Tag Archives: dickens

Two Hebrew words

  1. As part of my 2018 plan to read mostly books older than me, I’m reading Bleak House.  Found this, said of an urchin:

“He’s as obstinate a young gonoph as I know.”

This is of course via the Hebrew ganav (thief) via the Yiddish gonif.  Had no idea it had 19th century London demimonde currency.  Dickens is generally said to have been the first writer to put it in print in English, though Judith Flanders found a somewhat obscure reference a decade older.

“Gonoph” is overtaken by “gonif” as preferred English spelling sometime in the 1940s:

2. During L’cha Dodi last week I was struck by the word “Hitna’ari” (“shake yourself off!”).  That’s a word I know “Na’ar,” as in “Na’ar hayiti, gam zakanti,” (“I have been a youth and I have been old.”)  But does it mean “young” or does it mean “shake yourself off?”  Well, kind of both.  It seems there are two words, the na’ar of youth and the na’ar of shaking off.

Or is there only one word?  People have tried to connect the two senses:

I don’t know.  Hebrew speakers should feel free to weigh in on either of these words!

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