Sunday, December 05, 2010

How Do You Spell Hanukkah?

The #1 question during Hanukkah is: What is the correct way to spell the name of this holiday? Since it's a Hebrew word that is transliterated into English, there are several acceptable spellings. But people still want to know if there is a consensus.

A non-profit theater company in California, the North Coast Repertory Theatre, even performed a show this past weekend entitled "How Do You Spell Chanukah??- The Stage Show." Their website described the performance as "What is Hanukkah... or Chanukah? How do you really spell it, anyway? What's it ever done for me and why should I care? Hash it out (a nice lean kosher hash) with our hosts Marc Silver and Doug Dickerman for a unique evening of fun and music and story telling. We'll share, we'll kibitz, we'll have a little something to eat! What can I tell you, even if we don't solve any baffling Jewish mysteries...we'll have a lot of fun not getting anywhere together. Oy! Did we mention that we'll have a little nosh?"


Melissa Bell, writing on the Washington Post's blog, recalls that NPR's "All Things Considered" addressed this very question back in 2005. They quoted Rabbi Daniel Zemel of the Temple Micah in Washington who said, "There's no uniformity in transliteration." Rabbi Zemel ordered a steering committee at his synagogue to come up with a uniform spelling. They decided on: Chanukkah. But then Bell noticed that this year, Zemel's synagogue website was using "Hanukkah." When she asked him what ever happened to his resolute steering committee's decision, he explained that he was overruled and "an editor in the congregation made the convincing push to adopt the spelling used by the Reform Jewish movement in North America. Transliteration is an art, not a science."

I've been using the "Hanukkah" spelling and I believe that this has become the most accepted option based on Twitter. While some might do a Google search to determine which spelling of Hanukkah appears the most, I just looked at Twitter where #Hanukkah was one of the trending terms this past week.

I was thinking about this Hanukkah spelling debate today while listening to the Sirius-XM Satellite Radio Hanukkah station. I had to laugh at this song by The Leevees which makes the confusion surrounding the ambiguous spelling of Hanukkah very funny. Check out "How Do You Spell Channukkahh?":

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