The Hanukkah Spelling Confusion

I was excited when I saw that J.J. Goldberg, editor-at-large of The Forward, wrote an article referencing my recent “Jewish Techs” blog post about the Hanukkah (חנוכה) spelling confusion on The Jewish Week‘s website (“How Do You Spell Hanukkah?”). And then I started reading the first paragraph of Goldberg’s piece. Say what?

Goldberg asserts that I start off with “an incorrect premise” and then look for an answer “in the wrong place” as I lead my readers on “a bit of a goose chase.” Fortunately, he concludes his opening paragraph by maintaining that I eventually get to the right place. So, I wondered… What was Goldberg’s beef with my blog post?

At the end of Goldberg’s treatment of how Hanukkah got to be spelled with so many variations, my head was spinning faster than a battery-operated dreidel. Goldberg didn’t like that I began by asserting that there are different acceptable spellings of Hanukkah, but then demonstrated through the rules of Hebrew-to-English transliteration that there are, in fact, more than one possible spelling. He then gave a terse lesson in Hebrew grammar followed by a lesson in Arabic grammar (why he prefers a K or Q for the former Libyan leader’s name over a G).

Goldberg also took exception with the fact that I showed which transliteration spellings of Hanukkah were most popular through Google search results. What Goldberg might not have understood is that most people who are confused about which spelling of Hanukkah to use aren’t concerned with learning about Hebrew consonant letters that take a dagesh. They don’t want a lesson in Arabic gutturals either. They just want to know which is the most common spelling. And for that, Google is very helpful. So, I don’t think I was doing a disservice to the many people wanting to know which English spelling of December’s Jewish holiday is the most prevalent. Wikipedia chooses the Hanukkah spelling as well. Other encyclopedias like Encyclopedia Judaica have its own rules for transliteration.

No matter which spelling of Hanukkah you choose to use, the holiday’s over. At least until next December… when this conversation begins anew.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller