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Research Day: Hebrew, Yiddish, and Semi-Weekly

Hebrew vs. Yiddish: The Queen and I had a watched a DVD double-header last week: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban followed by Trembling Before G_D. The former film you made have heard of; the latter is, as IMDB puts it, "A cinematic portrait of various gay Orthodox Jews who struggle to reconcile their faith and their sexual orientation." It is also remarkably boring, given the provocative subject matter.

Afterwards, The Queen asked me if the people in the film had been speaking Hebrew or Yiddish, and I confessed to not knowing. "What is the difference between Hebrew and Yiddish," she asked.

"Well," said I, "'Hebrew' is their language, and 'Yiddish' is the sport they play while flying around on broomsticks.

After a few moments of stony silence, I added, in my best (albeit terrible) Hagrid impression, "Yeh mean the Gentiles kept it from yeh for all these years? Yeh don' even know what yeh are?! Harry -- yer a Jew!"

"You are totally going to get hate mail if you put that on your blog," said The Queen.


Dictionary.com defines Hebrew as "The Semitic language of the ancient Hebrews, [or] any of the various later forms of this language, especially the language of the Israelis." Plugging the phrase "what is yiddish" into Google, meanwhile, brought me to this page. "Yiddish was the vernacular language of most Jews in Eastern and Central Europe before World War II ... The basic grammar and vocabulary of Yiddish, which is written in the Hebrew alphabet, is Germanic. Yiddish, however, is not a dialect of German but a complete language - one of a family of Western Germanic languages, that includes English, Dutch, and Afrikaans."

What does semi-weekly mean? Speaking of religion and definitions (that was the best segue I could come up with), the Daily Show "Senior News Correspondent" Stephen Colbert says, in this NPR interview, that he reoccurring segment This Week In God is a "semi-weekly feature." That struck me as odd, because why would you have a twice-a-week bit that purports to recap an entire week?

Then it occurred to me that "semi-weekly" might be like bi-weekly and mean both "twice a week" and "every other week." But then I looked up "semiweekly" in my desk dictionary and verified that it only means "twice a week." So Colbert must have misspoken.

(Wow, is that the most anticlimactic Research Day question resolution ever? I kind of feel obligated to tack on a better, more interesting ending.)

But that gave me a great idea. And soon thereafter I launched "Bi-Weekly Magazine," a publication for the bisexual and bi-curious community. When that became wildly popular -- along with it's sister publications "Semi-Weekly" (a magazine about large trucks) and "Fort Night" (a periodical featuring pictorials of edifices built out of sofa cushions) -- I became obscenly wealthy. And then I used my money to buy the Internet. The end.

Posted on January 25, 2005 to Research Day


You were so much funnier before the Squirrely. No wait, you weren't.

Posted by: Net Kahuna on January 26, 2005 12:30 PM

This post reminds me of the very earnest kid who calls up Car Talk to tell them that there can be no "third half" to their show, as they continually advertise. To which they responded, equally earnestly, that it was a joke. Perhaps a fake news show also plays fast-n-funny with such things?

Loved the Yiddish/Quidditch reference. Just wait until Squirrely is older and you can use these on him.

Posted by: Georgia on January 26, 2005 12:59 PM

I think of "semi-" meaning "sort of". As in, "This Week in God" is a sort-of-weekly segment. In the same way that a semi-truck is like a truck, but only sort of.

Posted by: Sandor on January 26, 2005 2:30 PM

What happened to the Bloggies post? Just curious.

Posted by: Esther on January 26, 2005 3:16 PM

So, I don't understand. Can bisexual mean "two sexes" or "every other sex"?

Posted by: taleswapper on January 26, 2005 3:51 PM

What about Bi-Semi-Weekly: the bisexual trucker fanzine. How often does that come out?

Yiddish is considered a combination of Hebrew and German - a sort of pidgin language.

Posted by: Anonymous on January 26, 2005 8:21 PM

Sex after marriage:
First year it's tri-weekly;
Next five years it's try weekly;
And afterwards it's try weakly.

Posted by: Mike Y on January 26, 2005 9:37 PM

Sorry to be pedantic at a humor site, but the only "official" meaning of bi-weekly is once every 2 weeks. This doesn't stop it from being used that other way of course. You know, kind of like the way no one understands the difference between "it's" and "its" or "affect" and "effect" any more, and so they choose one at random.

Posted by: Milam on January 27, 2005 8:33 AM

i am all about the every other sex.

no, wait.

i'm just all about the sex.

Posted by: H on January 27, 2005 8:51 AM

Ah. So YOU'RE the guy that gets all that money I spend on this Internet thing.

Have you considered starting a magazine called Bi-Curios? There's gotta be a huge market for Bisexual Antique collectors.

(Bisexual antiques? Bisexual collectors? Antique bisexuals? Perhaps I should stop thinking about this before I get a mental charlie horse.)

Posted by: Keith on January 27, 2005 1:22 PM

The word is "recurring." Reoccurring is not a word.

Posted by: TimO on January 29, 2005 11:28 AM

I get it: a semi-sexual is sexual twice a week, and a bi-sexual is sexual every two weeks. I'm so glad you cleared this up. [I just saw my first-ever episode of This Week in God broadcast on TV here in Israel last night. I can't even begin to deal with how funny that is.]

Posted by: savtadotty on January 30, 2005 1:17 PM