Yiddish Translation

June 05, 2013

By Ofer Tirosh

A win in the Scripps National Spelling Bee last week has erupted in controversy over the correct spelling of a Yiddish word. Arvind Mahankali, a 13 year old New Yorker, took the win for his correct spelling of the word "knaidel".

But not everyone agrees that the Yiddish word was spelled correctly. Mahankali spelled the word correctly according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary but the spelling of the word varies based on who you ask. 

Jack Lebewohl, a New York deli owner explained that there’s no clear spelling of the Yiddish word when he said, “There’s no real spelling of the word, so who determines how a word is spelled?”

Others disagree and think that the spelling of a word can be standardized but still could not agree on what standardization is the correct one. 

The Daily Beast predicted this could be an issue for future spelling bees when they said, “Competition organizers should have thought twice about using Yiddish-derived words into high-stakes spelling competitions. Do you call an ineffectual, hapless person a schlemiel, a shlemel, a shlemyel, or a schlemeyel? Is that mass of cream cheese you put on a bagel a schemer or a shmeer? Is a thief a gonif, a goniff, or aganif? How about that thing Jews like to spin on Hanukkah (or Chanukkah or Chanukah)? It could be a draidel, a draidle, a dreidel, or a draydl.”

Controversy such as this just emphasizes the importance of professional translations for important matters, such as Tomedes translation services.

The full story about the Scripps Spelling Bee translation controversy along with photos from the spelling bee can be found online.

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