[Mendele] Mendele Vol. 20.014

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Mon Feb 21 08:01:14 EST 2011

Mendele: Yiddish literature and language
Contents of Vol. 20.014
February 20, 2011

1) origins of Yiddish (Aubrey Jacobus)
2) Dovid Hofshteyn's "Friling" (Russell Block)
3) gas (Leybl Goldberg, Dina Lvias)
4) dozik (Elvira Groezinger)
5) unidentified book (Itzik Gottesman)
6) Chagall's Yiddish poetry (Hershl Hartman)
7) "In der finster" (Eliezer Niborski)
8) Zalmen Zylbercweig's "Yidisher kunst-teater in amerike" (Steven Lasky)
9) Yiddish terms in need of translation (Yaacov David Shulman)

Date:  January 29, 2011
Subject: origins of Yiddish

I received this message from a Dutch historian during a discussion on the 
origins of Polish Jewry:

East European Yiddish has no similarities with the Rhineland dialect. It 
has similarities with Bavarian. Eckhard Eggers published an alternative 
hypothesis, the so-called Bavarian-Czech hypothesis, which I think is the 
best. It actually is a modification of the Danube hypothesis (Dovid Katz 
and Bob King). It states that Yiddish originated from the Bavarian 
speaking area, which includes also Bohemia and Bavaria, where Bavarian was 
spoken as well. The oldest Slavic component in Yiddish is namely Old Czech 
(which hardly differed from Old Polish). In my forthcoming book I have a 
chapter on this issue. My conclusion is based on my demographic research 
on she'elot utshuvot (responsa) from the early 17th century, and on the 
information rabbi Ber Levinsohn provides. It appears that within Europe, 
East European Jews do not originate from Germany, but from southern 
Russia. I do not mean the Khazars. Jews were living in southern Russia 
already before the beginning of the Common Era. They did not disappear, as 
some historians are trying to make us believe (because they want them to 
originate from Germany). These Jews were very much assimilated, and 
married all kinds of people, which is clearly shown, among other things, 
by the blond East European Jews with blue or grey eyes.

Any comments?

Aubrey Jacobus

Date: February 16, 2011
Subject: Dovid Hofshteyn's "Friling"

Our Yiddish literature discussion group at the Jewish Cultural Center in 
Munich has been reading some of Dovid Hofshteyn's poetry.  We ran into a 
problem with the last two lines of his poem "Friling" (1912):

alts gringer varft der kop zikh inderheykh un shnur farbrokhenem di 
busheles tsu tseyln . . .

The  first line is not difficult to render in daytsh:  "Immer leichter 
werft sich der Kopf in die Hoehe," but rather awkward in English, 
something like: 'Ever easier to cast your head aloft'.  The real problem 
is the second line, which seems to make no sense although the individual 
words are not obscure.

Some of our thoughts:  shnur ="string" or daytsh "schnurstracks" "straight 
and fast"? busheles = either "storks" or "bundels," "tufts." farbrokhenem 
"broken," but what is broken? Hand wringing and criminal exploits don't 
seem appropriate here.

But, I can't imagine casting my head aloft to count storks with a broken 
string.  Other interpretations are equally difficult.

Suggestions would be appreciated.

Russell Block

Date: January 24, 2011
Subject: gas

Al Grand asked about the etymology of Yiddish gas "street." I don't know 
why he considers the Scandinavian words with a "t" unlikely; Germanic 
non-initial t regularly corresponds with Yiddish and (high) German s, as 
in "white"/ "vays," "great"/ "groys," etc. English "gate", which is 
sometimes used in the sense of "street" in street names
("Highgate"), is an obvious cognate. There's no Yiddish etymological 
dictionary, but for the German(ic) component, a good German etymological 
dictionary, such as Kluge's, should be of use.

Leybl Goldberg

[Moderator's note: Dina Levias offers the following on the subject.]

Al Grand's query about the word "gas" (January 4, 2011 Subject: gas) has 
been answered in the same posting by the "Moderator": i.e. its most 
obvious origin is the German word Gasse, referring to a small, narrow 

The various Scandinavian "gate," "gade," "gata" are, to my mind, obvious 

And, to end on a humorous note: the Yiddish-speaking people arriving in 
Paris from various East-European countries "yiddishized" many Parisian 
street names; thus, la rue de Rivoli became "di Rivele gas"!

Dina Levias

Date:  January 25, 2011
Subject: dozik

Regarding the query "dozik" by Mike Koplov:

It comes originally from the German demonstrative pronoun das or, rather, 
dies (Yiddish dos)  plus the gender endings according to the declination - 
dies, diese (dozike), dieser
(doziker etc.), dieses, diesem, diesen etc.

Best, Elvira Groezinger

Date: February 9, 2011
Subject: unidentified book

I have a book length Yiddish poem, 135 pp., with the title page missing 
and need help identifying it. It begins:

A geviser ferd hot zikh amol batrakht, in mitn mitvokh shabes tsu nakht, 
hot er a groysn bal gemakht, un hot hibshe etlekhe gest arop gibrakht: 
tsum ershtin ershaynt, der hund zayn fraynd...

If memory serves me, I showed this to Prof. Shmeruk in the 1980s and he 
said that the printing was done in Warsaw. I would guess the work to be 
from the 1880s - 1900.

Itzik Gottesman

Date: February 2, 2011
Subject: Chagall's Yiddish poetry

I am looking for a source (sources?) of Marc Chagall's Yiddish poetry. I 
once had a copy of a Yiddish literary journal (monthly? quarterly?) that 
included a poem of his written, I vaguely recall, on the ship which 
brought him and his wife, Bella, to the U.S.

Hershl Hartman

Date: January 24, 2011
Subject: "In der finster"

Carol Zemel fregt zikh nokh in Mendele Vol. 20.013 vu me ken krign an 
iberzetsung fun Bashevises a dertseylung mitn titl  "In der finster" vegn 
a fotografishn atelye.

Mistome iz faran aza iberzetsung, nor me darf zi zukhn nisht tsvishn 
Bashevises verk, nor tsvishn di fun zayn eltern bruder Yisroel-Yoyshue 
Zinger. Oyf yidish ken men leyenen di dertseylung inem band "Perl", 
1922, zz' 75-93:


Mit grus,

Eliezer Niborski

Date:  February 16, 2011
Subject: Zalmen Zylbercweig's "Yidisher kunst-teater in amerike"

Is anybody familiar with the 512 page book by Zalmen Zylbercweig titled 
"Yidisher kunst-teater in amerike"? I've seen the text but I don't know if 
and when it was ever published. Can anyone give me more specifics?

Thank you.

Regards, Steven Lasky

Date:  February 7, 2011
Subject: Yiddish terms in need of translation

Sholem aleykhem!

I am translating a text from Yiddish to English and I find that many words 
and expressions do not appear in the two dictionaries I have--Harkavy and 
Weinreich--nor on the Yiddish-English translation sites that I have gone 

Is this a proper forum to ask the meaning of various words? Or can anyone 
recommend a comprehensive dictionary or an appropriate forum?  The words I 
am looking for are not especially exotic--e.g.,  mehl kleitl, angezetzt, 
galeres, yarshever, sternove, harde, tzeplikte, etc.

Thank you!

Yaacov David Shulman

End of Mendele Vol. 20.014

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