Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lost in Translation

Blogroll Me!

I was just thinking -- at 12:45 a.m. thereabouts -- that words and expressions sound so different, have a different impact, if you say them in English or if you say them in Yiddish or Hebrew.

I'm used to saying, "Thank G-d", yet I know countless others who say, "Baruch Ha-Shem."

I'm used to saying, "G-d willing" while others say, "Im yirtze Ha-Shem."

These expressions sound vastly different when spoken by me; they mean the same thing in either language, so why does my version not sound as holy?

Sometimes there is just no way to properly translate an expression; just think of all the Yiddish curses that exist. They just don't have the same impact on the ear witness when spewed in English.

Another case: when I was about 8 years old, I helped name our neighbor's cat. I suggested "Chatul," which simply enough means "cat" in Hebrew. Sure, I wouldn't have dared suggest naming the striped orange tabby "Cat"--that would have sounded too much like something out of an early days grade-school reader featuring Dick, Jane, Cat , Dog. But "Chatul"--that had a certain je ne sais quoi to it....and it worked until the cat ingested rat poison in a nearby plaza parking lot. Then the cat was dead, finis, mort, muerto, niftar in any language!

If you can think of several other common Jewish expressions that are used, throw them out. If you know some and don't share them, it would be a shame...a shande. Hmmm, shande is too impactful there. I'll settle for "a shame"!


A Simple Jew said...

Interesting posting, Pearl. I too use a combination of languages with no particular reason....sometimes English, sometimes Hebrew/Yiddish.

Some people have asked me why I like to be "Daddy" instead or "Abba" or "Tatte". The answer is quite simple; I am American and I speak English.

Pragmatician said...

Simcha- which translates a joy, but in Yiddish it also means a wedding, a birth, a bris and a myriad of other events.

Nachas-There's is no English equivalent for that word, parental pride just doesn't cut it.

cruisin-mom said...

mensch is a word you really can't translate...it just speaks for itself. What I find interesting is how many yiddish words have been adopted into the English language (particularly by the entertainment industry). Chutzpah, schmuck, chachke, bubkis (excuse my spelling!)