Oct 132012

As part of my thanklessly quixotic mission to bring Hebrew poetry to the roughly seven billion people who neither speak Hebrew nor like poetry, I spend an inordinate amount of time vowelling Hebrew text. For those of you who have not had the unique pleasure of inserting vowels into Hebrew text in a word processor, it involves typing one’s text, unvowelled, and then hitting Caps Lock and going back to insert the appropriate vowel dots into each and every single letter, a task accomplished by pressing Shift and one of the number keys. This is one of those perverse inversions of the notion of progress, like social networking or the replacement of buttons on household electronics with touch-sensitive “smudge” zones, that makes one wonder what precisely is so enchanting about the Future; I could vowel an unpointed text by hand in a scant fraction of the time it takes to do it with the magic box. Actually, I even enjoy it: I get to use my fine-tipped art pens and feel like a sofer. But Progress has its own ideas, and as always, nobody asked me.

But should you find yourself deep in the slickly vowelled pit, take heart, O lover of the Holy Tongue: I have devised a way to make the pointing of Hebrew text a somewhat less daunting proposition. I have invented the Hebrew Vowel Drinking Game.

The rules are simple. Drinking in the stipulated quantity is mandatory when one enters the following vowels or combinations of vowels:

Two patah in a row (רַחַשׁ): Drink.
An alef or ayin bearing a shva (אְ, עְ): Drink.
Kubutz (אֻ): Drink.
Hei mappiq (הּ): Drink.
Three nekudot in a single letter (שָּׁ): Drink.
A qamatz followed by a shva that’s read as an [o] vowel (קָדְשֶׁךָ): Drink.
Hataf qamatz (חֳ): Two drinks.
Three qamatz in a row (הָאָדָם): Two drinks.
Three patah in a row (הַשַּׁעַר): Two drinks.
Two geminated consonants in a row (הַשַּׂקִּים): Drink, and then another drink for the linguists, baby, and then pour one out in memory of contrastive gemination in the Hebrew language, ז”ל.

DISCLAIMER: The Hebrew Vowel Drinking Game is absolutely not to be played with hard liquor during the pointing of any text containing over three stanzas. If your text doesn’t have stanzas, God help you, man. You didn’t hear about it here.

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