Monday, November 4, 2013

From Dante to Yiddish

Antony Shugaar wrote an interesting letter about reading and translating Dante that was printed in the latest (November 21) issue of The New York Review. He establishes his credentials as "a professional translator from the Italian, and a longtime aficionado of Dante." He is commenting on Robert Pogue Harrison's Dante piece in the October 24 issue, specifically to how Dante evokes "a keening sound." He identifies the word "Ahi" in the fourth line of The Divine Comedy as an example of that sound.

The editors ran this letter under the headline "Oy!" In The Joys of Yiddish Leo Rosten insists that"oy! is not ai!" However, he says nothing about Dante or the rather singular spelling that Dante used. Could it be that the most Yiddish of Yiddish words has its roots in Dante?

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