Thursday, December 29, 2005

To C or not to C? That is the question.

NY Daily News:

Chanukah. . . Hannuka. . . Hahfuhgedit!

Hanukkah or Chanuka? Two Ns? Two Ks? An H at the end or not?

There are more than 20 different spellings of the name of the Jewish winter Festival of Lights and, apparently, no one ever sat down and decided on a single way to spell it.

There's Channuka, Channukah, Chanuka, Chanukah, Chanuko, Hannuka, Hannukah, Hanuka, Hanika, Hanukah, Hanukka, Hanukkah, Kanukkah, Khannuka, Khannukah, Khanuka, Khanukah, Khanukkah and Khanike. Sometimes even Xanuka.

Oy. It's enough to make you look forward to Purim.

The problem is that it's transliterated to English from a five-letter Hebrew word meaning "consecration," which lacks the gutteral, rolling-in-the-throat opening sound.

Tom Pitoniak, an associate editor of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, said they have "Hanukkah" as the main entry, with "Chanukah" as a rarer variant.

"We go by the evidence of what's most common. But that can change over time," he said. "I personally suspect that the single-K spelling is becoming more common."

The Associated Press Stylebook, considered the spelling bible by most newspapers, also goes with "Hanukkah." The Daily News uses "Chanukah," although other versions slip in now and then.

Pitoniak said the oldest known American usage of the word was 141 years ago in a Dec. 28, 1864, letter from an Edwin Kursheedt to someone named Sarah, in which he laments: "I have not been able to see the Chanucka lights this year."

Great. Yet another spelling.

On the plus side, it's a word you really can't misspell.

"You can just say, 'I was consulting the Hebrew and I believe it would be more faithful this way.' I mean, who's going to know?" cracked Pitoniak.