Notes by Autumn Light

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


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What are things that should be avoided in academic writing?

[A2A] Are you seated? Then we’ll begin.

Here are some the major hazards that I tell my clients to look out for and avoid:

  • Overly verbose and latinate language
  • Non-idiomatic language
  • Ambiguous wording
  • Spiral writing
  • Mowing the lawn twice
  • Lost subject or object

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Did Ancient Israel have theatre?

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In truly ancient Israel (i.e., before Roman times), emphatically no.

To quote from Nurit Yaari’s forthcoming book, Between ʻJerusalemʼ and ʻAthensʼ: Israeli theatre and the classical tradition* (Oxford University Press, in press):

Theatre, as an art, a community event and a cultural institution, is entirely ‘Athens’ in nature: that is where it was first created in the late sixth century BCE, and where it acquired its form, conventions and concepts. As a visual and performative art, it is rooted in all aspects of classical Greek art—poetry, music, dance, sculpture, painting and architecture; indeed, their fusion is what gave rise to this independent and unique art form. […]

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In the Hebrew, Deut. 8:18 uses the verb for “to make atonement,” but the English translation says only “to make.” Why is this?

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Your impression that the verb לעשות means “to make atonement” is due to the definition given in Biblehub.com’s translation of that verse.

Which is surprising, because in fact it simply means “to do” or “to make” (like the French verb faire).

In this case, it is part of an expression

לעשות חיל (la’asot ḥayil)

which means “to thrive”, “to do extremely well”.

So basically it’s a mistake.


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How do you do a proper citation in a research paper?

Microsoft Word is your friend in this regard—it will help you generate the appropriate way of citing in the text, or generate References or Bibliography lists at the end. (The following instructions pertain to MS Word Mac 2011, but should be broadly relevant to all modern versions of the program:)

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Do Samson’s riddles rhyme in Hebrew?

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AFAIK, Samson riddled only one riddle:

מֵהָאֹכֵל יָצָא מַאֲכָל וּמֵעַז יָצָא מָתוֹק

which phonetically goes roughly as follows:

meha’okhel yatza ma’akhal, ume’az yatza matoq

meaning (King James translation): “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”

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What are the rules for making an nationality adjective out of a country name?

This is a wonderful illustration of how, when it comes to language, there is only one hard-and-fast rule: UISS-IWC-MINS (Unless It Sounds Silly–In Which Case, Make It Not So)—or UISS, for short. The rest are all guidelines.

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