Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Side dish

My more devoted readers--including you, good reader--will recall that I recently indulged in some pious speculativities inspired by the Oxford English Dictionary entry for vermicelli. I was, I confess, a little confounded by hehassid Sir William Davenant's use of the word "intermets," and many of you shared in my anguish.

I love the OED for at least two reasons. First, because it's wonderful. Second, its customer service is excellent. I'm not talking in terms of sales or technical troubleshooting, since I have no experience with that part of it. But when you point out a typo or ask a question about content, they get back to you quick. Friday, August 3, I sent them an e-mail asking about intermets, and I got a reply Monday, August 6--the next business day.

The OED has never taken the view that every word in the illustrative quotations must have its own dictionary entry. In this case, as Davenant's other culinary terms are French I suspect that INTERMETS is his version of French ENTREMETS, for which there is an OED entry.

I shall note your comment in the OED revision file, to ensure that this variant spelling of ENTREMETS is considered by the editors when they come to work on the entry.

Entremets means side dishes. I'm glad I can bring some relief to you in your confoundment.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Staying on message

Recently an acquaintance of mine was at a dinner in honor of volunteers for a Jewish hesed organization; there are both Orthos and non-Orthos among the volunteers. Many of the organization's clients are non-Ortho.

(BT"W, I consider this acquaintance's report reliable, but what do I know?) (But it sounds credible.)

The coordinator of volunteers gave a moving talk about the very big effects that very small actions can have on the lives of others, for better or for worse. Next, a dedicated longtime volunteer was called front and center to make the public Hamotzi. You could tell he was non-Ortho because he was wearing one of those shiny yarmulkehs from the box at the registration table and, more importantly, because the volunteer coordinator was coaching him ("Now don't say anything until you've eaten a piece of the bread"). As he was walking back to his table, someone said loud enough to be heard by my acquaintance, and probably by the baal Hamotzi as well, "He didn't wash."

(We note for the halakhic record that there were washing stations for those who wished to use them, so nobody needed to rely on the public Hamotzi.)

The person who noted the nonwashing must have arrived late and missed the volunteer coordinator's speech. I hope he or she has better control over his or her yap when dealing with the organization's non-Ortho clients.