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There is a mistaken belief that the word for a Jewish matchmaker is "yenta" or "yente". In reality a Jewish matchmaker is called a shadchan (שדכן). The origin of this error is the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof, in which a character named Yente serves as the matchmaker for the village of Anatevka. The Yiddish name "Yente" derives from a word meaning "gentle" or "noble" but it has come to refer to a woman who is a gossip or a busybody, much like the character in the musical.
In the age of Yiddish theater, it started referring to a busybody or gossipmonger. The word has since become Yinglish (a Yiddish loanword in American Jewish English). In the 1920s Yenta was first popularized by the humorist Jacob Adler (not the actor Jacob P. Adler) writing under his pen name B. Kovner, in which he created the character Yenta, and featured Yenta in a Broadway play entitled Yenta Telebenta. Yenta was also his character in a 50-year writing career for The Jewish Daily Forward.
The name was used as the name of the matchmaker in the Broadway musical hit Fiddler on the Roof. It was the name of an Israeli spy agency in the 1960s TV sitcom Get Smart, in an episode titled 'The Man from Yenta'.
The name has also been used for:
- The Linux CardBus controller, which brings together Cardbus cards with the rest of the computer.
- The name of a highly available key-value store for Perl
- The acronym of an Israeli equivalent of CONTROL in Get Smart where it stood for Your Espionage Network and Training Academy.
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