Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Well, after the elections in Israel I guess it makes sense to relate to a political term - kadentzia קדנציה. This is the Hebrew term for "tenure" or "term of office". If you're guessing it doesn't sound like native Hebrew - you're right.

It originates from same root as the English word cadence, meaning "The patterned, recurring alternation of contrasting elements, such as stressed and unstressed notes in music". The root is in the Latin cadere - to fall (as in falling notes of music.) It's easy to see how a term meaning rhythm could refer to a regular cycle like a term in office, but it's not entirely clear to me how it entered Hebrew. Cadence means term of office in French, and cadencia has that meaning in Spanish. French and Spanish aren't common sources for Hebrew words, so there's probably another stop along the way - but Klein doesn't mention it, and I haven't seen anyone else do so either.

Another term with a similar musical origin is trop (or trope)- the Yiddish term for the cantillation marks used in reading from the Torah. This site does a good job of describing the etymology of the term:

But one of my favorite not-exactly-Hebrew words is "trupp," simply because I spent years thinking to myself, "that doesn't sound like Hebrew" before I finally went and looked it up. It's not, of course; it's a slightly Germanicized pronunciation/transliteration of a Hebraicized version ("trop") of the Greek word tropos, "turn," which was adopted wholesale into Latin as tropus and from which we get English "trope" and a bunch of words ending in "-tropy."

"Trope" in English mostly means "a figure of speech," although those of my readers familiar with early music may also remember that a trope is a musical "turn," a cadence at the end of a melody.

So whether the election results are music to your ears or not, remember that it's part of a rhythm that will repeat itself every so often...

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