I had planned to post blogs according to the chronology of our move here, but I need to interrupt myself. “We interrupt this broadcast to bring you….” an alert:
Today is the birthday of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922)!
Who was Eliezer Ben Yehuda?
A Jewish lexicographer, a newspaper editor, and the driving force behind the revival of Hebrew in the modern era. He would have been 158 years old this month. When he came to what is now Israel in 1891, his motto was “Hebrew in the home, Hebrew in School, and words words words!”
I won’t make a foray into the whole history behind the development of modern-day Hebrew, but for just one aspect of that history, think of what it meant (and still means) to create new words for a new language, not just for new technological terms of the era, but even for everyday words like “clothes-iron” (mag-hetz), “ice cream” (g’lida), “furniture” (rihut) and “k’ruvit” (cauliflower). Of course other languages had to go through a similar – if not quite as daunting – process; they would have had the everyday words, and they would have already had hundreds of thousands of speakers.
As Wikipedia says:
“The process of Hebrew’s return to regular usage is unique; there are no other examples of a natural language” without any native speakers subsequently acquiring several million such native speakers, and no other examples of a sacred language becoming a national language with millions of “first language” speakers.”