Friday, December 4, 2020

100 Different (Hypothethical) Ways to spell Hannukkah: how the heckybecky does one spell this holiday?

Originally posted 12/4/20. Views expressed are the author's own and not representative of any organizations she is or has been affiliated with, past or present.

Today, I have truly created a beautiful monster: 100 different ways to spell חֲנוּכָּה in English. 

I think Khannuccah is the worst option, but I'm open to other opinions.

While most of these have rarely, if ever, seen the light of day, it's still shocking that so many permutations could exist within the parameters of things people actually do (if you spell it with a Q or an X, please stop). 

The most commonly accepted English spelling is Hanukkah, so that's the short answer to "how to spell this". The long answer is that there are at least 16 that are commonly recognized, and a couple dozen more that get used very occasionally.  Why is like this is actually a fairly common/explicable issue: transliteration, especially from one alphabet to another (well, technically, an Abjad to an Alphabet) is a messy business, and particularly so with sounds that aren't a thing in the language being transcribed to. 

The five most commonly used ones, which all crack the million result mark on Google (U.S. and in English), are Hanukkah, Hanuka, Chanukah, Hanukah, and Hannukah. Eleven more, which are various permutations of including (or not including) the C at the beginning, n or nn, k or kk, and including (or not including) the h at the end will generally be recognized and considered normal (or normalish). 

In addition to that, occasionally someone will substitute K, X, or J for C/Ch (in the beginning of the word). The X and the K make no sense to me, phonetically or logically. The former is a wild card with (thankfully) very low useage, and the latter was apparently used occasionally in the past, really before the internet era. The J, while still not mainstream in English-language spaces (and IMO, unlikely to become mainstream), has become gradually a little more common in the past 5-7 years. Although I don't have data to substantiate this, I imagine it might be a carryover from another language's attempts at transliterating the Hebrew, as "J" makes a H/H-like sound in some languages. 

Additionally, occasionally someone will substitute a q or a c/cc or the k/kk. The former seems to be a rare quirk of the internet age, and the latter an older spelling that largely fell out of use pre-Internet. As an aside, some older sources list the holiday of Sukkot and "Succoth" or "Succot" so, while I don't have sources on hand, I suspect that this is a relatively common trend in older transliteration techniques. 

In any case, using the possible substitutions that have been documented, I've populated a chart with 100 possible permutations. 40 of these have likely never seen the light of day before this, another 10 are rare, and another 34 are rare but that's because they've fallen out of style or may have come from another language's transliteration. Only 16 are within the normal scope of English-language transliteration, and out of those five dominate the usage landscape.

So the long answer is that I'd stick to spelling it Hanukkah, Hanuka, Chanukah, Hanukah, and Hannukah, but it's unlikely that anything based off of the permutations of including (or not including) the C at the beginning, n or nn, k or kk, and including (or not including) the h at the end is probably fine.

If nothing else, at least the Hebrew spelling is consistent! 

Publications Outside This Blog

This is a (likely incomplete!) list of stuff I've written and published outside this blog.   ●   HeyAlma ○        The 18 Ugliest Hanuk...