[Mendele] Mendele Vol. 19.013

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Fri Oct 9 07:28:55 EDT 2009

Mendele: Yiddish literature and language

Contents of Vol. 19.013
October 9, 2009

1) farker-mitlen (Stuart Cohn)
2) Yiddish medical translations (Jordan Kutz)
3) Kiyubishever rov (Cedric Ginsberg)
4) Sukes-lid (Rita Falbel)
5) Max Perlman's "Benzin" (Cedric Ginsberg)
6) Non-religious literature in Yiddish (Malvin E. Ring0
7) "Well over the fast!" (Yehuda Berger)
8) Moyshe Sambatyon (Alice Dazord)
9) Isaac Babel in Yiddish (Leonard Fox)

Date:  September 23, 2009
Subject: farker-mitlen

I am trying to figure out a phrase from a Memorial book for the Community 
of Racionz but I don't understand this term. Could anyone define 
"farker-mitlen" as in the following

Es zenen ober nit geven keyn farker-mitlen, vayl ale farker mitlen zenen 
genumen gevorn fun poylisher militar.

I tried looking this term up in my Weinreich dictionary but all I could 
find was farker = intersection.

Thank you,
Stuart Cohn

Date:  October 3, 2009
Subject:  Yiddish medical translations

I don't know anything about this firm so I was very intrigued when I came 
across this website. They refer to a Yiddish language translation 
"industry." While there are lots of Yiddish translators, interpreters, and 
some firms that primarily do Yiddish translation, I've never heard it 
referred to as an "industry" before. Has anyone had any experience with 
this firm before? Their references to knowledge in localization and 
specialized terminology for various fields is also interesting to me and 
it brings to mind the issue of contemporary medical translation for 
Yiddish speakers.

In a case which has nothing to do with the above firm, I saw and was 
baffled by a medical form in Yiddish for a hospital that was, how shall I 
put this politely, very poor.
The words for conditions, body parts and procedures were inconsistent, or 
occasionally transliterated English (wrist, joint, cancer) and most 
frighteningly in one case just plain wrong (a mix up between the words for 
kidney and liver!!).  I really wish I had kept the form because I've been 
unable to find it in the time since.  I hope it's been replaced by a 
better version, as this was about two years ago.

Medical translation is tough generally and even tougher with how much 
Yiddish can vary.  In normal American Hasidic Yiddish cancer is expressed 
as one of several euphemisms but to almost anyone in Boro Park the 
technical term would be "cancer." In the dictionary you'll find the word 
"rak." Speaking to people around the world I've mostly heard euphemisms 
"yene mayse" etc., as well as the word "kreps."  With "joint" I've 
heard/seen at least three different Yiddish terms as well as seen the 
English joint in print in Yiddish letters.  The forms I saw were clearly 
aimed at a Hasidic population, which is of course the main population 
requiring medical translation forms in Yiddish in NYC.  But the main 
population is not the only.  I've known people in Philadelphia who spoke 
only Polish and Yiddish or Russian and Yiddish who relied on forms in 
Yiddish.  Had they been in NYC they would have been baffled by a 
(hypothetical) sentence like
"veyst ir oyb ayer inshurins vet dekn di kostn  fun a kondishn oder kenser 
vos ir hot frier gehat (pre-eksisting kondishn)," with pre-existing 
condition being transliterated English. The best solution may be to use 
multiple terminology so that the widest audience can understand. But if a 
form can only contain a minimum number of words (or a minimum amount of 
space) this may not be possible.  In some respects translating a poem and 
keeping the correct tone between languages is harder than translating an 
insurance form or a patient confidentiality agreement.  But no physical 
harm can come from mistranslating a poem.  People can be hurt or killed by 
confusion about medical procedures stemming from botched translations.

In any case, I wish this firm and everyone else tackling this important 
but difficult work

All the best.

Jordan Kutz

Date: September 23, 2009
Subject: Kiyubishever rov

In a once-off literary cultural publication (Dorem-afrikaner zamlbukh) 
which appeared in South Africa in February 1945, there is a statement that 
the proceeds of the sale of the book would be donated to Ratnfarbandishe 
yidn {=Kiyubishever Ruf}. Does any Mendelyaner know the significance of 
Kiyubishev [Kubishev] - I have seen reference to ethnic cleansing of the 
Taters in Kubishev Oblast, but there was no reference to Jews.
Does anybody have any knowledge of the Fund, was it simply the name of a 
Fund established to assist Jews in the Soviet Union in the immediate 
post-war era? Who ganized the Fund, and what were its origins?

Cedric Ginsberg

Date: October 1, 2009
Subject: sukes-lid

Has anyone heard of the Sukkos song (lyrics below)?

Sukes a yontef a fargenign
Ven men un vayber
Hern oyf tsu krign
Zi git im esn
A hipsh bisl
Un shokhn kukt arayn
In shisl

A gut, gezunt un zis yor

Rita Falbel

Date: September 16, 2009
Subject:  Max Perlman's "Benzin"

Could someone check and correct where necessary the words of the song 
"Benzin" by Max Perlman?

"Benzin" fun Max Perlman

Transcribed and transliterated from the original recording by Cedric

Petroleum iz a tzoyber klang, un akht vi flisik gold
Di velt bakumen hot, a nayem zin
Es hot der mentsh gevolt azoy, un di tsayt hot es gevolt
Az alts zol dreyn zikh arum benzin

Me zukht benzin, men grobt azoy di erd
Durkh blut in harts durkh fayer un durkh shverd


Ay vil men forn, ay vil men forn, nor tsum forn darf men ongisn benzin
Un az men gist nit keyn benzin,
Shtup aher un shtup ahin, es geyt nit, es fort nit di mashin.

In kasino dort baym yam, bay der roleta aparat
Yidn pravn khshtos a gantse nakht
Dort shteyt reb Yankl, mit zayn vayb, shoyn opgeflikt oyf glat,
Farspilt dem gantsn oytser vos gebrakht

Zayn vayb bet im, oy Yankl "Stop di Game"
Du vest nisht hobn mit vos tzu forn aheym

Un er vil forn ay vil er forn, nor tsum forn darf men ongisn benzin
un az men gist nit keyn benzin,
Shtup aher un shtup ahin, es geyt nit, es fort nit di mashin

An almen shoyn fun akhtzik yor hot zikh amol farglust
A yunge shayne maydl far a vayb
Dos maydl ober hot gevust az er hot gelt a sakh
Hot zi geheyrat tsulib tsaytfartrayb
Dos yunge vaybl vil forn nit shpatsirn,
A yid an alter ken zikh shoyn nit rirn

Ay er vil forn, ay vil er forn, nor tsum forn darf men ongisn benzin
un az men gist nit keyn benzin,
Shtup aher un shtup ahin es geyt nit, es fort nit di mashin

Ay vil men forn, ay vil men forn, Nor tsu forn darf men ongisn benzin
un az men gist nit keyn benzin, hot dos lebn nit keyn zin
es geyt nit, es fort nit di mashin

Cedric Ginsberg

Date: September 16, 2009
Subject:  Non-religious literature in Yiddish

With regard to the query as to whether there was any substantial 
non-religious literature published in Yiddish, one has only to look at a 
catalog of the book holdings for sale of the National Yiddish Book Center 
in Amherst, MA. I am a product of a Sholem Aleichem shul in Brooklyn, and 
my wonderful teacher of half a century or more ago was Zion Weinper, a 
noted poet. I recently bought a book of his poems from the Center, all of 
them secular. In addition, the holdings of the Center contain numerous 
secular books published in pre-war Poland, Lithuania, etc. It is worth an 

Malvin E. Ring

Date: September 25, 2009
Subject: "Well over the fast!"

My friend and I are puzzled by the pre-Yom Kippur exclamation, "Well over 
the fast!"
I've searched through Google and have found no evidence of an etymology or 
of a Yiddish version of the phrase. Perhaps fellow Mendelyaner can shed 
some light on this peculiar wish.

Yehuda Berger

Date: October 3, 2009
Subject: Moyshe Sambatyon

I am looking for biographical information concerning Moyshe Sambatyon, the 
author of the "sixth continent." Thank you in advance.

Alice Dazord

Date:  September 15, 2009
Subject:  Isaac Babel in Yiddish

Re: Gerry Kane's inquiry about Yiddish translations of Isaac Babel.

On pages 32-33 of Efraim Sicher's exhaustive bibliography of Babel's works 
and their translations, there is a listing of Yiddish translations and 
their places of publication.
A word of caution: the pdf version is fine, but if you choose the html 
version, you will have to read the Yiddish text backwards; not a problem, 
of course, but at first glance you might wonder what language is being 
written from right to left in Hebrew letters!

html version:

pdf version:

Interestingly, Sicher says, on page 16: "The last Soviet edition of 
Babel's works in fact appeared in Yiddish in 1939." I have been a great 
admirer of Babel for more than fifty years, as well as a collector of his 
works in various languages, but I have never been able to track down a 
copy of this edition. If anyone has one for sale, please let me know.

By the way, Sicher also lists Babel's translations from Yiddish into 

Leonard Fox
End of Mendele Vol. 19.013

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