Meanwhile, I made a final exam for my students, changed my dissertation topic somewhat, and spent as much time as possible out in the spring weather. Also, there was a fire in my building yesterday, which was exciting, except for the people whose apartments were destroyed. Our apartment is fine; it just smells like smoke. I feel bad feeling grateful or lucky when other people weren't so lucky, but I can't help it.
In the interim -- hold that thought -- I just made up a new fake prescriptivist rule:
*It is wrong to say 'in the interim' since 'interim' means 'inside' in Latin [it doesn't]. It is redundant to say 'in the inside.'
Not bad, eh? It's based on a flawed etymology and bad logic, and it sounds plausibly intimidating. Even better, Shakespeare uses the forbidden phrase twice (Othello V, ii and Much Ado II, i). Man, if this rule finds itself in the wrong hands it might one day be used to make natuve English speakers feel like they don't really know their own language.
Where was I? Right - "in the interim."
In the interim I have thought about several topics, none of which seemed to merit a full post. So instead I will make this a kitchen sink post of sorts (what's a sink post?) with brief thoughts on each topic.
1. In a radio piece I heard about the recent death of the Satmarer Rebbe, an interviewee commented on what one of the speakers at the funeral was, as he put it, "giving over." This is a calque of the Yiddish verb ibergebn, 'to communicate'. I've heard this Jewish English verb a number of times, and I was delighted that it found its way onto NPR. The use of English is widespread among contemporary Yiddish-speaking communities (i.e. Hasidim), suggesting to some that English may come to replace Yiddish. This may prove to be true, but the English that replaces Yiddish will not be the English spoken by non-Hasidim. I think that there will be countless instances of calquing, especially of complemented verbs, since English and Yiddish complemented verbs are so deceptively similar. This will replicate the phenomenon by which Yiddish used Germanic verbs and adverbial prefixes to produce calques of Slavic prefixed verbs.
2. Amidst all the flap about Katie Holmes and Tome Cruise's new baby's name, Suri, there were various hints and allegations of a Yiddish connection, which in fact does exist, though it is coincidental. Languagehat basically gets it right, amplifying on Ben Zimmer's discussion of the name, saying
I can only add that Suri looks to me like a dialect variant of the name Sarah, which I believe is Sore in standard Yiddish.But what dialect? There is an isogloss that runs roughly along the Ukraine/Belarus border, north of which the name is Sore and south of which it is Sure, but who says 'Suri'? The answer? Americans and Israelis, who have adopted the English and Israeli Hebrew custom of making diminutive forms of names ending in /i/. Among Hasidim, in fact (most of whom speak a southern dialect of Yiddish, this new diminutive ending has almost entirely replaced the older Yiddish diminutive suffix /-l/ with names. Thus Suri joins a large group of Suris in Brooklyn and Bnei Brak. I find this funny.
3. What I don't find funny is all the Scientology bashing that this birth has generated. I grew up hostile to religion, but, though I myself remain staunchly irreligious, I have grown hostile to hostility towards religion. Why? Well, for one, certain religions, chiefly Scientology and Mormonism, are often condemned for being secretive and eerily ritualistic, and there are intimations of conspiracy fueled by lists of the prominent individuals and companies associated with these religions. These are the same charges that, when leveled at Judaism, are rightly considered offensive. So why should Mormonism and Scientology, and Catholicism for that matter, be any different? I'm just sayin'.