The national spelling bee spelled it wrong.
Or so say mavens of Yiddish about the winning word, “knaidel,” in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday night. But somebody may have farblondjet.
The preferred spelling has historically been kneydl, according to transliterated Yiddish orthography decided upon by linguists at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the Manhattan-based organization recognized by secular Yiddish speakers as the authority on all things Yiddish.
The spelling contest, however, relies not on YIVO linguists but on Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and that is what contestants cram with, said a bee spokesman, Chris Kemper. Officials at Merriam-Webster defended their choice of spelling as the most common variant of the word from a language that is written in the Hebrew, not Roman, alphabet.
“Bubbes in Boca Raton are using the word “knaidel” when they mail in their recipes to the St. Petersburg Times,” said Kory Stamper, an associate editor at Merriam-Webster. The dictionary itself says the English word is based on the Yiddish word for dumpling: “kneydel, from Middle High German knödel.”
For the record, Hamodia stylebook spells it “kneidel.”