Language

What Color Is English?

Once again, I find myself at the ruins of the wall dividing language and politics. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men … Well, you know the…

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Hopeful Anniversary

As chief cook and babel watcher of this column, it’s my job to keep up with what’s going down. (If you’re not confused yet, consider the fact that the 1940s…

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Fathers Days

Sometimes the simplest words can be the most elusive. You wouldn’t think you need DNA testing to find the origin of the word “father.” But it’s not so simple. Oxford…

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Give Them a Brok

When I lived in Boro Park, I once told the Bostoner Rebbe of Boro Park/Beit Shemesh, zy”a, “Across the street from me, I have Satmar. Right behind me, is the…

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Putting the Punch in Punctuation

Watch out for Little Curly, aka the serial comma, aka the Oxford comma. And, now, the scourge of Oakhurst Dairy. The omission of a comma cost the Maine dairy farm…

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Beware the Ice of March

Don’t let anybody tell you that etymology — especially Hebrew etymology — is some esoteric field of study, with no practical application. The Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew: Based on…

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Clowning Achievement

It has come to my attention that people have been laughing at me. I take this very seriously. My daughter-in-law Ariella takes time from writing her own books to read…

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Davening: The Unsolved Mystery

Are you old enough to remember the Palm Pilot (great-granddaddy of the iPhone)? The first time I saw someone daven (recite the prayers) from the screen of a Palm Pilot,…

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Ready, Aim, Daven!

“We gotta have an ops meeting,” said Danny Grossman. “What is our kavanah?” Grossman was laying out the “ops” — combat operation plans — for Steven Pressfield’s oral history of…

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Vetting Invitation

I’m going to let you in on an inside secret. I’m a headliner. No, that doesn’t mean I get my name big and in lights. I mean that I also…

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Understanding the Maven

Back in the 1980s, my wife taught in a public school in Far Rockaway. A 12-year-old student there went with her Italian mother to buy a toaster oven. After the…

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Truth Ache

Just when I thought it was safe … I got them old dejection, inspection and election-rejection politics blues again. I turned on the radio and heard a news story: George…

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The King and Oy

What’s the good word? Judging from the Word of the Year (WOTY) selections for 2016, you’d think there are no more good words. From Oxford’s choice of “post-truth” to Merriam-Webster’s…

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Herring Aid

Today, kinderlach, we’re going to start with a Yiddish folk song. Like many Yiddish folk songs, it’s part tradition — celebrating Shabbos — and part class struggle. And all irony.…

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Nominating the Predicate

I am being questioned. A reader, Mrs. R. Weiner, questioned my usage of predicate nominatives. My first impulse was to invoke the Miranda Rule and call my lawyer. (He’d say…

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Not Chopped Liver

Disclosure: This column has not been approved by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, nor the Israeli Health Ministry. It has not been evaluated by the…

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And Now … the Hamodia Word Of the Year

By the power vested (not to be confused with invested) in me (via keyboard and chutzpah), I hereby launch the Hamodia Word of the Year (WOTY) for 2016. (See below…

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So What Is Chanukah?

When my son Meilech was in his early single digits (I’m not good with numbers), his sisters celebrated birthdays in close succession. Feeling left out, Meilech asked, “When is my…

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Twixt Me and Thee

  Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z”l, once came to speak to a group of students who seemed to be particularly aloof. When one — more affable — student offered him a…

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Red Herring Maven

There are three things I can’t bring into the house: 1) s’chug (Yemenite hot sauce), 2) arak (anise-flavored liquor) and 3) herring. As you guessed, my wife is sensitive to…

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