Monday, October 12, 2009


Sukkot was last week, and we just put away the last part of our sukkah. So it seems like a good time to finish one last sukkot related word.

During the holiday, we took a tour of the Herodion fortress. The guide told us to meet at the בודקה budke - the little cabin/shack/hut up the hill (the proper Hebrew word is beitan ביתן). I pointed out that maybe the word means "little booth" - since the (originally Russian) suffix "-ke" is used as a diminutive in Yiddish. He hadn't thought of that before, and liked the idea.

However, I was wrong.

While a few web sites propose an English origin of the term, almost all the sources I saw say the whole word entered Hebrew from Yiddish (where the spelling was בודקע). There is an issue for debate, however. Does the Yiddish come from the German bude (or bode) meaning "small house" - which is cognate with the English word "booth" (and according to some - but not all - "abode")? Or does it derive from the Russian будка budka with the same meaning?

Since most Central and Eastern European languages have some cognate to this root, I think it will probably be difficult to prove the origin one way or another. One thing I am a little more certain about is the preferred spelling. Both Even Shoshan and Rosenthal provide budke before butke בותקה - which is how I had previously assumed the word was spelled. However, since both Russian and German use "d" and not "t" - I think the spelling (and pronunciaton) budke is somewhat more authentic.

And now - I can finally file budke away!

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