I’m using the spelling of the holiday given in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, but there are many, many more—Mark Liberman says “a new survey by Language Log labs has found that Hanukkah is second only to Muammar al-Gaddafi in public spelling uncertainty”; if you want to know the horrifying details (and the entropy of the distribution), visit his Language Log post on the subject. And I hope those of my readers who celebrate it are having the best of Christmases.


  1. I’d just like to point out that the spelling “hanuka” may have false results, as it’s the last name of two well-known Israeli artists.

  2. I think the spellings with double Ns are simply mistakes from people who remember that there’s a letter-doubling but get confused about what letter it’s in (especially since double Ns are common in English while double Ks are quite rare). The other spellings in the table all make sense — H/CH for the khet, K/KK for the historically-geminated kaf, and optionally an H for the silent (mother of reading) hei. (I also think KH would make sense for the khet, and OO would make sense for the shuruq, so there are about 24 sensible spellings.)

  3. Bottom line: The original word is in a non-English language that uses a non-English alphabet. Sounds from the Hebrew alphabet are not the same as those used in the English alphabet. The beginning sound for the word referenced is not a simple “H” sound, but rather a gutteral type twirling made at the back of the throat, sort of like trying to clear the throat.

  4. Lh, you talk about hanukkah‘ spelling, and wish to those who celebrate it the best of Christmases?
    Whatsamattah with you?

  5. Hanukkah’s over! Alas, I waited too long to mention it. But of course I hope everyone who celebrates it had a great one!

  6. A happy Boxing Day to all.

  7. The confusion I think results from tatyana (rightly, I think) associating your pronoun “it” in the last sentnece with the last mentioned subject, which happens to be “the subject,” which refers to Hanukkah. So it seemed like you were wishing those who celebrate Hanukkah the best of Christmases. (-masses?)
    But I think you were using the “it” (correctly, of course) to refer to a succeeding subject, as in “If you like it, gum is on sale now.” Thus the confusion. Perhaps.
    Merry festivus!

  8. Ah, that hadn’t even occurred to me. I’d go back and rewrite the sentence, except it would render the comment thread incomprehensible. Thanks for clearing up the confusion, hopefully to the satisfaction of all!

  9. I always use “khanike,” but usually provide another spelling if it seems likely to cause confusion.

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