yarmulke Login/Join
Picture of zmježd
There is a photo of a man who fell asleep on another man's shoulder on a subway train. (If you have not seen it, here's a link.

The reason I'm bringing up was I saw a news program's special interest story where the anchorman (obviously reading the story from a teleprompter) mispronounces yarmulke as it is spelled: /jɑɹ'mulkə/ with the accent on the second syllable. He is quickly corrected off camera by somebody who knows what it is and how to pronounce it.

This made me think of the [mentsh / Mensch thread about spelling and pronouncing Yiddish words. How is the word (for a kippah or skullcap worn by observant Jewish males) spelled in Yiddish? I immediately looked in my three Yiddish-English dictionaries and found: (1) יארמעלקע (yarmelke) (in Harkavy 1928); (2) יארמלקע (yarmlke) (in Weinreich 1968); and (3) יארמלקע (yarmlke) (in Beinfeld & Bochner 2013).

For good measure I checked my Hebrew etymological dictionary (Klein 1987) for an origin (and assuming that as an important Yiddish word it had made its way into Israeli Hebrew as a loanword): ירמולקה (yarmulkah.

Next to some English dictionaries for spellings and pronunciations: (1) yarmulke, yarmelke /'jɑɹməlkə/, /'jɑməlkə/ AHD; (2) yarmulke /'jɑməkə/, /'jɑrməlkə/, /'jɑrməkə/ MWCD; both of these dictionaries give etymologies that the Yiddish word is from Polish or Ukrainian yarmulka 'skullcap' of ultimate Turkish origin and mentions a modern cognate in Turkish yağmurluk 'raincoat'.

Next to Wikipedia. The article gives the Yiddish spelling as יאַרמולקע (yarmulke) which disagrees with the three dictionaries I consulted. (It looks like a merging of the Hebrew spelling and the Yiddish one, or perhaps even the Polish-Ukrainian one. They also cite a Yiddish synonym: קאפעלע (kapele). But, they give an alternate etymology: "from the Aramaic meaning "fear of the King" (i.e. God))". They do not give the Aramaic form of the alleged word (or phrase), and I am suspicious because almost all of the Aramaic-Hebrew vocabulary of Yiddish is spelled according to Aramaic or Hebrew conventions (although they are pronounced according to Yiddish via Ashkenazic Hebrew phonologies. Klein gives the same etymology as AHD and MWCD.

I'm not saying that one spelling is right or wrong, but it is interesting to see how complicated the linguistic history of one word can be. Needless to say, I think the Wikipedia etymology is ha folk etymology. Neither yarmulke nor kippah appear in the Tanakh (Jewish Old Testament). As far as I can tell, they do not occur in the Talmud. Yarmulke probably dates back to the 16th century CE or so. One last task, I checked my dictionary of Talmudic Aramaic for the two roots of the folk etymology: (1) ירא (yare' 'to fear, tremble'; (2) מלך (melekh) 'king' (same as in Hebrew).

Ceci n'est pas un seing.
Posts: 5086 | Location: R'lyehReply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
OY!!! I'll just stay with my beanie, although I oft refer to it as a skull condom.

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
Posts: 4768 | Location: In a cornfield in central IndianaReply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
I've always thought the official term was kippah, though yarmulka is acceptable, while skullcap is slang.

Very interesting history, z. That was a great read - thanks for all the background work.
Posts: 23781 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  

Copyright © 2002-12