Sunday, December 25, 2016

Ban "HANUKKAH" the Ugliest Way to Spell a Beautiful Holiday

Today is the first day of CHANUKAH. At sundown last evening, Jews around the world lit the first candle to begin our celebration of a great victory for religious freedom. As you probably know, we light an additional candle every evening for a total of eight days of celebration.

This year, both CHRISTMAS Day and the first day of CHANUKAH are on the 25th of December. The start of CHANUKAH moves around with respect to CHRISTMAS by up to 19 days because it is based on the Lunar, rather than the Solar calendar.

As the above graphic illustrates, I follow the Hebrew pronunciation and spelling to convert the name of our beautiful holiday to "CHANUKAH", in contrast to the ugly way most of the media spell it, "HANUKKAH", or "HANNUKKAH". Why the double "KK"? Or "HANNUKAH". Why the double "NN"? 

How would a native English speaker pronounce the ugly "HANUKKAH"? 
Probably as:

  •  "HA-NUK-KAH". 
  • (HA, then NUK as in NUcKle, and KAH as in KAHlua.)
In the Hebrew spelling חֲנֻכָּה keeping in mind that Hebrew is read from right to left, there are three syllables:
  1. חֲ the Hebrew letter CHet, pronounced like the gutteral CH in the Scottish "LoCH" or the famous composer BaCH, with a vowel mark underneath that is pronounced like the a in father. So the first syllable is pronounced as "CHa".
  2. נֻ the Hebrew letter Nun, pronounced like the English letter N, with a vowel mark underneath that is pronounced like the u in you. So the second syllable is pronounced as "Nu".
  3. כָּה the Hebrew letter Kuf, pronounced like the English letter K, with a vowel mark underneath that is pronounced like the aw in awful (in the old-fashioned Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation I learned as a kid, but now pronounced like the a in father, in the new standard Israeli Sephardic pronunciation) followed by the Hebrew letter Hey, pronounced like the English letter H. So the third syllable is pronouced as "KaH".

Which gives us CHa-Nu-Kah or CHANUKAH or Chanukah! The correct way to render the Hebrew חֲנֻכָּה to help native English speakers pronounce it correctly.

Too many people (including some in my Jewish congregation who should know better) say "Hanaka" as if it is "Canada" in disguise, with an "H" for a "C" and a "k" for a "d"!

And, if that isn't bad enough, the media and Wikipedia (and sometimes even the newsletter of my Jewish congregation) spell it with an "H" at the beginning and a double "kk" in the middle, which, as I've noted above, if you know anything about the Hebrew spelling, makes no sense at all.

So, please join with me, and, as a good Christian friend, Jim Kiernan, told me years ago, in this joyous winter holiday season:

  • Put CHRIST back in CHRISTmas, and
  • The CH back in CHanukah!

Love to all,
Ira Glickstein

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