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Who decides how to spell Jewish words in English?

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matzo ball soapThe national spelling bee was won by some kid from queens who got the spelling of Knaidel right, how on earth he even knew what a knaidel was is beyond me, maybe being from New York helped him. I’m pretty sure they can make a short film about the thought process that looks similar to Slumdog Millionaire that shows him overhearing some grandmother teaching her newly engaged granddaughter on the art of the soft knaidelach. It did get me back to thinking about the spelling of Jewish words. I deal with this on a constant basis, because so many people find blogs through keywords they input into search engines. In general, I figure out how to spell words based on the wikipedia entry. I then search for them in google to see alternative spellings. 

Obviously this can lead to some debate, I’ve seen shabbos spelled in dozens of ways, shabbes, shabes, shabbat, shabbis, shabbas, etc. There’s the frum spelling of the word, the traditional ashkenazic way, the sephardic way and many times the non-religious way. Then you have the vocablurists, thsoe folks who insist that mincha is spelled minha, or mariv is spelled maariv.

Many times, I’ll actually put different spellings of the word on purpose, it gets you more traffic and more chances of people hitting your site for obscure spellings. Websites do the same thing with their URL’s, many web folks account for the occasional typo when searching and so on. Google has its famous “did you mean” which always ends up on some ADL protest about Israel.

I guess the national spelling bee folks know the proper way to spell things.

Hat tip Dani Klein

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