How do you pronounce ‘route’ and ‘root’?

Recently, I wrote a post about Historic US Route 66. So …

How do you pronounce the word ‘route’? The nationally accepted way in the U.S. is to say it the same way as the nationally accepted pronunciation of ‘root’ which both rhyme with ‘boot’.

Growing up in Chicago, though, we said the word ‘route’ the same way people say ‘military rout’ to rhyme with ‘out.’

The fashion that we Chicagoans say ‘root’ is also at variance with national usage. We pronounce ‘root’ to rhyme with ‘foot’. For Chicagoans, this is the same vowel that occurs the word ‘roof’. This word rhymes with the sound that dogs make: ‘woof.’

I’ve heard these pronunciations from people who come from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve also heard these pronunciation from residents of Kansas City.

I don’t have anyone from Southern Illinois in my informal survey or from elsewhere in the Midwest besides the locations that I mentioned. My informants are older people who were born in these Midwestern states and who have not spent much time elsewhere in the country.

My own pronunciation changed to the nationally accepted way sometime during my life, but I don’t know why or when. I studied in Brooklyn for four years, but I don’t speak like a Brooklyner. Other than that, I’ve lived mostly in the Chicago area, except for ten years in Kansas City, until four years ago.

My impression is that the way we spoke in Chicago is the way people speak in the entire middle of the country. I’ve heard that some localisms came along with the railroads. Chicago is the railroad hub of the nation. It stands to reason that people who left Chicago for opportunities outward bound brought their local, Chicago speech with them.

While I’m at it, how do you pronounce ‘Chicago’, the city’s name? The people of the Chicago region and elsewhere in the Midwest pronounce the name of the city as shih KAW go, not like elsewhere in the country where they say the city’s name as shih KAH go. As far as I’m concerned, shih KAW go is the authentic name of the city.

Early on, when Frank Sinatra sang the song “Chicago, Chicago — My Home Town,” he gave it away that he’s from elsewhere. He sang, “shih KAH go, shih KAH go.” On the other hand, when Sinatra sang the song “My Kind of Town, Chicago Is” before a live crowd in 1982, he sang, “shih CAW go.”

Go figure.

Question of the month

Can you chill over a cup of hot tea with sugar, or does it have to be iced tea?

Question for next month (serious):

“If all you have are lemons, make lemonade.” In this adage, where does the sugar come from? Do you want to drink unsweetened lemonade just because you don’t have sugar? Actually, two questions.

Every so often I think about this adage. I’d appreciate feedback. Perhaps you know where the sugar comes from. Am I taking the adage too literally?

I’m not going to chill while I ponder these questions by sitting back to drink a cup of tea with sugar, hot or cold — or lemonade either.

‘Flash Flood Watches across DC and part of surrounding counties as heavy rain moves through.’ Where does it come from?

According to FOX5 Washington DC:

Washington, D.C. and parts of the surrounding counties were under Flash Flood Warnings and Watches Friday morning as heavy rain poured from the sky.

And in other parts of the country, rain pours from where?

Gematria: Hebrew numerology

The Hebrew word for numerology, gematria, is related to the Greek word ‘geometry’ — measure of the Earth.

Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value in base 10. The first nine letters represent 1 through 9. The next nine letters represent 10 through 90. After that, the letters represent 100, and so on.

The Hebrew word for ‘one’ — echad — is an example of how lessons can be learned from the Hebrew letters.

The word echad is spelled in Hebrew with three letters — alef, chet, and dalet. The respective values are one, eight, and four.

‘One’ — the alef — reminds us of G-d Almighty who is one. The name of the letter, alef, means principal — the master teacher.

Chet, the second letter of the word echad, is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so its value is eight. Eight represents the seven heavens and the Earth. G-d is master over both the highest realms of the universe and the lowly, earthly dimension.

Dalet, the third letter of the word echad, is the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, so it represents the value four. This stands for the four cardinal directions.

In sum, G-d, the master of the universe, reigns over all the physical dimensions of His creation.

The watchword of the Jewish faith is:

Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d. The L-rd is One.

So we have a deeper understanding of G-d’s unity. He is the single who encompasses the multitude. Nothing of the multitudinous creations in the universe are outside of G-d the Creator.

All this from numerology.

My name, Nathaniel, also has information packed into its letters. The first two syllables are to be taken as the Hebrew word ‘gave’. (It’s also a name in its own right — Nathan.) The last three letters are one of G-d’s names in Hebrew. In simple terms, my name means “G-d gave.”

But, what did he give?

This is hinted at in the gematria of G-d’s name. Its value is thirty-one. So, He gave me thirty-one. This reminds us of the thirty-two pathways of wisdom as taught in the Book of Formation.

However, G-d only gave me thirty-one paths, the value of His name. My task in life is to find and travel the thirty-second pathway.

Easier said than done. A genuine lifetime of work.

After such a sobering thought, I could use something stiffer than a cup of hot tea with sugar.

The Yiddish language

Yiddish derives from the German language as spoken in the upper Rhine River valley about one thousand years ago. Its speakers have fused Hebrew and Aramaic as well as a few Romance words into the German of the time. Yiddish is now incomprehensible to German speakers.

The grammar and syntax, however, is strictly Germanic.

From the Rhine valley, Jews migrated eastward reaching Poland and the part of the Russian Empire where Jews were allowed to live, bringing Yiddish with them.

Yiddish speakers adopted Hebrew words to exist side by side with their German counterpart. For example, buch is German for book. Sayf’r, from Hebrew, means ‘book’ in Yiddish, but it was embedded into the language to refer to a holy book. Buch remains in Yiddish as an ordinary, secular book.

Some words were repurposed. Talmud Torah, Hebrew for ‘Torah study’, became an elementary school for boys, while schul became a study hall for men to pour over holy texts. You wouldn’t find a buch in a schul, for instance. You would find only s’forim, the Hebrew plural of sayf’r.

You see here that the Hebrew plural was ported over, and sayf’r never acquired a Germanic plural.

Some words came from the Romance languages, particularly Old French. The Yiddish word bentsh’n means to bless. It comes ultimately from the Latin benedicere by way of people from the nearby Meuse and Moselle valleys. I have my own theory, though, that this word might have been brought north over the Alps by rabbis from Rome. One particular family came northward to elevate the piety of Jews in German lands, and they are the distinguished scholars of the era. The patriarch of the family came northward about 800 years ago.

Some Hebrew words have replaced the German words to the extent that the German word has been entirely eclipsed. Ganven’n means ‘stealing’ and comes from the Hebrew word ganav. Perhaps you’ve heard English speakers call someone a ‘goniff’. This comes to English from Yiddish. It is more inclusive than the word ‘thief’. It refers to someone who can’t be trusted with money. He’s liable to be an embezzler or at least a chiseler.

There are several dialects of Yiddish. The most prestigious is the dialect that was spoken in Lithuania and in what is today’s Belarus. Most of my ancestors came from this region to the United States in the late 1800s. I speak Yiddish as a second language but at an elementary level.

Another dialect was spoken in Poland. Another was spoken in Hungary. The Jews of the Kingdom of Galicia spoke a fourth dialect and brought it into southwestern Ukraine. Meanwhile it merged with the Yiddish of Jews who came down the Dnieper (Dnipro) River into southeastern Ukraine.

I say “was spoken” because most European Jews outside the Soviet Union were murdered by Nazis during the Second World War. At the same time, the Soviets suppressed Jewish life and the Yiddish language in their Empire. The descendants of Jewish refugees from Europe still speak Yiddish in communities in Israel, in Brooklyn and the region, as well as in Antwerp and London.

The oldest Yiddish text that is still in print is Tseno Ureno, a digest of the Bible’s Five Books of Moses, written by Jacob ben Isaac Ashkenazi (1550–1625) in Poland. It was first published around 1590. It’s no more quaint than the King James Bible is to English speakers. However, the language is too sophisticated for me to read without a dictionary.

This is a baby’s sized thumbnail sketch. Academics might be appalled by this post, but I wrote for the non-academic person, for any ordinary reader of my blog.