Notes by Autumn Light

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


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How do you say “God’s fury will punish your soul” in Hebrew?

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A straightforward, modern Hebrew rendition would be something like

זעמו של אלוהים יעניש את נשמתך

which, phonetically transcripted, reads:

Zaamo shel Elohim yaanish et nishmatkha

This, however, is almost soul-destroying in itself since, while it is technically correct, it has no rhyme or meter. What you need is something suitably biblical in tone and poetic in nature. I would go with something like:

תנאק נשמתך בחמת ה׳

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Meet Targo—my helper and occasional stand-in

1170401-TargoYesterday, after ten years of research and development at the University of Waterloo—including two years of collaboration with yours truly and a small collection of other selected translators and editors around the world—I took delivery of a device that will allow me to take real vacations (not the kind pseudo-vacations I usually have, where I furtively try and get some work done as Mrs. Autumn Light yells at me to get off my laptop and join her in seeing the sights or just truly taking it easy on the beach).

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Which top countries have their own alphabet but have transliteration problem in Latin characters?

I don’t know if Israel counts as a “top country” in this regard, but it does have a problem with transliteration of Hebrew into English (or in Roman characters in general).

Essentially, the problem is one of what is known in information theory as information loss: in the process of converting from Hebrew to English, information about the spelling of words (including the distinctions between letters that are essentially homophonic, such as ḥet and khaf, tet and tav, kaf and quf, samekh and sin, etc.) is lost, so if you were to try and convert back to Hebrew, you wouldn’t be able to reconstitute the original spelling—even if you were a native Hebrew speaker and recognised the words, as in the following example, from a poem of homophones titled Modern-day Ecclesiastes:

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