[Mendele] Mendele Vol.19.010

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Mon Aug 24 09:36:36 EDT 2009

Mendele: Yiddish literature and language

Contents of Vol. 19.010
August 23, 2009

1) bankes (Bernard Katz)
2) bezhenets (Bracha Weingrod)
3) gogel (Daniel Kennedy, Moyshe Taube)
4) zeraze (Dina Lvias)
5) zeraze (Vincent Homolka)
6) zeraze (Leonard Fox, Yankl Stillman)
7) Mark Rakovsky (Eli Rosenblatt)
8) mashkit (Z. D. Smith)
9) The secular and the worldly in Yiddish literature and Yiddish life (Z. 
D. Smith)

Date:  August 12, 2009
Subject: bankes

Over 12 years ago, Rick Turkel in response to Walter Golman's query 
(Mendele 6.102) said, "the word "bankes" comes from Polish/Ukrainian 
"ban'ki," which are, in fact, cups." No one seemed to comment on this 
remark at the time. Can some of our distinguished students of Yiddish 
etymology opine for us whether this is indeed the likely derivation?

Lomir ale zayn shtark un gezint!
Bernard Katz

Date:  August 11, 2009
Subject:  bezhenets

This clearly means refugee, as seen throughout Falk Zolf's Yiddish 
Classic, "On Foreign Soil."  I read this in translation. It contains 
increasing transliteration, which I found very difficult as a Yiddish 
reader. Martin Green (the translator) chose the German roots, which turned 
the word "tsvey" (two) into "zwei," and  "farshteyn" into  "verstehen" and 
"norvos" (recently) into "nur-was."  Nontheless, this is a fascinating 
personal account of a young man living through the turmoil of Russia from 
about 1913 until 1926, when he emigrated to Winnipeg, where to our great 
fortune he became the teacher and later principal of the I.L. Peretz Shul.

  Bracha Weingrod

Date: August 11, 2009
Subject: gogel

In the version of the text I've seen "tsvey antisemitn" funem band 
"Oremeun freylekhe" (Ale verk, Buenos aires, 1955) the word is written 
with a nun, not a giml.

Emes, undzer held hot zikh noykem geven in der bord. Ongeton zikh un 
oysgeputst, take nor vi a kale, fardreyt di vontses aroyf, zikh farlozt a 
langn nogl un getrogn a shnips "asher loy shnipsu avoyseynu"

...if that helps (or just confuses matters more)

Daniel Kennedy

[Editor's note: Moyshe Taube points also to "nogl" instead of "gogl" in 
the text and adds that "Letting grow one's fingernail (presumably of the 
pinkie) was presumably one  f the ornaments of the "frant"."]

Date:  August 10, 2009
Subject: zeraze

I don't know the context in which you heard, or read, the word "zeraze." 
There is a word in Russian, "zaraza," which means contagion. Spelled as 
you did it, it looks like the Yiddish version of the same. The word 
possibly also exists in Polish.

Dina Lvias

Date: August 10, 2009
Subject: zeraze

Lillian Siegfried asks the meaning of "zeraze." In Harkavy's dictionary, 
the Yiddish word "zaraze" is defined as "contagion, contagious disease; 
pestilence," with cognate verb "zarazen" meaning "to infect." He also 
gives the word "zaraz" or "zares" as meaning "immediately, at once." These 
words look Slavic in origin.

Vincent Homolka

Date: August 10, 2009
Subject: zeraze

Re: Lillian Siegfried's query about "zeraze": the word is actually 
"zaraza," meaning "infection" or "contagion" in Russian, and used in 
Yiddish too with the same meaning. It is also employed to describe a very 
unpleasant person when the speaker wants to avoid using an obscenity.

Leonard Fox

[Editor's note: Yankl Stillman adds that "zeraze" is "also in Litvak 
Yiddish pronounced zaraze. Literally, it means an "infection." It is used 
as a put-down to a haranguing woman, much like kholera is in Polish. It is 
indeed a Yiddish, as well as Russian and possibly Polish, word..."]

Date: August 21, 2009
Subject: Mark Rakovsky


I recently came across a 1929 Yiddish translation of "Bataula," the first 
novel by a black writer to win the Prix Goncourt. The Warsaw publisher 
Mark Rakovsky was also responsible for various other translations into 
Yiddish , including novels and stories by Cheng Sheng, Panait Istrati, 
Edmondo De Amicis, and Pierre Loti, among others. Little seems to exist 
about Mark Rakovsky, but Christian Rakovsky, the Bolshevik and Soviet 
diplomat, shares a name. Does anyone know if there is a connection between 
these two men, if they are in fact the same person, or just who Mark 
Rakovsky was?

mit frayndlikhe grusn,

Eli Rosenblatt

Date:  August 23, 2009
Subject:  mashkit

In a portion of Dovid Katz's contribution to the YIVO Encyclopedia of the 
Jews in Eastern Europe, he makes reference to "mashkit," a characteristic 
typeface that was only used for printing Yiddish texts in the early days 
of Hebrew-letter books. In "Words On Fire" (p. 76 in the Google Books 
copy) he goes into a little more detail, explaining that it originated 
with the brothers Helitz in Cracow, no later than the 1530s, and persisted 
in some places azh till the 19th century. He mentions that it is also 
called "Meshit."

http://cf.uba.uva.nl/nl/publicaties/treasures/text/t08.html doesn't 
mention Mashkit by name, but refers to a style, of which the Isny type is 
an early example. That must be the same style described by Professor Katz. 
And Professor Katz himself has referred me to further articles by Herbert 
Zafren, which I have sadly not yet been able to locate.

All things considered, I have not yet been able to find, online, any 
graphic example of this style of typeface so identified. It's possible 
I've seen it and simply not known it as such, given its supposed survival 
so late into the history of published Yiddish. That said, can any 
Mendelyaner point me to some image or images on the web in order to 
demonstrate this unique Yiddish typeface, apparently so different from the 
standard square characters, as well as the Rashi script? I even wonder 
about spelling its name in
hebreishe oysyes.

Z. D. Smith

Date: August 23, 2009
Subject: The secular and the worldly in Yiddish literature and Yiddish 

Periodically a debate breaks out, where someone contends --- aiming at the 
many nit-
geboyrne learners of Yiddish, many of whom presumably have  little to no 
religious education --- that without a thorough background and 
understanding of Jewish religious life, one can never truly speak or 
understand Yiddish or Yiddish culture. This is usually eventually 
deflated, in the spirit of pluralism, as terribly overblown, at best, and 
someone points out the great portion of Yiddish literature that falls 
within the greater European humanist tradition.

But I'm interested in how much leeway there was in the Yiddish communities 
of old (the answer is seems clear when talking about today, but for all I 
know there might be much more going on) for the actual apostate, for the 
non-frum Jew.

That is to say, I can only assume that in the Yiddish-speaking urban 
communities of the 19th and 20th centuries, there was some proportion of 
yidn who simply didn't go to shul, who ate khazerfleysh, who ran with 
shikses and spent Friday nights at the cabaret. We know this to be the 
case, but did they then simply stop speaking Yiddish? Did all those 
secular Jews simply assimilate, and cast off their Yiddish identities?

And if not, where is their literature? When I think of Yiddish literature, 
what I think of still does, almost always, take place in a very 
traditionally religious context, abounding with yeshiva bokhrim, rabonim, 
and the traditional folkways of the khsidim, or their less effusive --- 
but no less pious --- Northern cousins. If it's very edgy and 
forward-thinking, it might concern a free-thinking rabbi's son wrestling 
with his father's faith. I am curious if there is any body of work that 
does reflect a truly secular lifestyle.

I am curious because Yiddish's image is, of course, multivalent; it was 
and is the language of everyday life, including everything that anybody 
does during the day that doesn't happen in shul. And, of course, how many 
Yiddish speakers, or even Yidishistn, were and are also deeply involved in 
politics and labor organization. So I am somewhat curious to find that I 
can't necessarily think of too many Yiddish depictions of the vices that I 
enjoy --- kortnshpiln, bronfn --- that aren't basically presented as 
"things which you should forgo, and lern toyre instead."

I'm also interested in the treatment, within this hypothetical body of 
secular Yiddish literature, of the very ingrained and significant 
component of religious idiom and terminology in the general Yiddish 
language. Shlogn kapores, dos koshere khazer-fisl, the many reflexive 
borekh-hashems that fill Yiddish's expressive powers: it is my intuition 
that they would remain and be employed even by a native speaker in a 
Yiddish community who himself had no religious practice in the same way 
that more than one atheist today will still mutters a relieved "thank 
god." But I don't have the corpus yet to back up that intuition.

In general I am confused by the contrast between the many sentiments I 
hear about goles- natsyonalizm, the politics of Yiddish, and the 
extraordinary, very earthbound acquired culture of a millennium spent 
bouncing around Europe; and the wholly religious milieu in which the 
entirety of my current conception of Yiddish literature seems actually to 
take place.

Z. D. Smith
End of Mendele Vol. 19.010

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