What is alevei?

What is alevei ?

Alevei is a Yiddish word that means something like “It should only happen.” Lexically encoded into the word is the information that the speaker (a.) is aware that whatever it is probably won’t happen but (b.) believes it would be awesome if it did. In that sense, it means something like the English idiomatic “That’ll be the day,” although not exactly in that alevei is more hopeful. In that spirit, alevei can also function as an exclamation of joy if the thing actually somehow does come to pass, sort of like “It’s about time!” in a good way (as my mom once explained it to me) or “Holy crap, I never thought I’d live to see this.”

There are a lot of variant spellings for alevei, which is the kind of thing that can happen when a word whose original language uses one alphabet as its writing system is transliterated using another language’s alphabet.

Some alternate spellings of alevei:



Yiddish is a (primarily) Germanic/Afroasiatic contact language whose default orthography is the Hebrew alphabet. Obviously, English does not use the Hebrew alphabet. And when you add in phonological (i.e. pronunciation) variation among speakers — and that variation is immense for a transnational lingua franca like Yiddish — spelling variation is pretty much guaranteed.

How do you say alevei ?

Like this: [ˌæl ə ˈvɑɪ]

If you don’t know IPA: It sounds like

al  (as in the person’s name Al )

of  (you know, the common English preposition)

EYE  (what you use to see).

= al-of-EYE

(See why everyone should learn IPA?)

What’s the blog about?

It’s my take on current events and political issues. Topics will vary according to what I feel like writing about on the occasions when I have time to write.

Just who in the eff do I think I am?

I am a citizen who believes that in addition to our Constitutionally guaranteed rights as Americans to speak freely and assemble peaceably, my fellow citizens and I also have the responsibility to stand up for those we believe are not being treated fairly and to call out BS when we see it.

As my day job, I am employed as a professor of linguistics at Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo. In addition to alevei, I also write a linguistics blog that focuses mostly on variation and change in the English language.

Why do I need another blog?

Because as much as I’d like to, I can’t live on linguistics alone. And believe me, I’ve tried. But I am deeply concerned about the direction our country seems to be going in, particularly in the areas of K-12 and higher education, civil rights, environmental stewardship, and economic inequality. I don’t know that writing about it makes me feel better, but it may be worth a try.

What are my politics?

I believe that the best hope for a secure and prosperous future for everyone is a well-educated citizenry; that everyone deserves clean water, a safe place to sleep, enough to eat, and the best possible care when they are sick or injured, even if they are poor; that we really ought to try to pollute a lot less; that meanness and hate and bigotry are by definition not welcome in a civilized society; that anti-intellectualism and the pride that some of our “leaders” seem to take in their own ignorance is not only an embarrassment to this country but a potential disaster in the making; and that the marriages and families and bodies of the people in this country are none of anyone else’s damn business. I am proud to call myself a feminist.

Those aren’t your politics? That’s cool. But see the comments policy.

What is the comments policy for the blog?

Comments are welcome. They are also moderated. If they’re disrespectful, they’re gone. Period.

Part of the work of any educator is of course ignorance eradication, but I write my posts when I am off the clock, meaning that any lack of knowledge that a commenter might bring to a discussion here is going to have to be their problem rather than mine. The stuff I write here is what I think and is therefore not going to be for everyone. If it’s not for you, please behave like a responsible citizen and just deal and/or take your business elsewhere. No hard feelings; wishing you all the best. Vaya con dios.


12 thoughts on “What is alevei?

  1. You are brilliant, and I look forward to learning from you so that I can sound smart when I talk to friends about politics. Wait, all my friends will read this, so I’ll sound like I’m a Lisa Parrot. Oh, well. There are worse things!!

  2. I just read your post about the contract negotiations and the faculty protest and the campus police and I just love how well you write. You stick to the facts and allow the reality of all participants to receive its due. You are truly a fine professional and I salute you. (I’m hiding my thoughts on this page where they are less likely to get drowned out by more excited (and exciting!) voices piping in on the campus events.)

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