Friday, April 29, 2005

More on Matzoh Balls

You might recall that Sunday morning I wrote about what a strange food Matzoh Balls are, and how I had planned on making some that afternoon in the soup to take out a cold. Therefore it was with some delight that I read Emily Yoffe's article in Slate about the wonderful, but disturbing "Ruthie & Gussie's/Empire Kosher Matzo Ball-Eating Championship" held (where else) at the Friar's Club.

I say disturbing because I picture the contestants swelling up after the contest like Violet Beauregarde after she ate the blueberry gum, and being taken off to be juiced from the balcony of the Henny Youngman terrace (Note: If the Friar's Club does not have a Henny Youngman terrace, it should). My brother Daniel has attended the annual Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest at Nathan's Coney Island, and he says it is really quite a spectacle. I'll see if he can send some pictures. By the way, mutiple spellings of "matzoh" are correct, I happen to like the silent "H," I think it rounds out the word in print.

1 comment :

Daniel said...

On spelling Matzoh.


So, I think this is actually a subject that I am qualified to comment on. As far as I can tell, there are two points that need to be addressed:
1. Should there be an 'h' at the end?

2. Should it be spelled with an 'o' (Matza) or with an 'o' (Matzoh)?

In Hebrew, the word Matzoh looks like this:
מצה

Now, Hebrew was written, for the first several thousand years of its written existance, without vowels. So the word above would look like this in roman charachters:

M tZ H

That last H is what linguists call a "mater lectionis," (latin: mother of reading). Its purpose was to tell the reader that there is a vowel sound after the Tz. Often times when Hebrew names are translated into English, there is a question as to whether or not the mater lectionis should be retained, so that both Sara and Sarah are accepted spellings of the same biblical name.

So, we've addressed the 'h.'

Now, as for 'oh' or 'ah.'
The vowel sound under the 'tz' is called a q'ametz, and if you went to hebrew school, you know it as the t-shaped vowel. In modern hebrew, as well as in the hebrew dialects spoken by the jews of spain, north africa, and the middle east, 95% of the time, that vowel is pronounced as 'a,' like the sound a doctor makes you say. However, in Eastern Europe, that same vowel was pronounced as Aw (the sound you make when you see Noah). So, in the modern Hebrew spelling, you'd probably see Matzah, where as if you were using a spelling that followed a more Yiddish/European approach, you'd probably see Matzoh. As my brother correctly noted,
Matzo
Matza
Maztoh
and
Matzah
are all proper spellings of the tasy passover treat.

However, I'd like to suggest that in our family, the proper name for a matzoh ball is a k'naydle, the plural, of course, being knaydlakh...