Thank you.  – Thank you.

Someone is interviewed on TV. At the end, the interviewer thanks their guest. “Thank you for being here tonight.”

So often, the person who is being interviewed responds, “Thank  you.”

What happened to “you’re welcome”?


“Scottsdale reveals flag design finalists; public can weigh in”

“Several months after an open call for design ideas, 10 finalists are in the running to be the city’s official flag.” *

Really? Would you like to be a city’s official flag?

* The lead sentence in the Scottsdale Republic. Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Section Z8, page 15.

See the previous post.



Radio talk host Alex Jones is confused about what a burqa is and what a hijab is.

If there is a Muslim woman in North America or in Europe who has her face covered by a burqa – a full covering except for her eyes – she is unique. Essentially, a burqa covering is so extreme that it is not even worn in Saudi Arabia or in Iran.

If a Christian nun is still wearing a habit, she is probably covering her neck and ears in addition to her hair just like many Muslim women. This is called a hijab in Arabic.

A somewhat more conservative head covering than a hijab is a niqab. A woman wraps longer fabric over her mouth and nostrils (sometimes a little higher on the nose).

I almost dressed like that today when I went outside. Here in Kansas City, the midday temperature (as I write this) is 18° (Fahrenheit). Besides a ski cap over my ears, I would have covered even my my mouth. But, for this former Chicagoan, 18° and no wind is fine.

The temperature now in Chicago, though, is 12°. If I were standing on an El platform waiting for a train, it’s not unlikely for me to pull up my scarf over my mouth. Some platforms – especially where I used to commute from – are entirely exposed to bitterly cold wind. So at times I protect my face with a ‘niqab’.

How do I know what I’m talking about? I would often sit in a study area at the University of Missouri – Kansas City that was popular with Muslim young people. So, I checked that what the young women were wearing were hijabs.

One time I was sitting across from a young lady who was wearing a hijab, and I asked her what a niqab was. She lifted a longer end of her hijab over her mouth thereby showing me a niqab. So I speak with authority.

Interestingly enough, it came up in conversation that she was from Saudi Arabia. In my nosy way, I told her that I was surprised to see that she was alone. In truth, she told me that she had come with a brother, but he had already finished his studies and had returned to Saudi Arabia. “My parents trust me,” she said. “It would be sad if they didn’t.”

I believe that G-d trusts us. It would be sad if he didn’t.


* I sometimes listen to Alex Jones (carried on radio here) so that you don’t have to. It’s possible that he will be my bête noire for March.

* a study area that was popular with young Muslims. The women wearing hijabs is one give-away. The other clue was that several were speaking Arabic. I don’t speak Arabic, but I recognize it. I can be an amateur linguist since I’ve heard plenty of Arabic in Israel.


‘Okay’ has become an international word, but no one seems to know where it comes from. The word seems to have had its origin in an English language speech community. From there, everyone who now speaks English says this word a lot.

Not so long ago, it occurred to me that ‘okay’ has a suspicious similarity to the syllable òc which has been associated with the English word ‘yes’.

Òc is associated with the language group of southern France, into Spain and into Italy — Occitan. The region where Occitan has been spoken is Occitania. The Romance language of the south of France was a rival of the speech in the north of France.

The Romance language group that has become France’s national language is called Langues d’oïl (lahng do ee[l]). Oïl is an older way to say ‘yes’ (oui) in the northern part of France. The southern speech of Occitania has been called Languedoc, the language of òc.

From here it’s a jump and a skip to see sailors and merchants in the Mediterranean region exclaiming “oc” when things were okay. The next jump and skip takes the the word ‘oc’ into the English speaking world.

From ‘oc’ to ‘okay’ is no leap, and I don’t see a leap from ‘okay’ to the abbreviation ‘OK’.

Who says okay and who doesn’t

In my casual contact with other speech communities (through television and films), I can share with you that ‘okay’ is now part of the regular speech in several languages. My limited list is: Swedish and German.

On the other hand, I’ve never heard ‘okay’ in French speech, Spanish (both in Europe and the Americas), and Hebrew. Instead one hears d’accord or bon, bueno, and b’seder, respectively.

Once Yiddish came into the English speaking world, Jews have peppered their speech with ‘okay’. Still, it’s preferable to say fein (fine), especially among Yiddish speakers who may not speak English. In Israel, for example, Yiddish speakers rarely speak English.

Well …

that’s OK for now.

Ashkenazi Jews and their long-ago European mothers

If this is true, it doesn’t matter.

Being Jewish is being a member of G-d’s Covenant at Mount Sinai. Over the centuries, some women and men said, in effect, “Count me in,” and so they became members of the Covenant by observing its specifics and generalities.

If a genetic study reaches the conclusion that many European women converted, it is consistent with what we know of Roman history.

A history of Jews in the Roman Empire

Until the end of the first century CE, Judaism was the only monotheistic religion. Non-Jews worshiped a pantheon of gods. Some worshiped the god of their own city-state but not the god of any other city-state.

People of the Roman Empire were supposed to worship a statue of the emperor as well as any other god that they chose. The Emperor Hadrian was especially diligent in dedicating statues of himself all over the eastern part of the empire. His was particularly fond of the Greek culture and “Greek love” — pederasty.

We find evidence that non-Jews spent time around and in synagogues. These people have been called G-dfearers and Phylo-Jews — Jew lovers. It’s not so much that they liked Jews as such. They liked the religion of Jews. These G-dfearers were a pool of prospective converts. The “fly in the ointment,” the drawback, for men to convert was that they would be undergoing circumcision. I’m under the impression that adult circumcision is painful and takes a while to heal. It is speculated that not many adult men converted, but women did.

Some of the female converts probably married Jewish men. Perhaps some Phylo-Jews circumcised their sons in hope that these boys would convert. Who knows? And no one knows the numbers.

Perhaps as population genetics improve, studies of Jewish genetics may provide fine grain statistics for reconstructing theories.

Regardless of some of the previous details and the associated speculation, historians have long suggested that about ten percent of the population of the Roman Empire was Jewish. Recent reevaluations are suggesting a smaller Jewish population. But, imagine that the U.S. had a Jewish population of 38 million, or that 19 million Jews lived in the U.S. These figures are about 10 percent 5 percent respectively.

So now back to Rome. However many Jews lived within the Roman Empire, they were not evenly spread out. The largest concentration of Jews seems to have been on the Italian peninsula and in Rome itself. Many Jews did not relocate voluntarily. When the Roman Legions destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (69 CE), and when they destroyed the city of Jerusalem (about 135 CE), Jewish captives were taken to slave markets. As defeated captives, they were paraded through the streets of Rome.

Christian Rome

After Christianity became the official religion of of the Roman Empire (4th century CE), conversion to Judaism was punishable by death. However many European women (and men) had affiliated with the Jewish people before this, no more converted.

In time, Roman Jews (from Rome and Italy) found opportunities northward, over the Alps into the Rhine River valley and also in Roman Gaul. These Jews were the forebears of Ashkenazi Jews. A particular regional identity did not start to develop, though, until Charlemagne’s power reached from the Elbe River in today’s Germany, south and west to the Pyrenees Mountains, and southward to encompass all of Italy. This is the core of the Western Roman Empire, and this is the spiritual birthplace of Ashkenazi customs and their heritage of studying the Bible and the Talmud..

Jews in this region primarily had spoken Vulgar Latin — the language of their neighbors. Charlemagne’s Empire, the Carolingian Empire, brought Germanic speakers into the region from the east and northeast. The legal and language frontier along the Rhine River supplied the core population of Ashkenazi Jews.

Ashkenaz — Germanic Europe

I’m not aware of the reference ‘Ashkenazi’ appearing before the year 1000 or so. The earliest usage referred to the Jews of the Rhine River region and the locality of Charlemagne’s preferred seat of power in Aix-la-Chapelle/Aachen, only a short distance west of the Rhine. It is no surprise that Ashkenazi Jews would come to speak Yiddish —  Jewish German.

This first usage came about when two distinguished Jewish families from Italy crossed the Alps and settled near the Carolingian seat of power around the year 900 (or so).

We find a dichotomy here, though. The spiritual roots of Ashkenaz were in two Jewish cultural and scholarship areas. The guiding spirit of Ashkenazi Jews came from Italy. For the most part, Italian Jews remained in Italy, though.

The much of intellectual ferment of Ashkenaz came from the Torah academies in southern France. Again, for the most part, these Jews remained near the Mediterranean.

Work in progress -- nearing conclusion.