Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav


2 Comments

In-At-On

One of the recurring problems for ESL (English as a Second Language) learners and other non-native English speakers is what preposition to use with regard to location—specifically, in, at, or on.

This varies seemingly unpredictably, so that one says:

  • in the room, but at the house, and on the street
  • in Parliament, but at the Legislature.

Continue reading

Advertisements


4 Comments

Cobwebs of the Righteous?

cobwebs_of_the_righteous

(with thanks to Dahlia Beck)

You would think that one of Canada’s major banks would use someone who knows Hebrew to design the artwork aimed at its Jewish customers—or at least give the artwork to a Hebrew speaker before approval.

The intention in the front cover illustration of what appears to be a calendar in the run-up to the Jewish New Year was to write Tombs of Tsadikim (tombs of the Righteous) in Hebrew below the English —

קברי צדיקים

In fact, what is written is

קורי צדיקים

which means “Cobwebs of the Righteous.”


Leave a comment

Why is Israeli currency called New Israeli Shekel? Why not just call it shekel?

124810-004-c943f206

The bigger question is why is it called a shekel at all?

Only someone supremely tone deaf to the negative associations attached to the word shekel for any Christian—since the New Testament story (Matthew 26:15) that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for ‘thirty shekels of silver’—would even consider naming the currency of the modern-day Jewish state by that name.

Unfortunately, since Jewish Israelis are not taught anything about Christianity or the New Testament, the powers that be in Israel are probably still utterly unaware of this.

For a country that is always keen on portraying itself as a Western country (and even part of Europe), this ignorance is particularly striking, and it would make an interesting academic study to examine how much damage it inflicts upon Israel’s image abroad, at a subconscious level.

There were so many alternative names that could have been used—such as ketter (crown), kikar (talent), géra, agorah—or my favourite, culpa (if only for the opportunity to say, when asked how much something costs, ‘Mea culpa’ = ‘a hundred culpa’).

/rant.


2 Comments

Would using the pronouns they, them, and their, along with an individual’s name, eliminate the need for alternative pronouns?

The lack of a neutral pronoun in English is a persistent thorn in the side of academic writing—especially given that, with the growing demands for gender equality, the old-fashioned use of the masculine form for generic descriptions is increasingly frowned upon.

220px-hen_-_the_swedish_pronoun-svgAs a translator and editor, I frequently witness what a serious headache this problem is for my academic clients. It would be good if we could do what Swedish has done, which is adopt a new word for the purpose (hen—which is between hon [she] and han [he]). But as far as I know, there is nothing like that on the horizon (perhaps se—pron. /si/—a blend of she and he?).

So we are forced to improvise.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Has anyone ever tried translating Shakespeare into old Hebrew, so its speakers get the same sense of antiquity as they read it as English speakers do?

Shakespeare in Israeli Theatre

“As You Like It”, Cameri Theatre, Feb. 2017 (Photo: Reddi Rubinstein)

Translating Shakespeare into biblical Hebrew was certainly the default approach in the early days of Hebrew theatre (end of 19th, early 20th century)—since Shakespeare’s English is roughly the contemporary of that of King James translation of the Hebrew Bible.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Why is the original Hebrew called “the Holy Tongue”?

Prior to the First Exile of the Judean aristocracy to Babylon in 586 BCE, Israelites referred to themselves as ‘Hebrews’ (ivrim – עברים)—e.g.:

  • And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew [Gen. 14:13]
  • And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew [Gen. 41:23]
    when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew [Exodus 2:7]
  • And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee [Deut. 15:12]
  • That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free [Jer. 34:9]
  • And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land [Jonah 1:9]

Continue reading


Leave a comment

If the Bible were set in the forests of ancient Europe, how would the stories be different?

If the Bible were set in a purely desert environment (as it is usually depicted in Western films), it would not likely not have produced stories that Europeans could relate to. But it wasn’t. The landscapes of the Galilee and the Judea-Samaria mountain range west of the watershed were (and are) very similar to those found in southern Europe (Greece, Italy, and Spain).

Continue reading