Monday, January 4, 2016

Scrabble with Eliezer ben Yehudah, anyone?

Ah, Eliezer ben Yehudah, the father of modern Hebrew. My hero. I'll admit that his style of parenting was a bit bizarre. At a time when his version of Hebrew was not spoken widely, even semi-widely, okay let's be honest, no one really spoke it, he raised his son to speak only modern Hebrew. I'll be honest that my love of this linguistic genius arose during my time at Middlebury College when I was there for my intensive Hebrew ulpan during the summer of 2009, and every time I speak Hebrew I stop and consider whether it's one of his words.

The truth is, most of modern Hebrew is the same Hebrew that was used in the Torah, although a host of new words appeared because, well, words like "ice cream" didn't exist in the time of the Torah. That's where Eliezer ben Yehudah really shined. He used the biblical roots of words to build and craft a whole new addition to the language. In 1880 he said: “in order to have our own land and political life… we must have a Hebrew language in which we can conduct the business of life.”

Anyhow, the whole reason I'm posting this is because the cartoon above made me giggle with delight.  For those of you who don't speak or read Hebrew, I'll translate (reading from right to left, of course):

Title: It was really not fun to play Scrabble with Eliezer ben Yehudah.
Top right: "Your turn, Eliezer."
Top left: "Please, handkerchief, 44 points."
Bottom right: "What? That isn't a word!"
Bottom left: "Now it is."

Hilarious, right?!

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