Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ya Ya Yiddish!!

Blogroll Me!


There, I've said it.

Interestingly enough, I've always thought it to be the most beautiful language in the world because of our cultural history that is translated through its vocabulary. A vocabulary that cannot, in fact, always be translated to English. Some of the words and expressions work in this Germanic/Hebrew mother tongue, but one grasps for the words in English with which to define.
And believe me when I say "Lost in Translation" means much more than an offbeat film title featuring Bill Murray.

Not too long ago I worked on a freelance project -- a book featuring Yiddish curses. OY, OY, and a triple OY. To think that people in the old country -- and new! -- actually threw around some of these wonderful witty sayings is beyond me. Here is a sampling of some of the types of curses people threw/still throw around.

My father, who comes from shtetl-town Poland, hadn't even heard some of the expressions that I questioned him about. He explained that many would be 1) either REALLY old and not in use anymore or 2) they were particular to regions and not widely used

When I surf the Net or seek particular info, I often stumble upon wonderful Web sites that I normally wouldn't read about or hear about.

Tonight, lucky me discovered this site -- and as I was doing other computer work, I listened to bits and pieces of offered radio programs, listed in the GEMS column. I was smiling the whole time.

For me, it's a world gone by that's being depicted. The language has survived, but many of its people have not, which is bittersweet.

Please take a moment to check out the Yiddish Radio Project. Just tell them your Yiddishe Mama sent you...

And for those inquiring, I never learned Yiddish; my knowledge is pretty good, but it's based on what I've picked up while listening to others speak it. When I open my mouth to speak what I think is German or Swiss, I'm told it's Yiddish I'm speaking.


cruisin-mom said...

Yiddish is a great language which I fear will get lost. My grandparents always spoke yiddish when they didn't want us to understand what they were saying...of course, we caught on, and then they would have to speak Russian...that I never picked up!

Danny said...

I wish I had learned Yiddish from all my family members who spoke it. It's so great to see all the little Chasidic kids here in L.A. running around speaking it as their first language--although it had a near-death experience for many years, the language is still alive and well. I've been listening to the Yiddish Radio Project all week on my iPod (for the umpteenth time) and love it so much--what a different world. And just this morning I met a guy from my family's Polish shtetl who found me through my blog (my great-grandfather in Toronto brought over his grandfather from Poland to be the rabbi there in 1920) and we were both bemoaning our lack of Yiddish. I do remember one curse:

Du bist ein shtick fleish mit zwei oygen!
(You're a piece of meat with two eyes?)

torontopearl said...

CM: Of course, that's also how I know German/Yiddish/Swiss...when the kids weren't supposed to understand the adult talk.

Danny: I was going to send you the link directly, then decided to blog about it instead.
I guesss there's some truth to "If you blog {about} it, they will come." Guess "they" refers to Danny Miller, huh?

To all: Yiddish is being captured in different realms, not just through Web sites and newly published books and book concepts (Dick/Jane in Yiddish; Winnie the Pooh in Yiddish, which I received as a gift last year; The Cat in the Hat in Yiddish, etc.)
Klezmer music, KlezCamps, Yiddish-based festivals abound. And thank G-d for all those!
And try to do yourself a favor one day; hunt down some old Yiddish films from the twenties, thirties and forties. I've viewed several, taken from public libraries that are in highly Jewish-populated parts of the city. This films are classics -- not always brilliantly made, nor are the actors wonderful at their craft. But view these films and think about our history, what transpired, and what kind of cultural icons have been lost in the Yiddish world.

David_on_the_Lake said...

Yiddish is such a unique language...So full of warmth and humour. It's a shame that those that know how to speak it like that are passing away so rapidly...

Mary said...

Sorry if this posted more than once. I just wanted to tell you that if you get the chance you should read Aaron Lansksy's book "Outwitting History". It is all about his quest to save Yiddish books and the amazing people that he has met doing his lifes's work. He is currently the director of a Yiddish library on the campus of Hampshire College. It is the largest collection of Yiddish books anywhere. When you read about how as a young man in his 20's he would dive through dumpsters throughout NY because someone alerted him to the fact that some Yiddish books had been tossed there it will move you to tears. Absolutely a book that you cannot put down!