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09 December 2004

How-you-say "Hanukah"?

This goy has a question -- what is the "most proper" transliteration of the word Chanuka from Hebrew to English? I've seen 1/2 a dozen spellings and I'm curious if there are any "rules" about what letters are to be used. Thx. in advance ...

Well, the Hebrew word has five letters, since vowels are not ordinarily written in Hebrew. Hebrew goes from right to left, obviously, but for the transliteration we'll flip 'em around:


The "X" represents a sound similar to Greek chi or the Spanish j. Much more Darth Vader-y than the English "H."

The N is as in English.

The consonant V is functioning here as a vowel with the long-U sound.

Note that there's only one "K" in the Hebrew spelling, despite the fact that the word is often Romanized with a double-k: Chanukka, Hanukkah, etc.

And, finally, the H is more or less as in English.

So, what's the most proper spelling? Let's bag the variants with two K's, since there's only one in the Hebrew. And we can agree that Hanukah is a no-go, because in Hebrew, the first and last letters/sounds of the word are different. So, how do you want to spell the initial Darth Vader sound?

The traditional way is to use the two letters ch to represent the Hebrew letter in question, but might I suggest you spice things up with:


There, isn't that sexy? See, it's gonna make people think of Olivia Newton-John rollerskating at the speed of sound with rainbow contrails hanging off her ass, and they'll go "Oh, phat, I'm gonna check out this Xanukah thing." By the time they figure out there's no Olivia, just dreidels and chocolate coins, and that it's pronounced hhha-noo-kah, not za-noo-kahit's too late...

posted by Throbert | 12/09/2004 04:03:00 PM |
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