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Posts Tagged ‘Yiddish’

Oktoberfest ended with a little rain and a lot of dachshunds! And since our friend Eli was visiting with her son Leo, we all met the Bride’s family for the Annual Dachshund Derby in Germantown. Leo decided that Nashville should be renamed “Dogland,” since dogs of every variety strolled through the park with their beer drinking masters in lederhosen. Still, watching those wiener dogs race was hilarious. http://thenashvilleoktoberfest.com/dogtoberfest/

Ms Bean was delighted to sit on the front porch and watch the canine parade go by  behind the cover of a maple tree. She has staked out her territory thankfully, and the sidewalk is safe for most breeds. Corgi puppies and Great Danes stroll right by without looking up to see her eyeing them suspiciously. After all, she is a rescue mutt, origins unknown, and she’s proud of it! She doesn’t need some set of AKC papers to know she is a prey-driven lover girl!

Unlike certain people, who require validation in order to feel good about themselves. It’s not enough to be a professional for some, your pedigree must include only “The Best” schools, “The Finest” clerkships or residencies. These are the silent judges in our midst; constantly ranking others according to some inner calculation, one they are only slightly aware of and would never admit. It’s still a Dog and Pony Show world it would seem, no matter where you go.

You can usually sniff them out, the pretentious co-mingling of class and money. It’s a primal thing I suppose, as territorial as Ms Bean and my friendly mailman. Great Grandma Ada would call this person a “Noodge.” ie Someone who is a pest, an annoying critic of your every move. It’s exactly what we are currently trying to teach the Love Bug’s toddler brother to avoid – not to whine! “You’re not whining are you?” I’ll ask him. The etymology is probably Slavic, and:

likely from Yiddish נודיען nudyen ‘to bore, pester’, נודניק nudnik ‘bore, pest’, influenced by English “nudge”  http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish-english-lexicon/words/417

Some people become lifetime complainers; their shoulders are burdened by a ton of self-generated worry. I’m sure Freud would tell us they got stuck at that two year old developmental stage, but the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics may have a different answer. Richard Thaler started applying smaller psychological theories of human behavior to influence larger changes in public policy with his “Nudge Theory!”

How do we get someone to make good decisions? Bob explained Thaler’s theory to me this way – if his company offered employees the opportunity to sign up for a 401K, he would get a small minority signing up. BUT if he automatically signed everyone up for a 401K, and told them they would have to opt out if they didn’t want to save for retirement, the large majority would participate! I guess the human species is just lazy and we all need a little “nudge” in the right direction, to avoid being a “noodge!”

As for us, the rain dampened the number of people walking into lamp posts and spilling their steins of beer. Bob only had to pick up an occasional St Pauli Girl can every morning off our stoop. Things are getting back to normal in Germantown.

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Instead of a curse, let’s end our Yiddish journey today with a little blessing. Let’s honor the opening of Star Wars this week with an homage to another favorite sci-fi franchise of mine – the logical, side-kick, Star Trek character, Spock. Did you know his famous greeting, the Vulcan salute with the ring and middle finger separated, actually came from an ancient Orthodox Jewish blessing?  “Live long and prosper.”

This is the shape of the letter shin,” Nimoy said in the 2013 interview, making the famous “V” gesture. The Hebrew letter shin, he noted, is the first letter in several Hebrew words, including Shaddai (a name for God), Shalom (the word for hello, goodbye and peace) and Shekhinah, which he defined as “the feminine aspect of God who supposedly was created to live among humans.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/02/27/the-jewish-roots-of-leonard-nimoy-and-live-long-and-prosper/

Leonard Nimoy worked tirelessly to keep the Yiddish language alive. He said it was the only way he could communicate with his grandparents. He recorded many stories in Yiddish for the Oral History Project of The Yiddish Book Center. This is a valuable resource for anyone who would like to learn more about the language. And pssst, Ada, they even have a podcast! http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org

A leben ahf dein kop

A long life upon your head

This is usually said while praising someone like; “Well said! Well done!” Plus, who doesn’t want to live to be one hundred and beyond? Today, thanks to modern medicine, many of us will! But better it should be a long, healthy journey, which is often determined by the luck of our gene pool.

And imagine my surprise to find out the famous Hannukah game of chance, the dreidel, was actually derived from an Irish game! “…the dreidel was brought from Ireland to Germany during the late Roman period. Men would gamble with a top known as a “teetotum” in bars and inns. Originally the letters on the teetotum corresponded to the first letters of the Latin words for “nothing,” “half,” “everything” and “put in.” Read more: http://forward.com/culture/326379/the-true-history-of-the-dreidel/#ixzz3uIViitvK

I’m so happy the Bride sings the Yiddish lullaby that Great Aunt Mary taught me about raisins and almonds. Now when I start to sing “Rozhinkes min Mandln” to the Love Bug, her eyes start to flutter.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLrvZiU7slc

Happy Hannukah from our house to yours!  IMG_3538

 

 

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Today is the next to the last day of Hannukah! How is this possible? I haven’t made latkes yet, or baked dreidel cookies. Times like these make me think about time; like why is the trip driving home always faster than the trip going to a place. It was the exact same amount of miles, it just seems faster.

Anyway, welcome to the seventh installment of Ada’s Yiddishisms. This one is about time, in a way:

Farshlepteh krenk

A drawn-out illness, neverending…

My niece told me about a TED Radio Hour podcast about adaptation, so yesterday I listened to it while I went through some motions at the gym. This I do on a regular basis so as to avoid a farshlepteh krenk. http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/455904076/adaptation

It was fascinating, and since I now have to put prednisone drops in my eye every four hours, my ears perked up at this story. A boy was born with cancer of his retinas (stay with me now) so that by the age of 13 months he had to have both eyes removed. He was blind and the first thing he did in the NICU after surgery was climb out of his crib and explore his room!

His TED point was that his parents never treated him as if he was special. They let him grow like a normal boy and explore his world. And so he naturally adapted to the darkness in the same way bats get along flying at night, echolocation – “…the sonarlike system used by dolphins, bats, and other animals to detect and locate objects by emitting usually high-pitched sounds that reflect off the object and return to the animal’s ears or other sensory receptors.”

In other words, he naturally adapted as an infant by clicking his tongue.

What does this have to do with a neverending illness you might ask? It made me think that some parents might immediately do everything in their power to shield that blind baby, to try and make his world carefree. They would emit sympathy from others, he would be labeled, classified and codified.

Some parents create a sickly child, where there is none.

Still, this month is the neverending season of joy, right? If you happen to be going through something hard right now, just remember that December can amplify those feelings. And that it is only one month, 31 days. And we are halfway there. And the second half goes faster!

Let’s hope you don’t come down with an illness, even a short one, over the Holidays, but if you do these two Jewish doctors will be working on Christmas day. L’Chaim!

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Ada has been trying to give me politically correct Yiddish expressions. When I called her yesterday she was at Red Lobster with her 90+ year old posse of ladies who still lunch. Was it someone’s birthday? “No,” she told me, “just because.” But she didn’t want to put her ancestral heritage out there in the blog world in a bad light; “I know many more that are curses,” she said “but I don’t think they are nice for the iPad.” Sometimes Yiddish can be naughty. “Like what?” I had to ask.

Vaksn zolstu vi a tsibele mitn kop in dr’erd un dis fis aroyf!

May you grow like an onion with your head in the ground

and your feet in the air!

Cursing out other people has a long history from those three wise women visiting a princess at her birth to Shakespeare. Now he was a genius at it, and I imagine Queen Cleopatra was pretty savvy at downgrading her handmaidens. One of my favorites since moving South is, “Stick a fork in him, he’s done!” Usually this is said slyly from an older woman to a young girl who has been betrayed once too often. Likening one’s straying/playa/boyfriend to a turkey will always make me smile.

But Jewish history is such that cursing had to be done in a smart way. After all, you’d be hauled off to a gulag or worse if you said the wrong thing to the wrong Gentile. Maybe this is why Jewish comedians like John Stewart and Seinfeld are so popular. Centuries of practicing the elegant put-down has twisted their psyche into the rhetoric of rebellion. It’s almost like they can’t help but see the world through a funny lens. It’s a coping mechanism, we laugh so we don’t fall apart.

The hook to this particular saying is that at first, it sounds like a compliment. We start out like a soothsayer with “May you grow…,”and finish with a one-two punch. Much better than, “Go jump in a lake.” It’s prophecy of the malignant sort. If your native language wasn’t Yiddish in fact, you would probably not get it. You might even say, “Thanks.”

So next time that clerk is too busy talking to someone else to even look at you, or that red car with antlers on it almost pushes you off the road, or yet another political robocall arrives to your landline, just smile and think about the noble onion.

And if you’re baking holiday cookies today, may you have a glass of wine at your elbow next to the butter! From this little Jewish Leprechaun I could plotz!IMG_3532

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I grew up in a quaint, working class town on the western fringe of NJ. We didn’t have much, but on the other hand, we didn’t need much. Here is a blog about Dover, NJ you might enjoy! The photographer is the father of a dear friend. http://blogfinger.net/2015/03/22/dover-ata-christmas-1960-by-henry-boschen/   1960 Dover, NJ picture by Henry Boschenboschen

I lived in a tiny house on a hill outside of town with one bathroom, but it was a house filled with love and a nurturing though agoraphobic foster mother, Nell. I never thought of myself as poor; but when I moved to the Flapper’s big Victorian house in town, with older siblings, I must have noticed the difference.

My life immediately expanded to include a glamorous sister in NYC and two brothers, one still in high school. I acquired step-siblings and a step-father, who was a well respected judge in town. We lived across the street from the Jewish synagogue, and I remember my first visit on Purim with my step-father and boyfriend/future husband Bob. This Catholic school girl was delighted to hear people talking during the service, making noise in fact, and generally not listening to the Rabbi. No more kneeling, rosary beads or silent praying in Latin!

So raising my children Jewish, in a wealthy Jersey suburb should have been easy, right? Wrong. Rumson was and probably still is a mix of “old” and “new” money. The kids’ cars were much better than the teachers’ cars in the RFH parking lot. And my children’s peers pretty much got whatever they wanted, when they wanted it. I developed a saying for the Rocker, “Want? Work. Wait!” The three “W”s it was called. Just because all his friends had the latest gizmo, didn’t mean I’d run out and buy one for him. When the Bride wanted a car, we offered to pay for half and she ponied up the rest of her cash from summer jobs.

And so I give you Day 5 of Hannukah’s Yiddish saying:

Ich darf es vi a loch in kop!

In other words, I need it like a hole in the head! Yiddish words convey beautiful bits of sarcasm. In this season of giving, and getting too much, it’s important to differentiate between what our children want, and what they actually need. They may want a drum set, but you need that like a hole in the head! Most toys are played with for a few days, and thrown away because they break or they are lost forever at the bottom of a toy trunk.

I love the approach some parents are using – they have their children make a list for Santa of four things: 1) something they want, 2) something to read, 3) something to wear, and 4) something to give away to a needy child. Perfect right? But I’d have to come up with four more for Hannukah!

How about: 5) something they need (like an educational game), 6) something for or from nature (like a terrarium), 7) an experience (like Nutcracker tickets, or a trip to Rockefeller Center), and 8) how about a kiss? That’s always what my foster father wanted for Christmas. He got that with a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco every year!

Now that’s enough of my kibitzing for one day!  21551_1194777985859_3581712_n

 

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Good Morning folks. Sorry for sleeping in but I’ve been exhausted lately, how about you? I once thought that by marrying into the Jewish faith I’d get out of all the Christmas hubub. But as my psychologist brother Dr Jim reminded me, I should feel lucky since I have two holidays to celebrate!

That was the story of my young life; one birthday party in NJ, then over the Delaware Water Gap we would go to another birthday party with my birth family in PA. To Nell’s credit, she did make it seem like having two Christmases, and two birthdays was really special. Double the fun. Later, I realized it was the Flapper’s way of keeping me in her life.

So my question of the morning is, “Do you ever feel like you are overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time in the day?” Have three people invited you to their holiday parties on the same night, and you just learned your child volunteered your cookies for the Christmas party at church the next morning? It’s no wonder psychologists say depression shoots up this time of year – we are on a treadmill of presumed happiness. Just to help you out, I give you another Ada Yiddishism:

Mit ain toches kent mir nicht zizen af tsen uriden

This is one of my favorites, and if you’re from the NY area you might recognize one word, pronounced “Toockes.” Loosely translated it means,

“With one behind you can’t sit on ten toilets!”

Stellar right?! This little saying hits so many of our buttons: the need to please; the desire to be perfect; wanting to avoid conflict. Or just plain needing to be cloned so we can sail through this joyful season. Oy Vey! But what if you take a deep, cleansing breath, and think about just one toilet – maybe it’s a fancy new one where you wave your hand to flush and the seat is always down? I love it.

My other little trick that Bob taught me is, I don’t have to apologize…or go into long, lengthy explanations about why I can’t do something like volunteer to clean up after the school’s holiday party, or corral the Kindergarten kids before the Tree Lighting in town, or well you name it. He once told me that men do NOT do this! Men will just say, “No,” and they might add, “Scheduling conflict.” Practice this phrase ladies – “No. scheduling conflict.” The more you say it, the easier it gets!

As for me, I’ve discovered the wonder of online shopping this year. Don’t judge me readers. At least Hannukah is early which is actually helpful, it forces you to multi-task. And anyone who knows me knows I’m purely a one-task-at-a-time girl. Anyway, this month is all about the kids, right?Turning them into little, civilized mensches despite and amidst crass commercialization. But I have faith, as long as I have a toilet nearby.

Here I am going to only one wedding as the Flower Girl. Even though I had three older sisters, only one was married during my gypsy years between NJ and PA. Thankfully. IMG_3502

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Good Morning Yiddish fans! And Happy second day of Hannukah. As a lapsed Catholic, I tried to compete with Christmas for my kids. I’d have Santa leave a present, I’d wrap up something big for the first and last night, and continue to wrap smaller presents for all the nights inbetween. We played the dreidel game with M&Ms. I fried latkes, potato pancakes, because there is always a special food item associated with each Jewish holiday. I really really tried…

Needless to say it was a mistake. There is no competing with Christmas as I learned after attending Rockefeller Center’s Holiday Extravaganza with the Bride when she was about 7 years old. Walking up Madison Avenue, tears streaming down her face, because Hannukah wasn’t even mentioned. They had a camel on stage, but no menorah. “It was ALL about Christmas!” she wailed. And I was stumped since I love the Rockettes and expected her to love it too. Which leads me to today’s expression:

Vos ahfen lung iz ahfen tsung

Which means, “What’s on his mind is on his tongue.” We all know someone like this. They are childlike in that every thought gains expression; on the Monopoly board of their mind, words tumble out, they do not pass Go at all, and sometimes this lands them in Jail.

As we age, this kind of short circuitry may happen more often. We forget social cues, our super ego steps aside and we say whatever pops into our head. Doctors call this a disinhibition, as if the filter in our brain is too full, so all our thoughts tumble out without mercy. Ada’s husband Great Grandpa Hudson is notorious for this. At 90 years of age, of course it’s allowed and amusing at times.

Like that Jim Carrey movie “Liar Liar” about a lawyer who can’t stop telling the truth, thinking aloud can be an affliction. Maybe this is part of Trump’s appeal. He is saying what his followers would like to say, only they know it would sound horribly fascist, except wait, Trump is saying stupid things so maybe their bigoted belief system has merit? This morning even Dick Cheney denounced Trump’s rhetoric. Will wonders ever cease?

I no longer try to compete or fight with Christmas. Here we are at the hospital “Holiday Party.” Note the beautiful red and green holiday wreath behind us!

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