The Matzav Shmoooze: Don’t Call It English and Insult Our Intelligence


computer-screenDear readers,

I am generally not the type to write letters of any sort, not to the editor and not to a “Shmoooze,” but I have begun to question myself and would like to hear from others.

Am I the only one who is bothered by the stunningly pathetic writing on frum blogs and websites? Am I the only one who cringes when I try to read supposed news stories that read like they were written by individuals with zero knowledge of proper grammatical skills? Simple things, like placing question marks at the ends of questions, seem to be too arduous for the genius wordsmiths writing on these websites. (And no, I am not referring to people’s comments. I am referring to the posted news stories.)

It would appear that others aren’t bothered, for if they were, they wouldn’t stand for it. I, for one, have had enough. I will not waste my time reading a newly concocted, disturbingly adulterated version of the English language, written by those who seem to think they are intelligent enough to write for the public but lack skills that my ninth grade daughter possesses.

C. C.


The Matzav Shmoooze is a regular feature on that allows all readers to share a thought or analysis, long or short, one sentence or several paragraphs long, on any topic, for readers to mull over and comment on. Email submissions to

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  1. Yiddish speakers feel the same way about the “Yiddish” that is spoken today. At this point, you have to choose between linguistic purity and spiritual purity.

  2. I couldn’t agree more! How humiliating it is for a culture that treasures all intellectual capacity to be so primitive in its capacity to speak (let alone write) in a correct, articulate manner. Whoever will come back with the bite that English is a “goyish” language and therefore “who cares,” really does not understand the importance and far-reaching value of a basic kiddush Hashem. No, it’s not that you are what you eat, but it is “you are how you speak.” You will earn a lot more respect from the entire world if you express yourself correctly and smoothly.

  3. i guess that you dont read txt messages
    because and I quote (I will not waste my time reading a newly concocted, disturbingly adulterated version of the English language)
    in todays society if the story is good enough
    no matter how bad the writing you will end up reading it.

  4. Why is proper writing so important to you?
    Its the content that matters.
    Obviously frum Jews focus their education on Limud Hatorah Hakedosho. Does a little grammar really make a difference in this world or the next?
    There is a chiyuv on every Jew to Learn and know Kol Hatorah Kulo… Who has time for “proper” English?

  5. To the writer of this article-
    In the first paragraph, by the word “shmooze”, the comma should be after the quotation mark, not before.
    In the second paragraph, in the parentheses, your sentence should not start with “and”.
    In the third paragraph you write “I will not waste my time reading…”. I don’t believe that is the truth, since I can guarantee you are reading all of these comments.
    To #1, Comment from anon-
    It’s not that you share in his dismay, but the first word in your comment should be “you’re”, not “your”.
    That said, I wholeheartedly agree with the point the writer is making.

  6. This article speaks the truth and no one’s stupid comments can contradict this. However, the problem stems from poor early education, lack of desire for perfection in our actions, and the general tolerance in our Torah world towards such illiteracy.
    What can be done about this vast problem? We need serious solutions.
    By the way, no#1, anon, the word is you’re, not your (possessive). Are you joking?

  7. To #1

    Was I the only one who appreciated the irony of your comment? You wrote “your not the only one.”

    Looks like you’re just as guilty! “Your” is the possessive term, and “you’re” is the contraction of “you are.”

    So your English is just as bad. Well, maybe not as bad as what I’ve seen, but you get the point.

  8. this all comes from the boys yeshiva system (and i am what you would call VERY yeshivish).
    Let the high school boys learn torah all day but have one mandatory hour to learn the basics like spelling, and basic math. forget history and science. I am in kollel for many years and yet I find it embarrasing to hear adults not be able to get a straight sentence out of their mouth because they just can’t speak english properly.

  9. Oy vey all de problems ov de vurld, vus solved, de buchirim were all freed from Japan, Obama begged michila from Bibi for being mivayish him, and den from Matzav for forcing them to remove the Acappela from de vepsite, and rubashkin vus freed! I guess now ve haf to worry about silly tings like grammer! Come on this is so so pathetic! Why are us Jews always thinking the Goyim are better then us, have a look at their sights, dey not that much better in their grammer, and the commentars there are just as bad, if not worse.

  10. Does anyone rember this gem from the Yated a few years ago? I quote:

    Last Shabbos, the Rov of our Agudah used the word “lighted” repeatedly in his Derosha, as in “the Chashmonaim lighted the Menorah”. Someone in the back of the shul, a visitor from out of town, made a very loud comment about the Rov’s “yeshivishe English.”

    It’s poshut by me that our visitor is a most ehrliche, choshuva mentch. He usually doesn’t talk in shul, or make fun of Rabbonim, and certainly never makes fun of Rabbonim, out loud, in shul, during their derashos. This was surely a rare slip, a hesech hada’as, never to be repated.

    He probably has been subjected in the past to the torture of hearing the English language mangled and abused by well-meaning lecturers. I too, cringed when I heard a yungerman learning with someone say, “When Mordechai heard about Haman’s plan, he rented his garments.” (Now that’s how that minhag started…)

    L’mayse geret, though, the Rov was right.

    “Lighted” is in fact the past tense of the verb “light,” when it goes on the gavra, l’moshol “the oilam lighted cigarettes.” “Lit” is also acceptable but is more appropriate for the cheftza, l’moshol “Anshuldig, I don’t want to disturb your learning, but your beard has been lit.”

    It’s also a befeirusha Shakespeare, in Macbeth, cheilek hei, siman hei: “And all our yesterdays have lighted fools / The way to dusty death.” Ad kan l’shono.

    Although Shakespeare wore a black hat and poked fun at Heimishe Balebattim (in Di soicher fun Venitzia), most historians are maskim that he was not, in fact, yeshivish.

    – A Yeshivishe Guy From —-, NJ

  11. I definitely agree with the sentiments in this article. However, to the author, using high-handed language and tone do not make you intelligent (hint, hint). Good writing is just as much about clarity and brevity as it is about accuracy.

    So yes, the frum world could afford to improve its English. And yes, the are often mistakes and typos in the articles. But if I were writing an article for a website, frum or not, I would never use such phrases as “written by individuals with zero knowledge of proper grammatical skills” (Three prepositional phrases in a row! Uch!)or “seem to be too arduous for the genius wordsmiths writing on these websites”.

  12. To ego (commenter no. 9)who wrote: “the comma should be after the quotation mark, not before.”

    Sorry, but not necessarily so.

    The rules for the placement of a punctuation mark adjacent to a closing quotation mark are complex. According to the ‘American style,’ commas and periods are almost always placed INSIDE the closing quotation mark. In ‘British style’, it is more common to place punctuation OUTSIDE the closing quotation mark (with one major exception which I won’t go into here).

    However, the above rule applies only to commas and periods. In both American and British styles, question marks and exclamation marks are placed either inside OR outside the final quotation mark depending on whether they apply to the whole sentence or just the quoted portion.

    Colons and semicolons are always placed outside.

  13. It’s all very cute – until you go to apply for a job and you don’t even get interviewed because your cover letter sounded like you were hung over from Purim. Good written communication skills are essential for functioning in today’s job market. If you’re confident that your shver will live and be rich forever, then you don’t need to worry. But if you ever face the reality of having to work at something which will pay more than minimum wage, you’d better learn how to write standard English. It might also be a good idea to learn to _speak_ standard English. Most employers won’t think it’s so wonderful when you try to speak yeshivish to the customers.

    However, as observed above, the affliction is not restricted to our circles.

  14. Today’s grandparents were educated in the 60’s and 70’s. They can read,write,and speak correct English. They received a good Hebrew (oops, I meant to say Limudei Kodesh) education, and, an equally good English (I meant to say Limudei Chol) education. They are our roshei yeshiva, rabbonim, askonim, principals, and teachers – the old guard, the leaders of the past generation. Many are prolific writers and professional speakers; it is a pleasure to listen to their diction and vocabulary. They can communicate using correct
    English; they can write letters and books and make their opinions known. They are invited to speak at graduations, dinners,legislatures, and even the White House, while making a huge kiddush hashem.

    About twenty years ago many yeshivas started to look down at a secular education. The “good boys” stopped attending afternoon English classes and prided themselves on staying in the Beis Midrash all day. Some students stopped taking regents. The ability of these students to write has noticeably deteriorated, especially their spelling, grammar, and sentence structure.

    What was wrong with the old method?

  15. the guy who writes this garbage is a moron in his own right. did u see the article saying it was asur to listen to the yankees game this motzei shabbos (btw it was last motzei shabbos)?

  16. Shaygitz, you are quite brilliant your self. These are letters from different people writing in, not the same people. Use your brains.

  17. #9
    Actually, the comma is correctly placed within the quotation marks.

    As a retired English teacher (in public schools, as well as in a mainstream yeshiva gedola), I am appalled by poor writing that appears so often in the comments to articles in “our” sites. The argument that limud haTorah takes precedence over “correct” English is a copout. It is not a stierah to be a talmid chacham and at the same time to be able to express oneself well in speech and in writing. I used to tell my yeshiva students that my goal for them was to write well enough to be published in the Jewish Observer. If one is sloppy in his language and mechanics, he’ll likely be sloppy in other more “important” things.

  18. the writer’s point is taken.but after reading the comments up to this point i’m not sure if his criticism applies to the comments section- some real good material

  19. To be fair, it must be noted that non-frum and non-Jewish Americans make glaring mistakes in both their speaking and writing. For this reason there are computer programs that not only check for spelling but also for grammar, syntax and usage and even given several alternate possibilities (right click on the word).
    Israelis, both religious and secular, also make mistakes in Hebrew so apparently native speakers of a language perpetuate mistakes they hear from others out of force of habit.

  20. I’m tired of little girls who have to spend Shabbos “by” their bubbies’ houses. Why don’t the bubbies let them IN the house? Also, if they would have learned the correct use of the subjunctive in Enlish, they would have known better than to write anything like this sentence. Speaking and writing good English must be seen as a tool (like any other language) for expressing Torah-related ideas in a way that will bring respect to Torah and the people who live it.

  21. To C.C.,
    e e cummings (the great writer)disliked all punctuation.

    There is much which cannot be expressed as well within the rigid rules of gammar(literary license).

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