Friday, December 7, 2012

The 8-Letter Chanukah Spelling Rule


What's the correct spelling for the Jewish Festival of Lights?   

Chanuka, 
Chanukah, 
Chanukkah,  
Hanuka,
Hanukah, 
Hanukhah,  
Hanukkah, or perhaps
Hannukah?   

All these spellings (and more) are found in dictionaries and websites, and the perennial Chanukah question is, thus, what is the correct English spelling. Technically, since it's a transliteration of the Hebrew word חֲנוּכָּה, you could say that all are acceptable transliterations. But which one to use?! Many have grappled with this Chanukah dilemma (this Time Magazine article  claims the most common spelling is Hanukkah) but there are no satisfactory answers.  

I have an original solution. On one hand, an inflation of spellings wreaks havoc and confusion. Often, you will find an annoying inconsistency by the same respectable website, such as in Haaretz where I found Hannukah here and Hanukkah here. On the other hand, we shouldn't be rigid, and in line with this blog's philosophy, we must allow for diversity. Accordingly, here's my Chanukah Spelling Rule:     

Considering this holiday lasts 8 days, on the last night we light 8 candles, the name of the holiday starts with the Hebrew letter "chet" [ח] - the eighth letter -- any transliteration of Chanukah is kosher if it has 8 letters:)  

Based on this easy-to-follow rule, Chanukah, Hanukkah, Hanukhah and even Hannukah are all legit.  We can forgive Haaretz for their inconsistency; they got it right in both cases! 

When wishing the classic Chanukah greeting, though, I prefer to keep the 'h' spelling to preserve the alliteration

Happy Hanukkah!

Addendum:  Here's an entertaining song about this dilemma by The Leevees called How Do You Spell Channukkahh

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