Thursday, August 05, 2004


I enjoy a well-turned non sequitur - especially one that most people can’t understand - and I’ve found a few to share with you. Most of these little gems come from Irwin W., who learned them from his late father. Yiddish, the wonderful lyrical language of Eastern European Jews, is a wellspring of literature, humor, and wisdom. And, as these prove, it’s also a treasure trove of narrishkeit (foolishness).

Moishe Pipik, nudel teschel, geh zum galach, khap a fleschel. Geh araus, pish dich aus, kim aran, zug nisht aus.

Rough translation: “Moses Bellybutton, little pocket of noodles, go to the priest and grab a small bottle. Go out, urinate, come here, don’t say anything.” Completely meaningless, but it’s funny if you say it really fast.

Dreck und leber und koyshere fud’m.

“Shit, liver, and kosher thread.” An all-purpose exclamation apropos of absolutely nothing, this can be uttered much as W. C. Fields would have said “Godfrey Daniel!”

Gevalt unt geshrigen mit borscht.

“[Cries for] help and screaming with red beet soup.” Another unexplainable expostulation.

Er hat gekhapt a shtick dreck in zayn’m moyl und er lozt es nisht oys.

“He has caught a piece of crap in his mouth and he won’t let it go.” Describes a person who retains the untenable, the beater of a dead horse.

Anmachen in zoyreh.

“A turd in vinegar.” Unappetizing metaphor, perhaps for an unpleasant person.

Ikh ken esn gloz un es tut mir nisht vey.

“I can eat glass - it doesn’t hurt me.” This comes from the old I Can Eat Glass Project website, the creation of a Harvard linguist. The idea was that when speaking a foreign language, most tourists are immediately identified as such by the natives of the countries they’re visiting and are treated with disdain. But by saying a phrase such as “I can eat glass, it doesn’t hurt me,” the visitor is treated with the respect due a serious lunatic. The website had this phrase translated into over 100 different languages, including obscure and/or artificial ones.

This is the kind of stuff you won’t learn from reading The Joys of Yiddish.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gevalt un geschrigen mit borscht. Unf---ing believable. You had several here in absolute histerics. We've got to build on it.