“Knaidel” is the Winning Word
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History
Perhaps you heard that a Yiddish word won the National Spelling Bee for Arvind Mahankali. Yes, knaidel is spelled K-n-a-i-d-e-l according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary–the official dictionary of the National Spelling Bee. As you may know, Yiddish is a fusion language of principally German, Hebrew and Aramaic elements. Although there is evidence of a written form dating to the 13th Century the language is a living oral language with the dialects that are spoken in many areas having more German, Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian or American influences.
Not to take anything away from Arvind, but the question arises: Is there really one correct way to spell a Yiddish word?
YIVO, one of the Center partners, tried to answer that question. They created a work called the “The Standardized Yiddish orthography.“ The catalog (search.cjh.org) reflects imprints from 1937, 1966 and 1999. In addition to the rules, the most recent copy has an essay “The history of the standardized Yiddish spelling” by Mordkhe Schaechter.
This work, in addition to the Harkavy, Weinreich dictionaries and the “The Language and culture atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry” (This work is "Based on an investigation entitled Geographic differentiation in coterritorial societies”) are some of the most frequently referenced books on Yiddish linguistics.
To learn more about Yiddish, you can read an article in the YIVO encyclopedia by clicking here.
You can find recipes for knaidels in many of the cookbooks we have available. To learn more about cookbooks, click here.