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Reviews225 Yiddish and English: A Century of Yiddish in America. Sol Steinmetz. University, AL: U of Alabama P, 1986. ? + 172 pp. $19.50. The author and I became good friends after this book was in press, and we both regret that I was unable to comment on it while there was still time to make changes. A few suggestions for improvement are given below (others have been made in Jewish Language Review 6 [1986]: 121-26, and more are forthcoming in American Speech). This book contains a glossary of about a thousand English lexemes of Yiddish or Hebrew origin (112-48), respectively transcribed according to the Standardized Yiddish Romanization (formerly called the YIVO System and also known as the American National Standard Romanization of Yiddish) and the General-Purpose System of the American National Standard Romanization of Hebrew. Altho the Standardized Yiddish Romanization (SYR) has been available since the mid-1940s (Gold, "Successes"), it has been little used outside scholarly drcles because it has been little publicized (only in 1985 was a guide to this system published [Gold, "Guide"], and, even so, what is really needed if this system is to gain wide acceptance is a dictionary of SYR-transcribed lexemes). The GeneralPurpose System for Hebrew has been available since 1975 (American National Standards Institute), and there is a detailed guide to it (Weinberg, Chanukah), but here too a dictionary is needed (the two may conveniently be combined in one volume and should also include Judezmo- and other Jewish-language-origin or Jewish-interest English lexemes). Steinmetz's glossary is thus a first step in the right direction. Altho the Hebrew system calls for ch when transcribing the Hebrew letters chet and chaf (both = /x/ in today's General Israeli Hebrew), Steinmetz uses kh. As a member of the committee which the American National Standards Institute had charged with the task of elaborating four romanizations for Hebrew, I indeed supported kh over ch for precisely the same reason which Steinmetz gives in this book (namely that the SYR, which had been in existence for over twenty-five 226Reviews years when our committee set about its work, has kh for /x/, hence, in order to ensure as much uniformity as possible between the two systems, we should use kh for Hebrew too) as well as for the additional reason that ch would be misread by many English-readers as III (whereas kh, not being a frequent grapheme in English, could be assigned the value of IxI without much risk of its being misinterpreted). I was, however, outvoted in the committee, and since no minority opinion was allowed we all finally had to agree to ch. My heart is thus with Steinmetz in his preference for kh in English words of immediate Hebrew origin, but for uniformity's sake we should not allow personal deviations from the system (changes are best made by consensus), hence I cannot in the end condone his choice. Altho both of the aforementioned romanizations were designed for transcribing Yiddish and Hebrew forms, they are used (and are so recommended) for English words of Yiddish or Hebrew origin too. A problem arises when the Yiddish or Hebrew etymon and its English reflex differ significantly in pronunciation. Since spelling should be synchronically adequate (no matter if etymologically innovative), it is reasonable to accept English-based romanizations (even when they differ from Yiddish- or Hebrew-based ones) if English pronunciation is settled, for example, Eng. pastrami (contrast its Yiddish etymon, p├│strame) or Eng. rebe/rebi (contrast their Yiddish etymon, only rebe). Where variant English pronunciations are fairly common, we should allow romanizations refleding both (Gold and Prager 295), but since many of the forms in Steinmetz's glossary have unsettled English pronunciations , I am hesitant to accept some of his romanizations. If one or two (or even three) variant pronunciations win out (it is too early to tell), I would be happy to countenance forms other than those recommended for Yiddish or Hebrew, but for the time being it is best to follow the romanizations for these languages in English too. Here, then, are some correded or additional forms (Steinmetz's use of kh in English words of immediate...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 225-250
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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