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The Eight Days of Hanukkah – Day 3

Trick Question for a Spelling Bee

Why are there multiple spellings of Hanukkah?  We have Chanukah, Hannukah, Hannukkah, and Channukah (in addition to Hanukkah).    How many spellings of Passover do we have?  Or Easter? Or Labor Day?

And what’s with the double K?  How many words can you think of that are spelled with a double K?   Well… quite a few actually, but most of them are compound words with the first word ending in k and the last work beginning with k, like bookkeeper. Of course, there are other words that are legitimate double k words like chukker and pukka.  Sounds like a comedy team, but they really are serious dictionary words.

And the CH?  That’s the fun one.  It’s supposed to be that throat clearing sound.   The sound your 80 year old uncle makes after taking the cigar from his mouth and before he spits on the street. There are no letters in the English alphabet that can effectively describe that sound.  Suffice it to say that it is not pronounced like the CH in chew, chili, or chimichanga.  What about school? Or cache? Nope.  Not those either.

From what I understand, there’s a transliteration problem from Hebrew to English.  Notice I said transliteration and not translation.  And that’s the reason for so many different spellings of the Jewish festival of lights.    If I’m an expert in anything, it is definitely not Hebrew (or English).  So I’d better leave the answer at that: a transliteration problem.

Actually, I think it’s an elitist thing.  If someone asks me how I’m celebrating Hanukkah this year, I can reply with my nose in the air,

“I’m sorry. I don’t celebrate Hanukkah.  I’ll be in the Hamptons celebrating Chanukah.”

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