Guten Rutsch

Mark A Mandel mam at THEWORLD.COM
Wed Jan 1 19:54:14 UTC 2003

A German friend on another list sent New Year's greetings with an
etymology I find suspicious. Here is her posting with my reply. (I am
bcc-ing her on this post.)


#Oh, and then I have something cute for the linguists on this list.  In
#Germany, we say "Guten Rutsch" on New Year's Eve.  It literally means "Good
#Slide".  Sounds sort of science fiction-y, doesn't it?  Well, it really comes
#from "Rosh" (= Hebrew for "beginning").  Handed down over centuries,
#it changed into a German word that doesn't make too much sense in the
#context.  Somehow, I feel a deep satisfaction that we have a - however
#truncated - Hebrew word in our language.

Lovely, and thank you. Sad to say, I have to be at least a little
suspicious, (1) because it sounds almost cute (which in etymology is
often a red flag), and (2) because the only reasonably likely route I
can imagine is via Yiddish, and for that to make its way into general
German usage doesn't seem too likely to me. And (3) why should Hebrew
[roS] "rosh", which fits perfectly well into German phonology (it would
be spelled "rosch"), be distorted into "rutsch" [rUtS]? Do you have any
information on this?


Comments, anyone?

-- Mark A. Mandel

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