Names, Was: Hexwood's Goon

Gross Family argross at
Mon Mar 11 08:11:30 EST 2002

Lizzie wrote:

> Hannah is an alternate spelling--I think it might be Yiddish.

Well, Yiddish is written in the same script as Hebrew; and the Yiddish
pronunciation of "Chana" is the same as in Hebrew (which isn't always the
case with Hebrew names). I'm fairly sure this is true, as I grew up in a
Yiddish-speaking household (billingual really) and "Chana" is a name I've
heard all my life. In Yiddish, it is often turned into a diminutive,
"Chanaleh". A lot of Hebrew names are a bit different in Yiddish, though
they remain Hebrew's all quite confusing.

> original I seem to remember is something like Chaanach, in the same way
> that you'll occasionally see spellings like Avichayil for Abigail (it's
> sort of annoying when Biblical scholars use these names in their work--you
> have to sit there and figure out who the heck they're talking about).

As far as I know, "Avigayil" (I'm making up the English spelling because the
original is in Hebrew script) is the original Hebrew name on which "Abigail"
is based.

> Hannah comes from it quite easily--the Ch sound is sometimes written as
> H--and it's not pronounced exactly like either.  I've got a friend called
> Chaya, and it's not exactly Kai-ya and not exactly Hai-ya--it's (at least
> the way her family says it) sort of an h with a k influence at the
> beginning--like an almost silent k sound.  It all varies a lot because
> when you get down to it Hebrew is _not_ written in the Romanized alphabet,
> and simply has different sounds.  It's really amazing how much difference
> that can make (thinking of the fact that many Asian languages do not have
> the letter l or the letter r as we know it, but a sound that's somewhere
> between the two--if I try to write my name in Japanese it comes out
> something like Rijii Paroksu).

Yes, I agree. It's why many of the Hebrew names got so mangled when people
tried to write or say them in Greek, Latin, etc.

> A lot of the names we think of as Hebrew are simply ones that are
> associated with either a)the Old Testament or b)Jewish communities, and
> are Hebrew in a distant way.  Complications also arise because Biblical
> names, at least, come to most languages secondhand (at least).  A lot of
> names categorized as "Hebrew" are, strictly speaking, Aramaic,

Yes, that's true--thanks for pointing this out. Some religious Jewish
writings are actually written in Aramaic, too. It *is* similar to Hebrew in
many ways, though.

>and most of
> these went through the same process as the Bible--translated into Greek
> and then used in Latin for hundreds of years before the German/English/etc
> translations were undertaken.  And then of course we have the whole not
> knowing what people (especially women) were named, and names being allowed
> or not allowed (you have to get government approval in France!) and the
> socoilogical aspects of religious names and conformity and so on and so
> forth.  In any case just the sound _an_ is fairly common and can be found
> in most cultures in one form or another (wildly overgenrealizing but I
> can't seem to get this email to end!)

Yes--thanks for this! I find names absolutely fascinating.

> ending NOW

I find it hard to stop talking about names, too...


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