Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' choice of a Hebrew-flavored name for their newborn daughter has speakers of the language scratching their heads.
Baby Suri's name can be traced to a Hebrew word meaning "princess" or "noblewoman," but by such a circuitous route that the connection is lost on most Israelis. Since the birth Tuesday in Los Angeles, bemused Israeli TV and radio presenters have debated the word's origins.
"Nobody here has ever really heard of it," an announcer on Israel's Army Radio said during a discussion Thursday. The Yediot Ahronot newspaper agreed in its half-page splash on the celebrity birth.
"We seem to have learned a new Hebrew word — and from Tom Cruise, no less," said a Channel 2 TV anchorman.
Cruise's publicist said Tuesday the name has its origins in Hebrew meaning "princess" or in Persian meaning "red rose."
Avshalom Koor, who has for years presented TV and radio spots on the intricacies of Hebrew, said Suri was a derivation of Sarah — the name of Biblical patriarch Abraham's wife — as pronounced by some Central European Jews.
"Suri is a pet name for Sarah," Koor told Army Radio. "The Ashkenazi (Jews) of Poland and Hungary pronounce it Suri."
In ancient Hebrew, Sarah is the feminine form of "Sar," or lord. In modern Hebrew, the word means a Cabinet Minister.
Koor suggested a far better known but no less majestic name, noting the baby was born during the Passover holiday, which commemorates the escape of the ancient Israelites from bondage in Egypt.
"You could call her Geula (redemption)," he said.