22 May 2006


(I originally posted this elsewhere in February, but am transferring it to here.)
A few weeks back (or more, but that's not important), I remember hearing one girl at the end of a meal saying, "We have a mezumenet." I thought for a moment that it just didn't sound right somehow. I realized that the proper noun is zimmun (זימון) and that one cannot change the gender of the activity because of the participants; it's not the participants that it's describing, but rather the action. Thus, for women, it ought to be zimmun lenashim (זימון לנשים).
I inquired to one of my fellow students about this.
The response I got was that, yes, indeed, I was correct. However, in the colloquial usage, mezumen is what people use to describe when they will have such an action, therefore mezumenet is the feminine form of it. Properly, however, mezumen is really the verb that would be describing the leader's action, and similarly, mezeumenet would be describing the leader's (leaderess') action of a group of women.
The following are comments upon the original posting:
  • Unless one is speaking Ashkenazis (and "mezumenet" indicates otherwise), it should probably be "mezuman" (מְזֻמָּן) in the masculine, not "mezumen."

    In Berakhot 43a and 46b, the מְזֻמָּן is the מְזֻמָּן לברכה, (written in the Talmud as מזומן) "the one designated (by the host) to say grace" (Jastrow, page 404) - the leader himself. Thus, מְזֻמֶּנֶת would be correct for the female leader.

    If we'd like to justify the colloquial usage of "mezumen," I guess if we're in a situation where we're in a situation where we may/must perform זִמּוּן, then "we have [need for] a מְזֻמָּן," or "we [can] have a מְזֻמָּן," or "we have [already chosen] a מְזֻמָּן." Really, only once we choose the leader do we actually have a מְזֻמָּן.

    Nevertheless, it seems to me that no matter who leads, the action is still זִמּוּן.

    On the other hand, though, if one is going to mess up the meaning anyway, maybe it's better to use the pronunciation "mezumen" as an marker. :)

    On a more important note, I've enjoyed reading your posts off and on for a while. You write interesting and throughtful!

    I beg sliche for the pedantry. Perhaps Mar Gavriel has something to add.


    By DJR, at Monday, February 20, 2006 9:56:10 AM

  • It's really funny because when I initially typed it up, I had acctually been spelling it mezuman, but then changed it later to mezumen. However, this was done not on account of Hebrew grammar, but rather to be used in perhaps a Yiddish(?) sense, or at least a colloquial sense.
    I do understand that the mezuman is the leader, but, again, how people use it is another thing (they use it describe what's taking place).
    I also agree with you, that "the action is still זִמּוּן".
    Lastly, but not least of all, thank you for your comment, and enjoy the reading. :)

    By Drew_Kaplan, at Monday, February 20, 2006 6:20:51 PM

  • BTW, I forgot I was on the blog designated for bentsching. I enjoy your other blog too.

    I did a search for "a mezuman" and "a mezumen," which shows just how common the colloquial usage is.

    Instead of my speculative explanation of "mezumen" in the first comment (which is probably stretching too far to make usage in an English sentence fit into Hebrew grammar), Steg suggested that it might be part of a general Yiddish/Judeo-English tendency to use Hebrew participles, like "this dish needs toiveling."

    By DJR, at Tuesday, February 21, 2006 10:54:42 AM

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Anonymous said...

isn't the leader the "Mezamen"?

Drew_Kaplan said...

yeah, that is true for men, though for women, it would be a mezamenet