Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ramat Beit Shemesh Bais

Self-determination and animosity along linguistic lines are nothing new - see last week's sedra about the Tower of Babel, the tribe of Ephraim tragically failing to pronounce Shibboleth, and more recently the secession of Bengali-speaking East Pakistan (Bangladesh) from Urdu-speaking West Pakistan (let's face it - another crummy British colonial legacy). See also Spain, Belgium, Wales, etc.

Until the events of the last century, we Yidden had as many different pronunciation traditions as there were communities, and only in the last few decades have we begun to coalesce around three basic liturgical pronunciation groupings - generic Ashkenazic, generic North African/Levant, and the modern Hebrew amalgamation. "Modern" Hebrew takes the easy way out and incorporates the more user-friendly features of the two.  No more distinction between the "hard" and "soft" letter tav (תּ/ת), no more gutturals (ע), no distinctive pronunciation of tet (ט) or tzaddi (צ), no accentuating the dagesh chazak (Avshalom Kor excluded). Sigh. Go back 100 years and if our ancestors could hear the way we speak, they would tear kriya and say we are all meshumadim.

Now, I am as reluctant as the next amateur linguist to condone Modern Hebrew's disposal of the distinction between different consonants and vowels, but at least it is consistent.

Not so our local charedi press.

We are fortunate that the weekly Chadash has made an overture to the vernacular of most of its target audience (i.e. charedim willing to read a newspaper, being somech on the Netziv's nephew as brought to everyone's attention by ק"ק Lakewood), by including a few pages of English. Fortunate for ChadashAsur because the use of the Latin alphabet for transliteration of Hebrew words shows the writers' preferred pronounciation - or the pronunciation they feel they need to be seen as using.

Problem is, the policy seems to vary from line to line, or even within the same line. A few weeks back, the English section featured the unforgettable "Ramat Beit Shemesh Bais" in font size 20. I neglected to clip that linguistic oxymoron, but have a look at a few similar transliterations from today's Chadash:

Compare and contrast "Beit Shemesh" with "parshas".

OK, I can't see how the term Sfas Emes would roll off a gerrer tongue in any other way (or, for that matter, a litvish tongue together with a healthy dose of Yiddish curses about someone's kup in dreird).

[Tangent: One can only imagine what the Sfas Emes ztz"l would think about lending his name to a street in the State of Israel, parallel to Levi Eshkol St., and perpendicular to that Litvisher, Hazon Ish St. Hashem Yerachem...]

The dichotomy, however, evokes the daily inner struggle inherent in a reclusive society reluctantly relating to the wider world. But that might be too profound for this blog.

Shabbas Shalom.


David said...

Excellent. Perhaps a letter to the editor is in order saying that the newspaper's name is also misspelled and should be written "Chodosh" (unless this is another covert overture to their readership with, L"A, modernishe leanings)!

Brooklyn Refugee Shaigetz said...

Nothing interesting in this past weekends' editions?

ChadashAsur said...

Stay tuned for a fine vignette...apologies, had to travel to chu"l R"L and fell behind schedule.


Brooklyn Refugee Shaigetz said...

to the land of the maharajas?

look forward in eager anticipation