Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Sometime reader of this blog and fellow Columbia Law student CSK has conducted a bit of a holiday investigation:


As we approach the holiday season, I thought I'd investigate the various spelling of the Jewish holiday. I have found four common binary variations: Ch/H, n/nn, k/kk, and a/ah. The following is a list of the sixteen permutations, in order of the number of results from a Google search of each permutation.

Perhaps readers of your blog would appreciate this analysis?

Hanukkah — 12,100,000
Chanukah — 3,400,000
Hanukah — 1,010,000
Hannukah — 790,000
Chanuka — 545,000
Hanuka — 518,000
Channukah — 437,000
Chanukkah — 315,000
Chanukka — 301,000
Hanukka — 107,000
Hannuka — 62,500
Hannukkah — 44,200
Channuka — 18,800
Channukka — 1,750
Hannukka — 821
Channukkah — 741

Note that Microsoft Word reports that all but the top three spellings are incorrect.

I suspect that the inclusion of all these terms on my blog will change the context-sensitive Google Ads on this page through the end of the year.

Update (12/06/06): CSK's roommate ASL weighs in:
Working hard, aren't you?

The two variables about which I feel most strongly are the doubled consonants. The correct answer: one N, two K's. In proper Hebrew pronunciation, the kaf is doubled because it contains a dagesh chazak. In other words, the word would be broken into syllables as ha-nuk-kah rather than ha-nu-kah. (Several other Hebrew loan words are spelled with doubled consonants for the same reason - e.g. sabbath, hallelujah.) Granted, since most people don't pronounce dagesh chazak properly any more, I suppose it's reasonable to write only one K. The thing that's definitely wrong, though, is two N's. I'd guess that those spellings come largely as a result of people remembering that there's a doubled consonant but getting the wrong one.

As to the H vs. CH, question, obviously H with a dot underneath is the most ideal option, but that's hard to do on most word processors. I tend to use H here, but I admit that I sometimes use CH for het in some other contexts. If there's no option of having a dot, I'd say the CH is the best bet. Another spelling that occurs 1,290 times on Google is Khanuka (and variants), but I think it would be better to reserve KH for khaf and CH or H-dot (or h-bar!) for het. That distinction has been lost in Ashkenazi and modern Israeli Hebrew, but I'm pretentious that way. Another neat option is what Bryan/Aviel and other Sephardim do: Januk(k)a(h) (along with Pesaj).

As to the final H, it seems at first glance that the Hebrew spelling (with a hei) would mandate the H. However, a deeper analysis of Hebrew linguistics actually offers a rather compelling argument not to include the H. The details are too complicated to explain here, though.

1 comment:

adam said...

I am not a linguist, but Hanukkah looks most "right" to me, followed by Chanukkah. I was actually really surprised that the latter was so much farther down on the list.