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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, February 22, 2013


Tomorrow night marks the beginning of the Jewish festival of Purim, which celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from a planned extermination in the Persian empire in the 5th century BC.

The story is recounted in the Book of Esther. The Persian king's prime minister, Haman, became enraged at the Jews when one of them, Mordecai, refused to bow down before him. So Haman convinced the king that all the Jews in his empire should be eliminated. But the king had a Jewish wife -- this was Esther -- who interceded with him at the risk of her own life to spare the Jews. The king granted her request and had Haman hanged. The day on which the slaughter of the Jews was to take place had been selected by Haman by drawing lots, and purim is the Hebrew word for "lot".

Since it turned out to be a day when the Jews defeated their enemies instead and emerged triumphant, Purim is quite a joyous festival, marked by the custom of eating particularly tasty triangular cookies with (traditionally) a prune or poppyseed filling. They are supposed to look like Haman's three-cornered hat and thus are called "hamantaschen" or "Haman's hat". Here's a recipe:


  1. Excellent summary of Purim, Katherine! Thanks. Now, off to make my hamentashen (like honey cake for Rosh Hashannah, they're delicious, but get made only once a year!).

  2. Excellent summary of Purim, Katherine. Thanks. Now, off to make my hamentashen (as delicious as they are, like honey cake for Rosh Hashannah, my hamentashen, too, get made just once a year).


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.