24 Comments

  1. Of the six Hanukkah comics so far, this is the first one that requires a bit of cultural knowledge to get the joke. There’s a little song that goes “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay, and when you’re dry and ready, oh dreidel I will play…” (there may be a second verse, but I only know the first). Note that the “ei” sound in “dreidel” rhymes with “clay” and “play”.

  2. One of the managers / frequent emailers in our local cat rescue group has an email address of dreidl ( @some mailhost) . Her name is nothing like that, and her messages have very little personal touch in them, so I don’t know any hint of what it meant to her.

  3. @ Darren – That is a comment (and name) that IDU. Searching for it in the Internet didn’t help, either.

  4. Internet sources seem to make that the obvious possibility, but since I’ve never read a word of Longfellow, I have no idea how that would fit in with the comic. My other theory was that it might be a reference to “Psycho”, but the victim’s name in that movie was “Marion Crane”.
    P.S. The only person I can think of with the name “Evangeline” was the scullery maid (and finally bride) in the movie “Nanny McPhee”.

  5. Longfellow is not such a bad read, actually. It goes a bit like this (I’ll check the text when I get back home):
    ‘Daughter, thy words are not idle.[…] The word that floats on the surface is like the tossing buoy, that betrays the hidden anchor’.

  6. I remember finding out some time ago that the weirdness of the dreidel being made of clay was entirely due to the translator of the song not being able to get a good rhyme for, or possibly wanting to discourage the dangers of, carving it out of wood (I think it was — I recall now neither what the original language was (Yiddish?) in which it is created in the more obvious way, nor what that more obvious way was (just that making it out of clay is a crappy method to make a spin toy)).

    Anyone recall hearing reading a similar thing?

  7. Upon reflection, I think the driedel was cast in lead, which clearly you don’t want to encourage kids to emulate.

  8. (On larK’s point of translation difficulties producing a change of underlying meaning)

    I was disappointed twice in recent months by seeing debunkings of a couple of my favorite stories about names or terms that got established via a mistranslation or misunderstanding of a translation.

    1) The English Horn (cousin of the oboe, or hautbois, or high woodwind) is also known as “cor anglais”, and indeed must have been cor anglais earlier and correctly translated. But the name is a little odd — the instrument is not especially English in its history or adoption into ensembles. And some purists would argue it is not properly a “horn” as they would reserve that for brass instruments — though more generally any musical axe you carry might be your horn.
    Anyway, the reed is not attached directly into the body of the instrument (as an oboe does, for instance) but uses a small, bent tube. And it used to be happily recounted that this was why it could be described as “angled” — and anglé or anglée got mis-copied at some point as anglais.
    But no, recent debunkings find it was from a personal name. Boo 😦

    2) Ever wonder about those glass slippers in Cinderella? Don’tt sound any more comfortable than wooden shoes, probably less.
    The delightful story about this was that in an older French text they were made of fur, then vair (I can no longer find). But misheard as verre (glass) and copied that way until used as the basis for an English version which said glass.
    Alas, now debunked. I forget how. (Actually, the fur theory was never really accepted by most folklorists.)

  9. Say, does anyone know for sure the current status of the idea that the tennis score of “love” for zero came from French l’œuf “the egg” for the resemblance of the digit 0 to an egg shape? (Too bad there is not standard WP mechanism for cross-posting comments, or this could belong also to the current Humpty Dumpty thread!)

  10. @ larK – I think clay is a perfect material to entrust to a small child, who could then make his own. Perfection isn’t necessary, this isn’t a die to be used in craps. However, in the Yiddish version of the “Dreidel Song“, the material is lead (German “Blei“), which rhymes with the numbers two and three (“zwei” & “drei”) and the Yiddish verb for “spin” (“dray”). However, I think the all the vowels in the Yiddish are not the “eye” sound found in German, but the same “ay” sound as in the word “dreidel”. Clay (“Ton“) would not work in German.
    @ Mitch4 – The slippers in the Grimm’s (German) version were alternately silver and then gold. The German Wikipedia entry explicitly mentions that “glass” in the original (old?) French source could well have been a misunderstaning of “en vair” (originally a reference to a squirrel’s winter fur).
    P.S. The “l’œuf” theory is the only one that I knew about, but now it seems to count as “debunked”. Other references credit it as coming from the phrase “playing for love” (of the game), which seems a little far-fetched, but that may be because it is (or was) British usage, not American.

  11. ::Oh, I thought Darren’s comment referred to Mitch4’s preceding comment, not to the comic.

    I thought it refered to the comic but it seems to make equal sense applied to either. Which is …. I don’t understand….. I get the the dreIdle part, but not the dre = Evangeline part.

    …oh….

    Now I get it….

    But I’m not sure how we were supposed to assume she had an advanced degree….

  12. Heh haha, larK I do know that story and for some reason was thinking about it at some point in the last couple weeks! (In my recollection of it, he was Shane Ferguson.)

  13. At UIC, students were given email accounts that were the first initial and then the first five letters of the last name, followed by a number. Mine was greed1, which looks like greedy. I was grousing about it in a class I was TA’ing,, and a student piped up with ‘That’s not the worst you could have.’ When I looked at the roster, I realized her name was Cassandra Heap, and ceded the title to her.

  14. Dreidel dreidel dreidel, I made it out of wood, and when it’s done and ready, I’ll play it real good.

    Dreidel dreidel dreidel, I made it out of lead, and when it’s done and ready, I’ll play until I’m dead.

  15. Excellent adaptations, Mark in Boston! Though for the wood one I thought the scansion could be made into a closer fit if it went I’ll play with it real good

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