Dr. Sylvia Earle, Ocean Savior

Dr. Sylvia Earle has a rich alto voice which she uses to educate us about the ocean.


I hope there is intelligent life – among humans. Sylvia Earle


People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth’s life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. 97% of earth’s water is there. It’s the blue heart of the planet – we should take care of our heart. It’s what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won’t get better unless we take the action and inspire others to do the same thing. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.

Sylvia b&w

Dr. Sylvia Earle is a marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer and a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.


“I wish you would use all means at your disposal – films! expeditions! the web! more! – to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.”

Sylvia and Hugh Downs

Sylvia Earle was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Time Magazine named her its first Hero for the Planet in 1998.


With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on earth you live.

Sylvia beach stand

Dr. Earle received a bachelor of science degree from Florida State University and a masters and PhD from Duke University.


No water, no life, no blue, no green.

Sylvia biosphere

She was the Curator of Phycology, the study of algae, the primary photosynthetic organisms in freshwater and marine food chains, at the California Academy of Sciences (1979–1986) and a research associate at the University of California, Berkeley (1969–1981), Radcliffe Institute Scholar (1967–1969) and research fellow at Harvard University (1967–1981).


I have lots of heroes: anyone and everyone who does whatever they can to leave the natural world better than they found it.

Sylvia deepness

After receiving her Ph.D. in 1966, Dr. Earle spent a year as a research fellow at Harvard, then returned to Florida as the resident director of the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory.


The Exxon Valdez spill triggered a swift and strong reponse that changed policies about shipping, about double-hulled construction. A number of laws came into place.

Sylvia Graham

Sylvia Earle was selected to lead the first all-female team of aquanauts in Tektite II.


Health to the ocean means health for us.


In 1979, Dr. Earle made an open-ocean JIM suit dive to the sea floor near Oahu, setting a women’s depth record of 381 metres (1,250 ft).


I am not in any hurry to grow up.

Sylvia hat

In 1979 Dr. Earle also began her tenure as the Curator of Phycology at the California Academy of Sciences, where she served until 1986.


If somebody dumps something noxious in my back yard, the dumper is the last one I would call on to repair the damage.

Sylvia headshot

From 1980 to 1984 Dr. Earle served on the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere.


I actually love diving at night; you see a lot of fish then that you don’t see in the daytime.

Dr. Sylvia Earle next to the Deep Rover sub.

In 1982 Dr. Earle and her husband, Graham Hawkes, an engineer and submersible designer, founded Deep Ocean Engineering to design, operate, support and consult on piloted and robotic subsea systems.

Dr. Sylvia Earle in Deep Worker

Humans are the only creatures with the ability to dive deep in the sea, fly high in the sky, send instant messages around the globe, reflect on the past, assess the present and imagine the future.

Sylvia microphone

In 1985, the Deep Ocean Engineering team designed and built the Deep Rover research submarine, which operates down to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).


The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask question and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity. ‘Who, what, where, why, when, and how!’ They never stop asking questions just like a five year old.

sylvia microscope

By 1986, Deep Rover had been tested, and Dr. Earle joined the team conducting training off Lee Stocking Island in the Bahamas.


Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you’re lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you’re in a healthy ocean. You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks.

sylvia scuba

Sylvia Earle left the Deep Ocean Engineering team in 1990 to accept an appointment as a chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration where she stayed until 1992.


Just as we have the power to harm the ocean, we have the power to put in place policies and modify our own behavior in ways that would be an insurance policy for the future of the sea, for the creatures there, and for us, protecting special critical areas in the ocean.

Sylvia windblown

She was the first woman to be chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NGS Picture ID:1041205

Why is it that scuba divers and surfers are some of the strongest advocates of ocean conservation? Because they’ve spent time in and around the ocean, and they’ve personally seen the beauty, the fragility, and even the degradation of our planet’s blue heart.

Sylvia_Earle galley

In 1992 Dr. Earle founded Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER Marine) to further advance marine engineering. The company, now run by her daughter, Elizabeth, designs, builds and operates equipment for deep-ocean environments.


We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.


Since 1998 Sylvia Earle has been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, sometimes called “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General”.


I love music of all kinds, but there’s no greater music than the sound of my grandchildren laughing; my kids, too.


From 1998 to 2002 Dr. Earle led the Sustainable Seas Expeditions, a five-year program to study the United States National Marine Sanctuary sponsored by the National Geographic Society and funded by the Goldman Foundation.


Hold up a mirror and ask yourself what you are capable of doing, and what you really care about. Then take the initiative – don’t wait for someone else to ask you to act.


Dr. Earle was a leader of the Sustainable Seas Expeditions, council chair for the Harte Research Institute for the Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and chair of the Advisory Council for the Ocean in Google Earth.


Look at the bark of a redwood, and you see moss. If you peer beneath the bits and pieces of the moss, you’ll see toads, small insects, a whole host of life that prospers in that miniature environment. A lumberman will look at a forest and see so many board feet of lumber. I see a living city.


Sylvia Earle also provided the Deep Worker 2000 submersible used to quantify the species of fish as well as the space resources utilized within the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.


There’s something missing about how we’re informing the youngsters coming along about what matters in the world. We teach them the numbers and the letters, but we fail to communicate the importance of our connection to the living world.


Dr. Earle has written children’s books, including Coral Reefs, Hello Fish, Sea Critters and Dive!


Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.


Sylvia Earle has founded three companies, among them DOER Marine (Deep Ocean Exploration and Research) in Alameda, California.


When I arrived on the planet, there were only two billion. Wildlife was more abundant, we were less so; now the situation is reversed.


In 2009, Dr. Earle won a TED (Technology Entertainment Design) prize and with that support she launched Mission Blue, which aims to establish marine protected areas (dubbed “hope spots”) around the globe.


Ten percent of the big fish still remain. There are still some blue whales. Those wanting to see the California gray whale can go and see them with their own eyes on a whale watching california trip. There are still some krill in Antarctica. There are a few oysters in Chesapeake Bay. Half the coral reefs are still in pretty good shape, a jeweled belt around the middle of the planet. There’s still time, but not a lot, to turn things around. If we can turn things around, the entire Ocean eco-system will stand in better stead. From the fantastic marine creatures that delve in and around the coral reefs I just mentioned, to the ginormous La Jolla’s grey whales that roam the open seas around California, it would be a huge shame for people not to experience these beautiful creations with their own eyes. The Ocean is, in my opinion, Earth’s greatest masterpiece. With around 70% still yet to be explored, who knows what’s out there…

An expert on the impact of oil spills, Dr. Earle was called upon to lead several research trips during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 to determine environmental damage caused by Iraq’s destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells.

The warming trend that is CO2-related will overshadow all the oil spills that have ever occurred put together.
Dr. Earle was also called to consult during the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 as well as following the oil spills from the Exxon Valdez and Mega Borg.
a fish
I’m not against extracting a modest amount of wildlife out of the ocean for human consumption, but I am really concerned about the large-scale industrial fishing that engages in destructive practices like trawling and longlining.
Modell der DeepRover DR1002

In 1986, Dr. Earle tied the world solo dive depth record in a sub (and setting the record for a woman), going 1000m in Deep Ocean Engineering’s Deep Rover, tying the record set by her then husband Graham Hawkes.


Bottom trawling is a ghastly process that brings untold damage to sea beds that support ocean life. It’s akin to using a bulldozer to catch a butterfly, destroying a whole ecosystem for the sake of a few pounds of protein. We wouldn’t do this on land, so why do it in the oceans?

Sylvia Earle

Dr. Earle is a Knight in the Netherlands’ Order of the Golden Ark, and in 2000, she was honored as a new member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

a parrot

People still do not understand that a live fish is more valuable than a dead one, and that destructive fishing techniques are taking a wrecking ball to biodiversity.


Sylvia Earle founded Deep Search (also known as the Sylvia Earle Alliance, Deep Search Foundation, and Mission Blue), a non-profit foundation for protecting and exploring the Earth’s oceans.


For humans, the Arctic is a harshly inhospitable place, but the conditions there are precisely what polar bears require to survive – and thrive. ‘Harsh’ to us is ‘home’ for them. Take away the ice and snow, increase the temperature by even a little, and the realm that makes their lives possible literally melts away.

a sponge

I find the lure of the unknown irresistible.

a school

When I first ventured into the Gulf of Mexico in the 1950s, the sea appeared to be a blue infinity too large, too wild to be harmed by anything that people could do.


Far and away, the greatest threat to the ocean, and thus to ourselves, is ignorance. But we can do something about that.


If you think the ocean isn’t important, imagine Earth without it. Mars comes to mind. No ocean, no life support system.


Forty percent of the United States drains into the Mississippi. Its agriculture. Its golf courses. Its domestic runoff from our lawns and roads. Ultimately, where does it go? Downstream into the gulf.


The end of commercial fishing is predicted long before the middle of the 21st century.

See you next week?


Sam Andrew


The Jews

The Jews


blues hebrew


A tough people whose soul has been forged in some very trying times.


S’iz shver tsu zayn a Yid        It’s tough to be a Jew.           Yiddish  saying      Liev Schreiber


Schwer zu sein ein yid.      Ben Brafman

issur danielovich

Shvertz azayan Yid.           Issur Danielovich

Sam outsider

I should admit right away that I am an outsider, an agnostic, a nonbeliever (apikoros, apikoyres) who was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family. I try to be as good a person as I can and to treat everyone the way I would want them to treat me. This Golden Rule is, of course, the basis of many religions, creeds and beliefs.

hebrew early

One of the things I always liked about Judaism (  יהודה, יהדו Yehudah, Judah in Hebrew, Greek Ἰουδαϊσμός) is that it is a nonproselytizing religion, like Buddhism.

hebrews rock carving

Conversion has been discouraged since the time of the Talmud, but today most forms of Judaism will accept sincere converts. It’s just that they don’t seek converts.

Israel first mention

The first recorded mention of the Jews is in the Mernepteh stele.

Merneptah_Israel_Stele_Cairo 16-50-55

The story begins with Abraham (אַבְרָהָם) Avraham Avinu (אברהם אבינו), “our father Abraham.” He is seen as both the biological progenitor of the Jews (including converts, according to Jewish tradition), and the father of Judaism. Abraham is the first Jew.

Abram Abraham sarai sarah

According to the Tanakh, God promised Abraham to make of his offspring a great nation.


The Tanakh ( תַּנַ”ך‎) or Miqra is the canon of the Hebrew bible.

abe map

The Torah tells us that Jews are descended from the ancient people of Israel who settled in the land of Canaan between the eastern coast of the Mediterranean and the Jordan river.


The children of Israel are described as descendants of common ancestors, including Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob.

irael and judah

The nomadic travels of the Hebrews centered around Hebron in the first centuries of the second millennium BCE, apparently leading to the establishment of the Cave of the Patriarchs as their burial site in Hebron.


The Children of Israel consisted of twelve tribes, each descended from one of Jacob’s twelve sons, Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissacher, Zevulun, Dan, Gad, Naftali, Asher, Yosef and Benyamin.

Egyptian statue of a Semitic slave

Religious texts tell the story of Jacob and his twelve sons, who left Canaan during a severe famine and settled in Goshen (אֶרֶץ גֹּשֶׁן‎ or ארץ גושן Eretz Gošen), northern Egypt.


The descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob were said to be enslaved by Pharaoh, although there is no independent evidence of this.


After they had been enslaved 400 years, YHWH sent Moses of the tribe of Levi to release the Israelites from bondage.

Israel routes

Then the Hebrews miraculously emigrated from Egypt (an event known as the Exodus), and returned to their ancestral homeland in Canaan. This event marks the formation of Israel as a political nation in Canaan, in 1400 BCE.

dish hebrew

The science of archaeology tells a different story of the origins of the Jewish people. They did not necessarily leave the Levant.


By the way, the Levant, also known as the eastern Mediterranean consists of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and a bit of southern Turkey. The first recorded name for this region was Canaan.

abraham sarah open portrait

Levant means rising or lifting and it refers to the rising sun, so it originally meant the east in general. French levant, from Latin levare.


Similar etymologies are found in Greek Ἀνατολή (Anatolia), in German Morgenland (morning land),  and in Hebrew (mizrah).  Oriens meaning “east”, is literally “rising”, from Latin orior “rise”.

abe stars

The archaeological evidence of the largely indigenous origins of Israel in Canaan, not Egypt, is quite convincing and there is no evidence of an Exodus from Egypt or a forty year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness.


Many archaeologists view the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as a bootless quest.


A century of research by archaeologists has found no evidence that can be directly related to the Exodus narrative of an Egyptian captivity, escape and travels through a wilderness. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, but just that there is no evidence for it.


The culture of the earliest Israelite settlements is Canaanite, their cult-objects are those of the Canaanite god El, the pottery remains in the local Canaanite tradition, and the alphabet is early Canaanite.


Almost the sole marker distinguishing the “Israelite” villages from Canaanite sites is an absence of pig bones at Israelite villages.


According to the sacred writings, after their emancipation from Egyptian slavery, the people of Israel wandered around and lived in the Sinai desert for a span of forty years before conquering Canaan in 1400 BCE under the command of Joshua.


For several hundred years, the land in Israel was organized into a confederacy of twelve tribes ruled by a series of Judges.

Hannah mother of Samuel

After the last judge, Samuel, the writings say, came the kings of Israel.

Bathsheba Artemisia_Gentileschi

In 1000 BCE, the monarchy was established under Saul, and continued under King David and then his son, Solomon.

Abigail and David

During the reign of David, Jerusalem became the national and spiritual capital of Israel.

temple mount jerusalem

Solomon built the First Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, but the tribes were already fracturing politically.


At Solomon’s death, a civil war erupted between the ten northern Israelite tribes, and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south.

Israel divided-kingdoms

The nation split into Israel in the north, and Judah in the south.


Israel was conquered by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III in the 8th century BCE. There is no commonly accepted historical record of the fate of the ten northern tribes, sometimes referred to as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, although speculation abounds.


Judah was conquered by the Babylonian army in 587 BCE and the First Temple was destroyed. The elite of the kingdom and many of their people were exiled to Babylon, where the religion developed outside their traditional temple.


After the fall of Jerusalem, Babylonia (modern day Iraq) would become the focus of Judaism for more than a thousand years. The first Jewish communities in Babylonia started with the exile of the tribe of Judah to Babylon by Jehoiachin in 597 BCE.


Babylonia became the center of Jewish life all the way up to the 13th century. It was there that the Babylonian Talmud was written in the languages used by the Jews of ancient Babylonia – Hebrew and Aramaic.


Many Jews returned to Jerusalem and with Persian approval and financing completed the Second Temple in 516 BCE.


The balance of power was shifting in the eastern Mediterranean to classical civilizations, and away from the Egyptians, Syrians, and Persians. Some Canaanites had already become Phoenicians and had colonized areas of the southern Mediterranean. Also, Greeks were beginning to probe eastwards.


The Pharisees and Saducees were formed at this time. Josephus claimed that Pharisees received the backing and goodwill of the people in contrast to the more elite Sadducees.


Pharisees claimed Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish laws, while Sadducees represented the authority of the priestly privileges established since the days of Solomon.

055 Seleucid Empire & Parthian Kingdom 250 BC Map

In 332 BCE, the Seleucid Kingdom was formed after the death of Alexander the Great and the division of his empire among his generals. This, of course, spread the Greek civilization to the east.


During this time, with the Jewish diaspora in Alexandria, Jewish thought was influenced by Hellenistic philosophy, culminating in the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Bible and some related texts into Koine Greek by seventy (Latin: septuaginta, seventy) scholars.


Antiochus IV, the Seleucid king,  banned certain Jewish rites because of the deterioration of relations between hellenized Jews and orthodox Jews, causing the orthodox Jews to revolt under the leadership of the Hasmonean family (the Maccabees) which led to the formation of the Hasmonean Dynasty.

Pompey the Great. Marble. Beginning of the 1st century A.D. Inv. No. 733. Copenhagen, New Carlsberg Glyptotek.

The people, who did not want to be governed by a king but by theocratic clergy, made appeals to the Roman authorities. Big mistake. A Roman campaign of conquest and annexation, led by Pompey, soon followed.

The_Division_of Herod's_Kingdom

Pompey conquered Judea in 63 BCE, reorganized it as a client state, and appointed Herod the Great as king of the jews, thereby replacing the Hasmonean Dynasty with the Herodian dynasty.


The empire was often callous and brutal in its treatment of its Jewish subjects and the Jews began to revolt against the Roman rulers of Judea. The revolt was defeated by the future Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus.

Titus head too big

In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed much of the Temple in Jerusalem during the siege of Jerusalem.


According to some accounts, the Romans plundered artifacts from the temple, such as the Menorah.


Banished from Jerusalem, the Jewish population now centered on Galilee. Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina and Judea was now called Syria Palestina to spite the Jews by naming it after their ancient enemies, the Philistines.


Many of the Judaean Jews were sold into slavery while others became citizens of other parts of the Roman Empire, but many, many Jews dispersed (διασπορά) throughout the known world. The policy encouraging prosyletism and conversion to Judaism, which spread the Jewish religion throughout the Helenistic civilization, seems to have subsided with the wars against the Romans.

mishnah 13-20-58

Some of the most famous and important Jewish texts were composed in Israel at this time.


The completion of the Mishnah, the system of niqqud (dots representing vowels in Hebrew script), and the compilation of the Jerusalem Talmud are examples of this creative period.


In 359 CE,  Hillel II ( הלל נשיאה, Hillel the Nasi) created the Hebrew calendar based on the lunar year, which was necessary for the proper observance of the Jewish holy days.


The 5th century of our era was a period when a wave of new synagogues were built, many with beautiful mosaic floors.


Jews adopted the rich art forms of the Byzantine culture. Jewish mosaics of the period portray people, animals, menorahs, zodiacs, and Biblical characters.


Sometime in the 7th or 8th century, the Khazars, a Turkic tribe (who dominated the vast area extending from the Volga-Don steppe lands to the eastern Crimea), seem to have converted to Judaism.


The completeness of this conversion is unclear.


There had been a Jewish population in the Crimea since the Hellenistic era, and the conversions may have been reinforced by Jewish migrants entering the region, who had emigrated from areas of Byzantine rule.


In 638 CE the Byzantine Empire lost control of the Levant.


The Arab Islamic empire under Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem and the rest of the Levant, but the Jews still controlled much of the commerce in Palestine. According to the Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi, the Jews worked as “the assayers of coins, the dyers, the tanners and the bankers in the community”. Professor Moshe Gil documents that at the time of the Arab conquest in the 7th century CE, the majority of the population was Jewish.


In 1099, Jews helped the Arabs to defend Jerusalem against the Crusaders. When the city fell, the Crusaders gathered many Jews in a synagogue and set it on fire.


Jews almost singlehandedly defended the town of Haifa against the Crusaders.


Jews were not allowed to hold land during the Crusader period, so they worked at trades and commerce in the coastal towns during times of peace.


Most were artisans: glassblowers in Sidon, furriers and dyers in Jerusalem.


During this period, the Masoretes of Tiberias established the niqqud, a system of diacritical marks used to represent vowels.


The niqqud (dots, dotting) distinguished between alternative pronunciations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which, like most Semitic scripts only used consonants.


The Mamluks ( مملوك mamlūk (singular), مماليك mamālīk (plural), meaning “property” or “owned slave” of the king”) were proud of their origin as slaves and only those who were purchased were eligible to attain the highest positions. Finally, the Mamluks attained the sultanate of Egypt and an empire.


During the years 1260–1516, Israel was part of the Mamluks’ domain. Jews suffered persecution and humiliation under the Mamluks, but at least thirty Jewish urban and rural communities were flourishing by the beginning of the 16th century.


Jews were in Europe, especially in former Roman colonies, from very early times. As Jewish males had emigrated, they sometimes took wives from local populations, as is shown by MtDNA compared to Y-DNA among Jewish populations.  Records of Jewish communities in France and Germany date from the 4th century, and substantial Jewish communities in Spain were noted even earlier.


Norman Cantor and other 20th-century scholars dispute the tradition that the Middle Ages was a uniformly difficult time for Jews.


Medieval society was tolerant before the Catholic Church became powerful, stratified and rule bound.


Between 800 and 1100, about 1.5 million Jews lived in Europe. They were not Christians, and thus they were not included as a part of the feudal system of clergy, knights and serfs, so they did not have to satisfy the oppressive demands for labor and military conscription that Christians suffered.

bosch trepan

In relations with the Christian society, the Jews were protected by kings, princes and bishops, because of crucial services they provided in three areas: financial, administrative and medical.


Christian scholars interested in the Bible consulted with Talmudic rabbis.


By 1300, however, the friars and local priests staged the Passion Plays during Holy Week, which depicted Jews (in contemporary dress) killing Christ. From this period, there was frequent persecution of Jews and  the deportations began.


Around 1500, Jews found relative security and a renewal of prosperity in present-day Poland.


As Catholics were forbidden by the church to loan money for interest, some Jews became prominent moneylenders.


Christian rulers gradually saw the advantage of having such a class of people who could supply capital for their use without being liable to excommunication. As a result, the money trade of western Europe became a specialty of the Jews. But, in almost every instance when Jews acquired large amounts through banking transactions, during their lives or upon their deaths, the king would take it over.


Jews became servi cameræ, the property of the King, who might present them and their possessions to princes or cities.


The Crusades were followed by massive expulsions, including (in 1290) the banishing of all English Jews; in 1396 100,000 Jews were expelled from France; and in 1421, thousands were expelled from Austria.


In 1492, after los reyes católicos, Ferdinand and Isabelle, had reconquered al-Andalus, as Moorish Spain was known, the worst of the expulsions of the Jews occurred.


Benjamin Netanyahu is, of course, the present prime minister of Israel. His father wrote this book.


With the ejection of the last Muslim rulers from Granada, the Spanish Inquisition (Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición) followed and around 200,000 Sephardic Jews were expelled.


This was followed by expulsions in 1493 in Sicily (37,000 Jews) and Portugal in 1496. The expelled Spanish Jews fled mainly to the Ottoman Empire, Holland, and North Africa, others migrating to Southern Europe and the Middle East.


Jews in Spain were generally better treated by Islamic rulers than Christian ones.


Despite second-class citizenship, Jews played prominent roles in Muslim courts, and experienced a Golden Age in Moorish Spain about 900–1100, though the situation deteriorated after that time.

via del ghetto

Riots resulting in the deaths of Jews did however occur in North Africa through the centuries and especially in Morocco, Libya and Algeria, where eventually Jews were forced to live in ghettos.


During the 11th century, Muslims in Spain conducted pogroms against the Jews, occurring in Córdoba in 1011 and in Granada in 1066.


During the Middle Ages, the governments of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen enacted decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues. At certain times, Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in some parts of Yemen, Morocco and Baghdad.


The Almohads had taken control of much of Islamic Iberia by 1172.


They surpassed the Almoravides in fundamentalist outlook, and treated the dhimmis harshly. Dhimmis are non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state, be they Jewish or Christian.


The Almohads expelled both Jews and Christians from Morocco and Islamic Spain. Faced with the choice of death or conversion, many Jews emigrated. Some, such as the family of Maimonides, fled south and east to the more tolerant Muslim lands, while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms.


In the 2nd century CE, Spanish Jews gave the name Sepharad (סְפָרַד, Modern Sfarád Tiberian Səp̄āráḏ) to the Iberian peninsula.


Their descendants refer to themselves as Sephardi Jews (Hebrew, plural: Sephardim) and identify Spain as Sepharad in modern Hebrew.     Hank Azaria

David Levy

In Greek the Sephardi are called Σεφαρδίτες.     David Levy


In the narrower ethnic definition, a Sephardi Jew is a Jew descended from the Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century, immediately prior to the issuance of the Alhambra Decree of 1492 by order of los reyes católicos in Spain, and the decree of 1496 in Portugal by order of King Manuel I.           Camille Pissaro


In Hebrew,the term Sephardim Tehorim (ספרדים טהורים, Pure Sephardim) is used to distinguish Sephardim proper “who trace their lineage back to the Iberian/Spanish population” from Sephardim in the broader religious sense.   Émanuelle Béart


The broad religious definition of a Sephardi refers to any Jew, of any ethnic background, who follows the customs and traditions of Sepharad.     Peter Sellers


In modern Israel, Sephardim is most often used to encompass most non-Ashkenazi Jews who are not ethnically Sephardi, but are in most instances of West Asian origin, but who  use a Sephardic style of liturgy.   Rita Levi Montalcini


Ethiopian Jews, whose branch of practiced Judaism is known as Haymanot, have recently come under the already broad  umbrella of Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi.        Amedeo Modigliani


Their traditional language is referred to as Judezmo (Jewish, Judaism), it is the Judeo-Spanish sometimes also known as Ladino.


If you understand Spanish, you can probably understand the Sephardic Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino, Judezmo), just as if you understand German, you can probably understand Yiddish.  The headline above says:  Now we have completed the third year of ‘El Amaneser’ (The Dawn).


Judeo-Spanish  (Ladino, Judezmo)

El djudeo-espanyol, djudio, djudezmo es la lingua favlada por los djudios sefardim ekspulsados de la Espanya en el 1492. Es una lingua derivada del espanyol i favlada por 150.000 personas en komunitas en Israel, la Turkia, antika Yugoslavia, la Gresia, el Maruekos, Mayorka, las Amerikas, entre munchos otros.

JR 07-36-37


El judeo-español, djudio, djudezmo o ladino es la lengua hablada por los judíos sefardíes expulsados de España en 1492. Es una lengua derivada del español y hablada por 150.000 personas en comunidades en Israel, Turquía, la antigua Yugoslavia, Grecia, Marruecos, Mallorca, las Américas, entre muchos otros.


Judeo-español is usually written in the Hebrew alphabet and can look like this.


Yiddish (German: Jüdische Jewish) is a dialect of old German that is written in the Hebrew alphabet, so there are many, many variant spellings when the language is transcribed into the Roman alphabet that we use. Also there are variations from country to country and even from family to family, so I guarantee that there are going to be many people who read below and say, “Oh, that’s not how that’s spelled,” or “We say that differently,” or, “That’s not what that means.”  Please, read with some indulgence.

Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and Rennie Davis – three of the men held in Chicago, US, after 1968 anti-

A shande fur die goy.    A shame in front of the goyim.  This is what Abbie Hoffman said to Judge Julius Hoffman in the trial of the Chicago Seven.


A shlekhter sholem iz beser vi a guter krig.       A bad peace is better than a good war.


Abi gezunt    ! אַבי געזונט   As long as you’re healthy.  (sometimes said ironically)   Mel Brooks said this to Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles.  The goyim thought he was speaking Apache, but, no, it was Yiddish.

brooks blazing

The Vanishing American Yiddish Speaker.     Abi gezunt!      


My friend George Michalski claims to be the world’s youngest Yiddish speaker. I mentioned this to someone and she said, “There are thirteen, fourteen year old girls who lie on the sand in Miami Beach speaking fluent Yiddish to each other.”

Sam Andrew, Picasso

Alter Cocker:   An old, complaining person, an old fart, an alter kocker.

a maidel

A maidel mit a klaidel.      A girl with a dress.   Cutie-pie got a new dress!   kleyd   קלייד    dress


German Kleidung clothing


Bei mir bist du shayn.      To me you are beautiful.       German schön


Berye, berryer   בריה    a skillful person, especially one who keeps house well


Bisl, bissel, a bissel, a bisele   ביסל    a bit of something, a little bit    German ein bißchen


Boytshik, boychik   בויטשיק    young boy (American Jewish)


Brokhe, broche   ברכה    a prayer


Bube, bubeleh    בובי     bubby, a term for someone you like   (American Jewish)


Such a sheine punim, kenahora.   Such a pretty face, keep evil away from her.  Kenahora is difficult to translate.

Sarah and Dava

People, even some Jews, think kenahora is a jinx. It’s actually the opposite of a jinx. It’s the warding off of a jinx. It’s saying “No evil eye.”


This phrase has so many spellings and so many meanings. In the Bronx they say No canary. Sometimes it’s spelled kinahorra.


The phrase can be pronounced either “Bli Ayin Hara” in Hebrew, or “Kein Ayin Hora” in Yiddish. Both expressions translate as, “without the evil eye” or “there should be no evil eye.” When it’s said quickly is can sometimes sound like “Kina Hora.”


When people talk about their or others’ gains, assets or blessings, they often say “kein ayin hora” to ward off any envy, any negative thoughts, any evil that may be lurking anywhere, anyhow in the universe.  There’s a similar phrase in English, but I can’t think of it right now. Maybe Knock on wood?


“Bless her heart” comes close but it often has the opposite effect.  In the South, if you hear someone say, “Now, Jenny, bless her heart…” you know that what follows is not going to be so good. The speaker is pardoning Jenny, but really cursing her at the same time. This sentence completed could be something like, “Now, Jenny, bless her heart, is not one of the deepest puddles in the parking lot.”  There is something of a Kein ayin hora feeling here, but not really, know what I mean?


The classical word for this warding off of evil is apotropaic. Apotropaic magic is intended to “turn away” harm or evil influences, as in deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye. The Greeks made offerings to the Averting Gods, (Ἀποτρόπαιοι θεοί), chthonic deities who grant safety and deflect evil.


The Yiddish expression, Kain ein horeh (קיין עין הרע) is apotropaic in nature, and literally translates to no evil eye.


Eyn-ore    עין־הרע   Evil Eye, a power that can cause injury


Keyn eyn-hore zol im nit oysmaydn!    קיין עין–הרע זאָל אים ניט אויסמײַדן!     Let no evil eye avoid him!


Farbissener     bitter

fercockt_docu-283x195 23-37-26


Farkakt, fercockt   פֿאַרקאַקט    lousy, screwed up, washed up, shitty, crappy, full of shit, fucked

farklempt 09-27-56

Farklemt, verklempt   פֿאַרקלעמט     choked up, extremely emotional, distraught, depressed, on the verge of tears


Gam-atem.    גם־אַתּם   Same to you. Likewise.


Garmoshke    גאַרמאָשקע     harmonica                   Larry Adler

jean lafitte

Gazlen    גזלן     robber, thief             Jean Lafitte, the pirate, was a Sephardic Jew.

couple more interesting

Geboyrner reder     געבוירנער רעדער      a born (Yiddish) speaker


Gelt     געלט    money             David Ricardo, the economist, was a Sephardic Jew.


Grepse  Blech   a burp, a belch


Hak mir nisht keyn tshaynik!  האַק מיר נישט קיין טשײַניק    Stop talking nonsense!


Haymish     informal, friendly    A haimisher mensch is someone you feel comfortable with.    German heimisch


Hor     האָר    hair                          German  Haar            Vidal Sassoon was a Sephardic Jew.

rachel weisz

Ikh vais.       I know.    Ich weiss. (German)

Lauren and Lynn

Kalifornye   קאַליפֿאָרניע    California

einstein epstein

Kop  קאָפּ     head              German Kopf


Krasavitse   קראַסאַוויצע    beautiful woman, une belle

BBHC winterland 68

Lakhn biz trern    לאַכן ביז טרערן   laugh till you cry

1966 Duboce

Lakhn mit yashtsherkes   לאַכן מיט יאַשטשערקעס      laughing through tears


Langer loksh     לאַנגער לאָקש    tall, thin person

couple 23-10-41

Libe    ליבע     love, love affair, romance            German Liebe


Makhn a fayg.   מאַכן אַ פֿײַ    derision, meaning that nothing will come out of one’s efforts  Italians call this il manofico, the hand fig, and in Dante the devil makes this gesture to god, meaning Fuck you.

mama loshen

Mame-loshn, mama loshen   מאַמע־לשון    mother tongue


Maven, meyven   מבֿין    an expert, a connoisseur, or, in this case, a connoisseuse      Barbara Tuchman


Meshuge, meshugge   משוגע    crazy


Nakhes   נחת    pleasure, especially the pleasure that a parent gets from a child

Marcia and Julie

Oysergeveyn(t)lekh   אויסערגעוויינ(ט)לעך   outstanding, extraordinary, exceptional


Onshtendik   אָנשטענדיק    decent, honorable


Pirog   פּיראָג    meat pie, vagina (vulgar, obviously)


PLOTZ, Plats:   פּלאַץ     To burst, to explode, to crack, split,   I can’t laugh anymore or I’ll plotz.


PUTZ: A vulgarism for penis but most usually used as term of contempt for a fool, or an easy mark.


Red tsu mir yidish.    רעד צו מיר ייִדיש   Speak Yiddish with me.   Simon Schama


Sara groyse oygn!       What! Wow! (admiration, surprise)  big eyes  Sarah Silverman is a Sephardic Jew, but she probably knows her share of Yiddish.


Sheyn   שיין    beautiful, pretty, lovely, nice     Susan Zelinsky

Elise 2004 window

Shayneh kepeleh          pretty head     good looking      good thoughts


Sheferish    שעפֿעריש or שאפֿעריש    creative  or  Shaferish    German  schöpferisch   Benjamin Disraeli was a Sephardic Jew.


Shmek    שמעק     sniff, whiff    When Albert Grossman told us that he didn’t want any heroin use in the band, this is the word he used.  We all knew what he meant immediately.           German schmecken taste

The Conservative Political Action Conference

Shmok, Schmuck   שמאָק    jerk, fool, idiot, contemptible person, naïve person, penis, dick, asshole


Shmuel    שמואל     Samuel


Shtayer-moner         tax collector



Shtrayml, shtreimel    שטרײַמל     a fur edged hat worn by rabbis and Hasidic Jews on the Sabbath and holidays


Tants   טאַנץ    dance


TSIMMES, Tzimmes: A side dish with many ingredients and complicated cooking instructions, a prolonged procedure, an involved and troubling business, as in the phrase, “don’t make a tsimmes out of it.”


Tsuris, TSORISS: Suffering, woes, blues


Umfarshemt   אומפֿאַרשעמט      shameless, impudent     The Spanish for this is Sin vergüenza.


Untergebn kheyshek   אונטערגעבן חשק    encourage


Vebadres  וועבאַדרעס  web adress, URL

playing the Paul 1 Dec 2012

Vegetariar    וועגעטאַריער     vegetarian


Velt    וועלט     world                  German  Weld              the planet Mercury

Ven meshiakh vet kumen

Ven meshiakh vet kumen.       When the Messiah will come.


Vild    ווילד   wild, savage, absurd        a vilda chaya   a wild child


VUS MACHS DA: What’s happening? What’s up?         German  Was machst du da?  What are you doing there?


Yeshive  ישיבֿה  A Jewish school of high talmudic learning


Yitskhok, Itzak   יצחק    Isaac


Zlote    זלאָטעס   Zloty (Polish currency)


Zshlob, shlub  זשלאָב  boor, ill mannered, peasant, clumsy person


See you next week?     Vayln zikh    ווײַלן זיך   Have a good time.

Mari Mack Sam  23 May 2014

Mari Mack     Sam Andrew

See you next week


Middle English, the language of Chaucer


Middle English, the language that Chaucer used, was spoken in the three centuries between 1175 and 1475. It is really quite a beautiful version of English.


We understand the language of Shakespeare when we hear it from the stage and especially when we read it. It’s our language. It is early modern English. When we hear or read “They told me that to make her fall in love I had to make her laugh, but when she laughs, I’m the one who falls in love,” we nod in recognition and don’t even think about the language.



Geoffrey Chaucer only lived two centuries before William Shakespeare and yet to understand Chaucer most of us would need an interpreter. If we heard someone say, “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote the droughte of March hath perced to the roote, thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,” with the pronunciation of that time, where the vowels are pronounced as in Italian or Spanish, Rs were trilled or flapped, and words like droughte are pronounced as in German, it might take us a while to realize that we were being told that When April with its sweet showers has pierced the drought of March to the root, then folks long to go on  pilgrimages.


How did the language change so radically in a mere two centuries?  After all, we read English written in the 18th century as easily as we read this morning’s newspaper.

Shakespeare signboard. late 1600s to early 1700s.

Shakespeare lived four centuries ago and we understand him.

Portrait of a Young Woman by Rogier van der Weyden

What happened was that there was a major change in the pronunciation of the English language between 1400 and 1700. Linguists call it The Great Vowel Shift.


The main feature of the Great Vowel Shift was that a, e, i, o and u  changed from being pronounced as they are in Italian or Spanish to being pronounced as they are today.


In the 14th century, ‘time’ was pronounced team(a).  ’House’ was pronounced hoos(a).  The word ‘feet’ was pronounced to rhyme with fate. ‘Fool’ was pronounced the way we say foal today. The vowels at that time were pronounced more or less as Lucrezia Borgia would have pronounced them.


The word ‘take’ rhymed with how we say clock a tock a.  That final ‘e’ that is silent now, was often pronounced in Middle English.


For a long time people thought that Chaucer, while an interesting storyteller, was imperfect and unschooled because his poetry wouldn’t scan. They thought this because they didn’t realize that the final, unaccented e was pronounced in Chaucer’s time. It sounded like an unstressed -a.

a wom

Readers of The Canterbury Tales thought that Chaucer’s rhymes were rude and crude because they just didn’t ‘read’ right.


Even in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, there were perceptive readers who understood that maybe we were not reading The Canterbury Tales the same way that someone in the fourteenth century might have.


When you read aloud the line Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote and pronounce the final -e after shoures and soote, all of a sudden the line scans. It becomes a five beat line, a decasyllable.


Linguists call this unaccented final -e or final -a sound a schwa.  It might surprise you to realize that the schwa is the most common vowel sound in English. In the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) the schwa is written as an inverted e.

e schwa

Uh, I’m going to go get a pizza.  There are three schwas in this sentence. Uha,  and the final a at the end of pizza.


The schwa is the only phoneme with its own name.


a schwa

beavis schwa

Thus, in linguistics, a schwa is an unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in any language, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel (rounded or unrounded). Such vowels are often transcribed with the symbol ?, regardless of their actual phonetic value. An example in English is the a in about. An example in Italian is the a in festa.

women italian breviary

Not all final -e‘s in Middle English were pronounced.


Look at the words not and note. The -e is not necessarily pronounced here, even in Middle English. It only shows that the -o is lengthened.  This is called a scribal e.


In Middle English the word knight was pronounced so that you could hear the k and the n, very much as Knecht (servant, farmhand) is pronounced in German today.


Actually, knight and Knecht were once the same word.


In Middle English Knight was pronounced something like  Kaneecht where the ch is pronounced as in Scotland, or like the ch in German nicht.


Similarly, gnaw was pronounced gun awe.   You hear the g and the n, as in German Gnade (favor, grace, mercy). Or as in Saginaw.

Anonymous, Flemish School, Portrait of a Woman (c.1480)

There were several archaic graphemes in written Middle English that had survived from Old English.

Æ æ

This character, called ash (æsc) , represents the ‘short a’ sound as in cat and still survives in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Ð ð

Eth.  In Anglo-Saxon (Old English) there was a way to write the sound of the th in that (ðæt ) and also a different way to write the th in thorn þorn (Þ, þ).  They are two completely different sounds, and one of the many difficult aspects for new  English learners is to master these completely separate ideas that we take for granted.

Ð ð

This is eth, where the th is pronounced as in the.

Þ þ

The Þ is called thorn, where the th is pronounced as in think. These graphemes are very useful for explaining the difference between then and thin to someone whose language doesn’t have these sounds. A French person, for example.


I’m sorry that we don’t still employ these useful characters, but they are easily confused with d and p, so perhaps it is best that they are not in our alphabet today.


In early modern English, the word the was often written in abbreviated form  EME ye.svg – (ye).  This is why you see Ye Olde Publicke House, for example. That Ye was never pronounced yee, but was always pronounced the despite all of the jocular and mistaken y pronunciations that we hear today.

? ?

The letter yogh (? ?; Middle English: yo?) was used in Middle English.  It was derived from the Old English form of the letter g. This is the grapheme that was used to write the sound of that gh in the word knight that sounds like the ch in German nicht. The word night was written ni?t in Middle English. The droughte in the droughte of March is written with a ?.

? ?

This grapheme is called wynn  (also spelled wen, ?ynn, or ?en) and  it was used in Middle English to represent the sound /w/ as in west.


The International Phonetic Alphabet


In the late period of Middle English (late 1300s), the wealthy and the government began to switch from Norman French to English again, although Norman remained the dominant language of literature and law until the 14th century, even after the loss of the majority of the continental possessions of the English monarchy.


The new English language that now emerged did not sound the same as the old, and began to sound more like the language we see in our daily lives. If you are struggling to learn this English Language that has been formed over centuries, you might want to check out something like Effortless English, as they might be able to help you learn the language quickly and easily.


There were changes in vocabulary, and the complex system of inflected endings in Old English was gradually lost or simplified in the dialects of spoken Middle English.


These changes were gradually reflected in the increasingly diverse written forms of Middle English.


The loss of case endings was part of a general trend from inflections to fixed word order that also occurred in other Germanic languages and also a bit earlier, perhaps,  in the Romance languages.


English had, after all, been the language of the vast majority of the English people throughout the middle ages. Only a small group of the nobility spoke Norman French. Changes in Middle English came from the people, not from the aristocracy.  From how people actually spoke, rather than from books or professors.


Norse immigrants to England also had a great impact on the loss of inflectional endings in Middle English, because, although Norse- and English-speakers could understand each other, the Norse-speakers’ inability to reproduce the ending sounds of English words influenced Middle English’s loss of inflectional endings.


The Late Middle English period was a time of upheaval in England. After the deposition of Richard II in 1399, the House of Plantagenet split into the Houses of Lancaster and York, whose antagonism culminated in the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487).


Henry VII Sign

There was unity in England only with the coming of the Tudors to the throne under Henry VII, the victor in the battle of Bosworth Field,  the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle.


During this period of social change, with new rulers coming into positions of power, some of them from other parts of the country or from lower levels in society, many linguistic changes occurred.


In 1473, William Caxton printed the first book in English, Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye.


The English language was changing rapidly in Caxton’s time (15th century) and the works he was given to print were in a variety of styles and dialects. Caxton was a technician rather than a writer and he often faced dilemmas concerning language standardization in the books he printed.


Caxton is credited with standardizing the English language (that is, homogenizing regional dialects) through printing.


This standardization facilitated the expansion of English vocabulary, the regularization of inflection and syntax, and widened the  gap between the spoken and the written word.


Later, Richard Pynson, who started printing in London in 1491 or 1492, and who favored the Chancery Standard, was a more accomplished stylist and consequently pushed the English language further toward uniformity.


Chancery Standard was largely based on the London and East Midland dialects, since those areas were both political and demographic centers of English society.


However, Chancery Standard used other dialect forms where they made meanings clearer. The northern “they”, “their” and “them” (derived from Scandinavian forms) were used rather than the London “hi/they”, “hir” and “hem.” This was perhaps because the London forms could be confused with words such as he, her, and him. (However, the colloquial form written as “‘em”, as in “up and at ‘em”, may well represent a spoken survival of “hem” rather than a shortening of the Norse-derived “them”.)


The clerks who used Chancery Standard would, of course, have been familiar with French and Latin, which must have influenced the forms they chose.

French Medieval Fashion

Chancery Standard was not the only influence on later forms of English. Its level of influence is disputed and a variety of spoken dialects continued to exist.

cecily neville, duchess of york

Chancery Standard did, however, provide a core around which Early Modern English could form.


By the mid-15th century, Chancery Standard was used for most official purposes except by the Church, which still used Latin, and for some legal purposes, for which Law French and some Latin were used.


Chancery Standard was disseminated around England by bureaucrats on official business and slowly gained prestige.


With a standardized, printed English Bible and Prayer Book being read to church congregations from the 1540s onward, a wider public became familiar with a uniform language, and the era of Modern English began.

Elizabeth of York wife of Henry VII

See you next week?


Ben Nieves              Sam Andrew         Bosnia 2011


The Polish Language


The native name for Polish is polski (Polish), język polski (the Polish language), or more formally, polszczyzna (Polish).

vintage newspaper

Napisz do mnie.


Literary Polish is based on the dialects of Gniezno, Cracow and Warsaw, though there is some dispute about this.

polish language map

Lubię podróżować.

Polish Poster

Polish first appeared in writing in 1136 in the “Gniezno papal bull” (Bulla gnieźnieńska), which included 410 Polish names.


Zaczekaj chwilkę…

what's up doc

The first written Polish sentence was day ut ia pobrusa a ti poziwai (I’ll grind [the corn] in the quern and you’ll rest), which appeared in Ksiega henrykowska in 1270.


In Modern Polish spelling that sentence is daj ać ja pobruszę, a ty poczywaj.


Daj mi więcej szczegółów.


Polish is a Western Slavonic language with about 50 million speakers mainly in Poland.




There are also significant Polish communities in Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, and significant numbers of Polish speakers in many other countries, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania, the UK and USA.

polish dictionary



Polish is closely related to Kashubian, Lower Sorbian, Upper Sorbian, Czech and Slovak.


zlakobieta bad woman

This poster is supposed to say Bad Teacher, but it doesn’t.


The Polish alphabet derives from Roman letters (the alphabet we use), but includes certain additional letters formed using diacritical accents.


Jaki masz zawód?

after hours

The Polish alphabet was one of three major forms of Latin-based orthography developed for Slavic languages, the others being the Czech and Croatian alphabets.

Polish Poster

Kashubian uses a Polish-based system, Slovak uses a Czech-based system, and Slovene follows the Croatian one.



The Sorbian languages blend the Polish and the Czech alphabets.

work women

Skąd jesteś?


The diacritical marks used in the Polish alphabet are the kreska (graphically similar to the acute accent) in the letters ć, ń, ó, ś, ź and through the letter in ł. 


The kropka (superior dot) in the letter ż, and the ogonek (“little tail”) in the letters ą, ę.


Jestem zajęty.


The letters q, v, x are often not considered part of the Polish alphabet.


They are used only in foreign words and names.


Nie pamiętam.


Polish orthography is largely phonemic, meaning that there is a close correspondence between the way that the language is written and the way that it is spoken. Spanish is also largely phonemic. English is not.


Nie wierzę w to.

another Rosemary's Baby poster

In Polish there is a consistent correspondence between letters (or digraphs and trigraphs) and phonemes.

Polish Poster

A a /a/ M m /m/
Ą ą /ɔ̃/, /ɔn/, /ɔm/ N n /n/
B b /b/ (/p/) Ń ń /ɲ/
C c /ts/ O o /ɔ/
Ć ć /tɕ/ Ó ó /u/
D d /d/ (/t/) P p /p/
E e /ɛ/ R r /r/
Ę ę /ɛ̃/, /ɛn/, /ɛm/, /ɛ/ S s /s/
F f /f/ Ś ś /ɕ/
G g /ɡ/ (/k/) T t /t/
H h /x/ U u /u/
I i /i/, /j/ W w /v/ (/f/)
J j /j/ Y y /ɨ/
K k /k/ Z z /z/ (/s/)
L l /l/ Ź ź /ʑ/ (/ɕ/)
Ł ł /w/ Ż ż /ʐ/ (/ʂ/)

The following digraphs and trigraphs are used:

Polish Poster

Digraph Phonemic value(s) Digraph/trigraph
(before a vowel)
Phonemic value(s)
ch /x/ ci /tɕ/
cz /tʂ/ dzi /dʑ/
dz /dz/ (/ts/) gi /ɡʲ/
/dʑ/ (/tɕ/) (c)hi /xʲ/
/dʐ/ (/tʂ/) ki /kʲ/
rz /ʐ/ (/ʂ/) ni /ɲ/
sz /ʂ/ si /ɕ/
zi /ʑ/

Voiced consonant letters frequently come to represent voiceless sounds.


This occurs at the end of words and in certain clusters.


Occasionally also voiceless consonant letters can represent voiced sounds in clusters.


Jesteś tak piękna.


The spelling rule for the palatal sounds /ɕ/, /ʑ/, /tɕ/, /dʑ/ and /ɲ/ is as follows: before the vowel i the plain letters s, z, c, dz, n are used.


Before other vowels the combinations si, zi, ci, dzi, ni are used.


When not followed by a vowel the diacritic forms ś, ź, ć, dź, ń are used.

Polish Poster

For example, the s in siwy (pronounced /śiwy/—”grey-haired”), the si in siarka (pronounced /śarka/—”sulphur”) and the ś in święty (pronounced /święty/—”holy”) all represent the sound /ɕ/.

Polish Poster

The exceptions to the above rule are certain loanwords from Latin, Italian, French, Russian or English—where s before i is pronounced as s, e.g. sinus, sinologia, do re mi fa sol la si do, Saint-Simon i saint-simoniści, Sierioża, Siergiej, Singapur, singiel. In other loanwords the vowel i is changed to y, e.g. Syria, Sybir, synchronizacja, Syrakuzy.


Jestem głodny.

blues brothers

Phonemic value Single letter/Digraph
(in pausa or
before a consonant)
(before a vowel)
Single letter/Digraph
(before the vowel i)
/tɕ/ ć ci c
/dʑ/ dzi dz
/ɕ/ ś si s
/ʑ/ ź zi z
/ɲ/ ń ni n


Similar principles apply to /kʲ/, /ɡʲ/, /xʲ/ and /lʲ/, except that these can only occur before vowels, so the spellings are k, g, (c)h, l before i, and ki, gi, (c)hi, li otherwise.

Polish Poster

Most Polish speakers, however, do not consider palatalisation of k, g, (c)h or l as creating new sounds.

border street

Except in the cases mentioned above, the letter i if followed by another vowel in the same word usually represents /j/, yet a palatalisation of the previous consonant is always assumed.

how old are you

Niech pomyślę…


The letters ą and ę, when followed by plosives and affricates, represent an oral vowel followed by a nasal consonant, rather than a nasal vowel.

butch cassidy

For example, ą in dąb (“oak”) is pronounced /ɔm/, and ę in tęcza (“rainbow”) is pronounced /ɛn/ (the nasal assimilates with the following consonant).

Polish Poster

When followed by l or ł (for example przyjęli, przyjęły), ę is pronounced as just e. When ę is at the end of the word it is often pronounced as just /ɛ/.


Note that, depending on the word, the phoneme /x/ can be spelled h or ch.




The phoneme /ʐ/ can be spelled ż or rz.

Polish Poster

And /u/ can be spelled u or ó.

close encounters of the third kind

In several cases such spelling changes can determine the meaning, for example: może (“maybe”) and morze (“sea”).


In occasional words, letters that normally form a digraph are pronounced separately.


For example, rz represents /rz/, not /ʐ/, in words like zamarzać (“freeze”) and in the name Tarzan.

Polish Poster

Notice that doubled letters represent separate occurrences of the sound in question; for example Anna is pronounced /anna/ in Polish (the double n is often pronounced as a lengthened single n).


There are certain clusters where a written consonant would not be pronounced.


For example, the ł in the words mógł (“could”) and jabłko (“apple”) might be omitted in ordinary speech, leading to the pronunciations muk and japko or jabko.


A name for this might be Ponglish.


Polish is a highly inflected language, with relatively free word order, although the dominant arrangement is subject verb object (SVO).


There are no articles, and subject pronouns are usually dropped as is often the case with inflected languages.

dirty dancing

Nouns can be masculine, feminine or neuter.

donald duck

A distinction is also made between animate and inanimate masculine nouns in the singular, and between masculine personal and non-personal nouns in the plural.




There are seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative and vocative.


A word can change in Polish depending on how it is used. We have this phenomenon in English, but you may not have noticed it since English is your native language.

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We have cases, but they are mostly in the pronouns.


I is in the nominative case. My is genitive, me is accusative and dative.

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In Latin, the language where I originally encountered the idea of cases, I is ego. This is the nominative case.

fiddler on the roof

The gentive case for the first person pronoun in Latin is meus, mea, meum.

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The Latin accusative case for ego is me.


To say to me, the dative case of the first personal pronoun in Latin, one says mihi.


In German, the cases for I are ich (nominative), mein (genitive), mich (accusative) and mir (dative).


The declension of nouns in Polish has become simpler.


Now it depends on the gender of a noun (smok, o smoku – foka, o foce) (a dragon, about a dragon – a seal, about a seal) and to some extend on the hardness of a noun’s stem (liść, liście – list, listy)(leaf – leaves, letter – letters).


Two categories have appeared in the masculine gender: the category of animacy and of personhood (but, widzę but, widzę buty – kot, widzę kota, widzę koty – pilot, widzę pilota, widzę pilotów) (a shoe, I see a shoe, I see shoes – a cat, I see a cat, I see cats – a pilot, I see a pilot, I see pilots).


Traces of consonant stems still remain but almost exclusively in neuter noun stems ending in -en, -ent- (cielę – cielęcia, imię – imienia) (a calf – of a calf, a name – of a name).


For all other stems, long or short form has become characteristic of all cases.


In general, in the past endings characteristic of stems ending in -o-, -jo- and -a-, -ja- were most common.


Other word endings were disappearing.


The endings which did not cause the alteration of the stem were becoming more popular.

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Traces of the lack of softness in some forms of words softened by front vowels (mainly forms ending with a consonant or ending with -i-, egz. krъvaxъ > *krwach > krwiach) have disappeared.

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Often softness is the only remnant of old noun endings (Gen. kamane > kamienia) (of stone).

learn a new language



Declension of nouns (cases) is becoming simpler in many, most languages, not just in Polish.


It’s a natural progression.


As they evolve, languages become simpler.


It is the ‘primitive’ languages that are most complicated. Old, old languages, like Chinese, are quite simple. No gender, no number, no conjugations, certainly no cases. Very streamlined.


In English we have lost almost all of the cases.


Whom (accusative, dative) is going to disappear any day now.

Young Frankenstein

Whom did you see there? is beginning to sound stilted and artificial, a sure sign of a moribund grammatical form.


Przepraszam, jestem za późno.

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Adjectives in Polish agree with nouns in terms of gender, case and number.


Attributive adjectives most commonly precede the noun, although in certain cases, especially in fixed phrases (like język polski, “Polish (language)”), the noun may come first.

girl skating

Most short adjectives and their derived adverbs form comparatives and superlatives by inflection (the superlative is formed by prefixing naj- to the comparative).

what is it in Polish?

godzilla vs the sea monster

Verbs are of imperfective or perfective aspect, often occurring in pairs.


Imperfective verbs have a present tense, past tense, compound future tense except for być “to be”, which has a simple future będę, this in turn being used to form the compound future of other verbs.


Imperfective verbs also have a subjunctive/conditional (formed with the detachable particle by), imperatives, an infinitive, present participle, present gerund and past participle.

gone with the wind

Perfective verbs have a simple future tense (formed like the present tense of imperfective verbs), past tense, subjunctive/conditional, imperatives, infinitive, present gerund and past participle.

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Conjugated verb forms agree with their subject in terms of person, number, and (in the case of past tense and subjunctive/conditional forms) gender.


Passive constructions can be made using the auxiliary być or zostać (“become”) with the passive participle.


There is also an impersonal construction where the active verb is used (in third person singular) with no subject, but with the reflexive pronoun się present to indicate a general, unspecified subject as in pije się wódkę “vodka is drunk.”


Note that wódka appears in the accusative.


A similar sentence type in the past tense uses the passive participle with the ending -o, as in widziano ludzi (“people were seen”).


As in other Slavic languages, there are also subjectless sentences formed using such words as można (“it is possible”) together with an infinitive.


Nie znam jej.


Yes – No questions, both direct and indirect, are formed by placing the word czy at the beginning.


Negation uses the word nie, before the verb or other item being negated; nie is still added before the verb even if the sentence also contains other negatives such as nigdy (“never”) or nic (“nothing”).


In Polish, as in many languages, double negatives are standard.

pole in america


Cardinal numbers have a complex system of inflection and agreement.


Numbers higher than five (except for those ending with the digit 2, 3 or 4) govern the genitive case rather than the nominative or accusative.


Special forms of numbers (collective numerals) are used with certain classes of noun, which include dziecko (“child”) and exclusively plural nouns such as drzwi (“door”).


Ile to kosztuje?


Polish has, over the centuries, borrowed a number of words from other languages.


Usually, borrowed words have been adapted rapidly in the following ways:

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  1. Spelling was altered to approximate the pronunciation, but written according to Polish phonetics.


Two:   Word endings are liberally applied to almost any word to produce verbs, nouns, adjectives, as well as adding the appropriate endings for cases of nouns, diminutives, augmentatives or whatever ending is needed.

Polish Poster

Depending on the historical period, borrowing has proceeded from various languages.

love in the afternoon

Recent borrowing is primarily of international words from English, mainly those that have Latin or Greek roots.


Komputer (computer), korupcja (corruption) and many other examples.


Slang sometimes borrows and alters common English words, e.g. luknąć (to look).

man on unicycle

Concatenation of parts of words (auto-moto), which is not native to Polish but common in English is also sometimes used.

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When borrowing international words, Polish often changes their spelling.


Zadzwonię jeszcze.

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The Latin suffix ‘-tion’ corresponds to -cja. To make the word plural, -cja becomes -cje.


Examples of this include inauguracja (inauguration), dewastacja (devastation), recepcja (reception), konurbacja (conurbation) and konotacje (connotations).


The digraph qu becomes kw (kwadrant = quadrant; kworum = quorum).

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Other notable influences in the past have been Latin (9th–18th centuries), Czech (10th and 14th–15th centuries), Italian (15th–16th centuries), French (18th–19th centuries), German (13–15th and 18th–20th centuries), Hungarian (14th–16th centuries) and Turkish (17th century).


The Latin language, for a very long time the only official language of the Polish state, has had a great influence on Polish.


Many Polish words (rzeczpospolita from res publica, zdanie for both “opinion” and “sentence”, from sententia) were direct calques from Latin.


Many words have been borrowed from the German language, as a result of Poland and Germany being neighbors for a millennium, and also as the result of a sizable German population in Polish cities during medieval times.


German words found in the Polish language are often connected with trade, the building industry, civic rights and city life.


Some German words were wholly assimilated into Polish.

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Handel (trade) and dach (roof)


Other borrowings from German are pronounced the same, but differ in writing schnursznur (cord).


The Polish language has many German expressions which have become literally translated (calques).


The regional dialects of Upper Silesia and Masuria (Modern Polish East Prussia)  have noticeably more German loanwords than other dialects.

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Latin was known to a larger or smaller degree by most of the numerous szlachta in the 16th to 18th centuries (and it continued to be extensively taught at secondary schools until World War II).

pink panther

Apart from dozens of loanwords, the influence of Latin can also be seen in the somewhat greater number of verbatim Latin phrases in Polish literature (especially from the 19th century and earlier), than, say, in English.


In the 18th century, with the rising prominence of France in Europe, French supplanted Latin in this respect.


Some French borrowings also date from the Napoleonic era, when the Poles were enthusiastic supporters of Napoleon.

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Examples include ekran (from French écran, screen), abażur (abat-jour, lamp shade), rekin (requin, shark), meble (meuble, furniture), bagaż (bagage, luggage), walizka (valise, suitcase), fotel (fauteuil, armchair), plaża (plage, beach) and koszmar (cauchemar, nightmare).


Some place names have also been adapted from French, such as the Warsaw borough of Żoliborz (joli bord=beautiful riverside), as well as the town of Żyrardów (from the name Gérard, with the Polish suffix -ów attached to refer to the owner/founder of a town).


Other words are borrowed from other Slavic languages, for example, sejm, hańba and brama from Czech.


There are many, many borrowings from Yiddish. Words like bachor (an unruly boy or child), bajzel (slang for mess), belfer (slang for teacher), ciuchy (slang for clothing), cymes (slang for very tasty food), geszeft (slang for business), kitel (slang for apron), machlojka (slang for scam), mamona (money), menele (slang for oddments and also for homeless people), myszygine (slang for lunatic), pinda (slang for girl, pejorative), plajta (slang for bankruptcy), rejwach (noise), szmal (slang for money), and trefny (dodgy).


Typical loanwords from Italian include pomidor from pomodoro (tomato), kalafior from cavolfiore (cauliflower), pomarańcza from pomo and arancio (orange).

raiders-of-the-lost-ark alt

Those Italian loan words were introduced in the times of Queen Bona Sforza (the wife of Polish King Sigismund the Old), who was famous for introducing Italian cuisine to Poland, especially vegetables.


Another word of Italian origin is autostrada (from Italian “autostrada”, highway).

Raidersofthelostark alternative

The contacts with Ottoman Turkey in the 17th century brought many new words, some of them still in use, such as: jar (deep valley), szaszłyk (shish kebab), filiżanka (cup), arbuz (watermelon), dywan (carpet).


The mountain dialects of the Górale in southern Poland, have quite a number of words borrowed from Hungarian (baca, gazda, juhas, hejnał).

Polish Poster

There are also loanwords from Romanian as a result of historical contacts with Hungarian-dominated Slovakia and Wallachian herders who travelled north along the Carpathians.


The cant and slang of thieves include such words as kimać (to sleep) or majcher (knife) of Greek origin, considered then unknown to the outside world.

requiem for 500 thousand

Direct borrowings from Russian are extremely rare, in spite of long periods of dependence on Czarist Russia and the Soviet Union, and are limited to a few international words, such as sputnik and pierestroika.


Russian personal names are transcribed into Polish likewise.

Polish Poster

Tchaikovsky’s name is spelled Piotr Iljicz Czajkowski.

rosemary's baby

There are also a few words borrowed from the Mongolian language, e.g. dzida (spear) or szereg (a line or row).

rosemarys-baby another one

These words were brought to the Polish language during wars with the armies of Gengis Khan and his descendants.


Do widzenia, do zobaczenia.

rosemarys-baby yet another

The differences between Polish and Slovak are roughly comparable to the differences between the German and Swiss German dialects (75% of the vocabulary similar or the same).

saturday night fever

Polish and Russian have approximately the same relationship as Spanish and Italian (55-60% of the vocabulary the same or similar).


The difference between Polish and Bulgarian is about the same as that between English and Dutch (40% of the vocabulary the same or similar).


The most similar to Slavic languages are the Baltic Languages: Latvian and Lithuanian, but only 3% of the vocabulary is alike.

sex lies and videotape

The Polish language belongs to the West-Slavic group of the Indo-European languages together with Czech and Slovak.


Polish emerged from the Proto-Slavic language, the mother tongue of all Slavic tribes in the past.


Polish has evolved to such a degree that the texts written in the Middle Ages are not 100-per-cent understandable to contemporary Poles and need to be read with a dictionary of archaisms.


During the Partitions of Poland (1795-1918) the Prussian and Russian conquerors tried to eradicate Polish identity, but their plans eventually failed and Poles retained their language almost intact.


Polish is used as a second language in some parts of Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

sophia marcello

This dispersal has been caused by many migrations and resettlements as well as frontier changes brought by the Yalta agreement in 1945 after World War II.


As a result, many Poles were left outside the territory of their fatherland.



strangers on a train

Poland is the most linguistically homogeneous European country.


Nearly 97% of Poland’s citizens declare Polish as their mother tongue.

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Ethnic Poles constitute large minorities in Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine.


Polish is the most widely used minority language in Lithuania’s Vilnius County (26% of the population, according to the 2001 census results, with Vilnius having been part of Poland until 1939) and is found elsewhere in southeastern Lithuania.


In Ukraine it is most common in the western Lviv and Volyn oblast (provinces), while in western Belarus it is used by the significant Polish minority, especially in the Brest and Grodno regions and in areas along the Lithuanian border.

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Polish is spoken, naturally, by Polish emigrants living all around the world, also by their children and grandchildren. The total number of speakers worldwide is about 50 million.

Elise cardboard

Moje slońce.          My sun.

Back Camera

Mój kwiatuszku.       My flower.

Do następnego razu…     Till next time…


Sam Andrew


Émilie du Châtelet


One of the early contributors to an analysis of the energy component that would be used in the formula E = mc2


Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet (17 December 1706 – 10 September 1749) was a mathematician, physicist, and author during the Age of Enlightenment.


Her translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica is still considered the standard French version.


Émilie was intellectual and very lively. She played the harpsichord, sang opera, she had a gift for the dance and she was an amateur actress. She was beautiful, charming, and seriously intelligent.

Unbenannt - 1

She spoke very rapidly and read even more rapidly. When she couldn’t afford more books, she used her mathematical skills to devise highly successful strategies for gambling.


Young Émilie de Breteuil lived with her family in an apartment with 30 rooms overlooking the Tuileries gardens in Paris.


When Émilie was a child, her father, Louis Nicolas le Tonnelier de Breteuil, held the position of the Principal Secretary and Introducer of Ambassadors to King Louis XIV. He held a weekly salon on Thursdays, to which well-respected writers and scientists such as Fontenelle, the perpetual secretary of the Académie des Sciences, were invited.

girl with kitten baptiste

Her father arranged for Fontenelle to visit and talk about astronomy with Émilie when she was 10 years old.


She also had training in physical activities such as fencing and riding, and as she grew older, her father brought tutors to the house for her.


As a result, by the age of twelve Émilie was fluent in Latin, Greek and German. She was later to publish translations into French of Greek and Latin plays and philosophy.


Her brothers and sisters were fairly normal people for the time, but Émilie was different, as her father wrote: “My youngest flaunts her mind, and frightens away the suitors.”


Émilie, however, had many suitors. At the age of 19, she chose one of the least objectionable courtiers as a husband, the Marquis Florent-Claude du Chastellet-Lomont. The marriage was a pro forma arrangement, and in the custom of the time, her husband accepted her having affairs while he was away.

A portrait of Voltaire.

When she was a 27-year-old mother of three, Émilie du Châtelet began perhaps the most passionate affair of her life, a true partnership of heart and mind. Her lover was none other than Voltaire, perhaps the most renowned intellectual of the Enlightenment movement. “In the year 1733 I met a young lady who happened to think nearly as I did.”


She and Voltaire shared deep interests: in political reform, in fast talk, and, above all, in advancing science as much as they could.


Voltaire wrote that Émilie du Châtelet had “a soul for which mine was made.”


Together, du Châtelet and Voltaire turned her husband’s château at Cirey, in northeastern France, into a base for scientific research with the most sophisticated equipment on the market (a rotary evaporator would have been a steal back in the day – to give an example). with a library comparable to that of the Academy of Sciences in Paris, as well as the latest laboratory equipment from London.


Émilie gave up her life in Paris for Votaire and joined him at Cirey. Thus began one of the greatest intellectual and romantic relationships of the 18th century between these two exceptional people.


The intellectual feverishness, always present when Émilie was, prompted the philosopher Immanuel Kant to sneer that such a woman “might as well have a beard,” and Voltaire himself, having received solo title-page credit for a book he privately admitted she practically dictated to him, declared that the marquise was a great man whose only shortcoming was having been born female. This may hearten the rest of us, because it proves that even great men can be stupid sometimes.


When Émilie and Voltaire engaged in their teasing, mock battling, fast talking, it was a contest between equals.


Émilie du Châtelet was the real scientist, the real investigator of the physical world, and the one who decided that there was one key question that had to be turned to at this time: what is energy?


Most people felt energy was already sufficiently understood. Voltaire had covered the seemingly ordained truths in his own popularizations of Newton: an object’s energy is simply the product of its mass times its velocity, or mv1. If a five-pound ball is going 10 mph, it has 50 units of energy.


But Émilie du Châtelet knew there was a competing, albeit highly theoretical view proposed by Gottfried Leibniz, the great German natural philosopher and mathematician. For Leibniz, the important factor was mv2. It’s the ‘per second per second’ aspect of the formula that is important. This seems to hold true for many aspects of the natural world. Forces aren’t added to each other, they are squared of each other.


Du Châtelet and her colleagues found the decisive evidence in the recent experiments of Willem ‘s Gravesande, a Dutch researcher who’d been letting weights plummet onto a soft clay floor. If the simple E = mv1 was true, then a weight going twice as fast as an earlier one would sink in twice as deeply. One going three times as fast would sink three times as deep.


But that’s not what ‘s Gravesande found. If a small brass sphere was sent down twice as fast as before, it pushed four times as far into the clay. It if was flung down three times as fast, it sank nine times as far into the clay. In other words, we’re talking about a geometric progression and not an arithmetical one.


Thus, ‘s Gravesande established that the correct expression for the “live force” of a body in motion (today called its kinetic energy) is proportional to mv2.


Du Châtelet deepened Leibniz’s theory and then embedded the ‘s Gravesande’s results within it. Now, finally, there was a strong justification for viewing mv2 as a fruitful definition of energy.

du Châtelet's geometric drawings from Institutions physiques.

These drawings are from du Châtelet’s Institutions physiques, her elaboration on the ideas of Leibniz. She finished a major commentary on Newton just before her death.


Newton and Voltaire believed that “energy” was the same as momentum and therefore proportional to velocity.

In classical physics the correct formula is E_k = \frac12 mv^2, where E_k is the kinetic energy of an object, m its mass and v its velocity.

Some commentators have perceived this as a precursor to the c^2 multiplier in Einstein’s mass-energy formula, and indeed \frac12 mv^2 is the first term in the binomial expansion of the relativistic kinetic energy expression.


Émilie du Châtelet was one of the leading interpreters of modern physics in Europe as well as a master of mathematics, linguistics, and the art of courtship, and, really, just about anything else that caught her attention.


But there was one thing she couldn’t control. In April of 1749, she wrote to Voltaire, “I am pregnant and you can imagine … how much I fear for my health, even for my life … giving birth at the age of forty.”


It should be said that Voltaire was not the father of this child to be. He knew that Émilie had many liaisons, but that didn’t affect his regard for her.


Although she might have, Émilie didn’t rage at the clear incompetence of her era’s doctors who often didn’t even wash their hands before participating in a medical procedure.


And remember that at that time there were no antibiotics and no anesthetics.


Émilie merely noted to Voltaire that it was sad to be leaving this world before she was ready. Think what she could have accomplished if she had had forty years more to live.


She survived the birth the next fall, but infection set in, and within a week she died.


Émilie was a brilliant and learned woman, known all over Europe for her translation of Newton. Her love affair and pregnancy created scandal and inspired satirical mirth. Her death was a shock to everyone.


Voltaire was beside himself: “I have lost the half of myself—a soul for which mine was made.”


See you next week?

Sam sax jason

Sam Andrew