Mazel Tov, Arvind Mahankali!

Mazel Tov, Arvind Mahankali!
Last Thursday the Scripps National Spelling Bee was won by 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali when he successfully spelled “knaidel,” a word for “matzoh ball.” Surprised a young man with an Indian name can spell a Yiddish-derived word? Kid’s from Queens, fahcryinoutloud! As Lenny Bruce said, “If you live in New York … you are Jewish.”

But you think any aspect of Jewish-American culture is without controversy, especially in New York City? Fuggetaboutit.

The word for matzoh meal dumpling entered American English from Yiddish, a Germanic language that European Jews wrote in Hebrew characters, so English spellings differ: Knaidel, kneydl, kneydel, knaidle, kneidel, kneidle, and so on. The equivalent German word for dumpling doesn’t help: “Knödel,” with an umlaut, yet. Gevalt. Personally, we’ve never used any of the singular forms, always the plural, kneidlach. After all, what Jewish mother serves just one?

Spelling champ Arvind Mahankali can spell knaidel, but he’s never eaten one, so the Carnegie Deli has offered him matzoh ball soup on the house. Bet there’ll be more than one knaidel.

Note to spelling kvetches: The authority for the Scripps National Spelling Bee is Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (2002) published by Merriam-Webster, a subsidiary of Encyclopædia Britannica.

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One Response to “Mazel Tov, Arvind Mahankali!”

  1. KORACH: "A Kneydl and a Kvetch" - Monmouth Says:

    […] experts disputed the winning spelling of knaidel, some claiming and kvetching that only a klutzwould […]

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