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The Internet Is Ruining Hebrew

The language of the Bible just got stupider, courtesy of Facebook commenters (and the Academy of the Hebrew Language)

Liel Leibovitz
June 19, 2017

The bottomless quarry of human stupidity that is the internet has claimed another victim: Hebrew.

Having survived pretty much intact since more or less the dawn of Man, the language of the Bible was felled this week by Facebook commenters, whose inability to abide by the basic rules of grammar that have instructed and inspired everyone from King David to David Grossman, drove the Academy of the Hebrew Language—the regulatory body founded by Eliezer Ben Yehuda, modern Hebrew’s founding father—to mutilate the language beyond repair.

According to new regulations, released this week, a bevy of Hebrew words will henceforth be spelled phonetically, with extra vowels thrown in for those who can’t be bothered with the elegance of punctuation marks. The changes, said Professor Yosef Ofer, who heads the Academy’s grammar committee, reflect the Hebrew-speaking public’s general inability to obey some of its native tongue’s most seminal rules. For example, tzaharaim, or noon, will now be spelled tzohoraim, just the way the perpetually outraged unalphabetic hordes would spell it while opining about something they know nothing about on this social network or the other.

Don’t get me wrong: Language, any language, even one as ancient and as sacred as Hebrew, is a living organism, and as such grows and evolves and transmutes. But language, like democracy, is also vulnerable to the worst instincts of its constituents; if it fails to defend itself, it will end up a vulgar and sorry mess. The Academy, as the popular internet meme goes, had one job, to defend Hebrew from its desecrators. This week, it failed miserably, and we are all the poorer for it.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.