzei. In a shas hadchak he may daven from amud hashachar and onwards lechatchila…. After chatzos it is assur to daven shacharis. One should wait till after mincha and then daven a tashlumin. The possibility for a tashlumin doesn’t exist for someone who was bemaizid.”Read More


Philologos: On Language

By Philologos

Mort Reichek of Boynton Beach, Fla., asks about the origins of the word “dybbuk.” In Jewish folklore, of course, a dybbuk is the ghost or spirit of a dead person that enters a living one and takes possession of him, causing him to speak and act in irrational and unrecognizable ways. This is by no means an exclusively Jewish notion. Various cultures and religions have believed in demonic possession as a way of explaining such things as schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder — among them Christianity, which probably borrowed the belief from Judaism. In the New Testament there are several stories about Jesus’ healing the mentally disturbed by casting out demons, parallels to which exist in talmudic literature.Read More


All Quiet on Eastern Front

By Philologos

Virginia Gross Levin writes from Broomall, Pa.: “Are you familiar with a Yiddish expression greynetz mentshn “border people”? My great uncle used it to describe our family’s secretive nature. In the 50 years since then, I have never heard it from anyone else. I understand that people on the border had to learn to hold their tongues because they never knew who might be listening. But was this just an expression used by my Polish Jewish family or was it more widespread?”Read More


Would you like to receive updates about new stories?






















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.