Language

The Case of the Cannibal Comma

Long before my brother Rabbi Nota Schiller became dean of Ohr Somayach, long before he became a Rabbi, he was already saving youth. One of my earliest memories is Nota…

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Time to Come Clean

How did the Jews leaving Egypt manage that first Pesach? I mean, think about it. … They didn’t have aluminum foil. And they didn’t have vacuum cleaners. Ever since then,…

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Whom’s Whom

I have been annoying myself lately. Even though I’ve stopped saying, “Not I” (in answer to such questions as “Who left the refrigerator open?”), I still catch myself (pedantically) saying…

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The Secret of The Whole Megillah

Yiddish is the mameloshen — mother tongue — of Jewish mothers, whose watchword is “Ess, ess, mein kind — Eat, eat my child.” So it’s only natural that Yiddish should…

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A Waste of Time

As a psychologist, Dr. Benzion Twerski is no stranger to illogic. One of the foundations of classical logic is the syllogism, most closely associated with Aristotle. It is a deduction…

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Two-Faced Fake-Out

“So I became a newspaperman. I hated to do it but I couldn’t find honest employment.” If you believe Mark Twain said that, you’re a victim of fake news. But…

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Upside-Down Words

My grandson Avraham Yitzchak came bounding into the house. He’s usually bounding when he’s not leaping. He was all hopped up about a party in his third-grade class. They had…

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Auto Body and Collusion

Notice: It’s Open Season for lexicographic big game hunting. Welcome to the annual Word of the Year (WOTY) event. Oxford Dictionaries’ Casper Grathwohl described WOTY as a word capturing “the…

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Seeing the Light

A famous (some say infamous) comedian said. “If only G-d would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss Bank.” Rabbi Dovid…

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Anti-Ballistic Missive

Hold your fire! After I wrote a missive about gun control (“Leave Your Guns at the Door,” November 15), I find myself facing a firing squad. A straight-shooting colleague was…

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‘O Grammar!’ Crater Ladle Gull

A Western novel published in 1985 was set in 1970s Japan. Not disoriented (or disoccidented) yet? Stay with me. The verse is yet to come. The main characters hung out…

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Unwelcome Sign

Why do Israelis feel comfortable in New York? Los Angeles is more climate-friendly. But New York is a brash of fresh air. Vocabulary.com explained: “Brash sounds like what it means:…

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Many Thanks

Someone once did a favor for the Chofetz Chaim who, so the story goes, responded, “Yasher koyech.” The good-deed-doer replied, “S’nisht doh fahr vos.” That’s the equivalent of “Think nothing…

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Whoa Is Me

Pull up a chair. I’ve got a story for you. Twenty-odd years ago, my family went to a farm and ranch in Gilboa, N.Y. It was the first time since…

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Cross With Word Puzzles

I have been challenged. The gauntlet has been thrown. Actually, a pair of gauntlets. Gauntlet — historically an armored glove — has long been disarmored and is now used interchangeably…

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The Art of the Kibitz

Where would the English language be without Yiddish? Imagine if Alan Dershowitz had called his manifesto “Arrogance,” or “Defiance,” or “Impudence.” Chutzpah is all of those and more. Leo Rosten…

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Truthgate

Now that I think about it, we could use a gate around truth. “The Truth is Hard.” So began a recent advertising campaign for The New York Times. In a…

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In the Scheme of Things

You can hardly open a newspaper these days without reading about some scandal, corruption or fraud. If it’s not politicians or auto manufacturers, it’s the banks. Only now the bankers…

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Harmless Drudgery

I bought myself a present. Guess what. Good guess. But not the one you think. I don’t have room for the full 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary. Besides, it costs over…

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Unquote

Don’t quote me. I once told Rabbi Nosson Scherman, General Editor, ArtScroll/Mesorah, that Winston Churchill didn’t say “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If…

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