[Mendele] Mendele Vol. 23.011

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Sun Nov 24 21:06:37 EST 2013

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Mendele: Yiddish literature and language

Contents of Vol. 23.011
November 22, 2013

1) New Book: Yiddish manuscripts from the Netherlands (Marion Aptroot)
2) Peretz' "Di goldene keyt" (Catherine Madsen)
3) "I should hope to smoke a fish." (Elizabeth Zimmer)
4) Manger's "Ovtnlid" (Hirsh Perloff)
5) vaybertaytsh font (Jerold C. Frakes)
6) kupke (Joel Maxman)
7) kupke/kufke (Leybl Botwinik)

Date: October 23
Subject: New Book: Yiddish manuscripts from the Netherlands 

In May, Evi Michel's richly illustrated catalogue of Yiddish manuscripts written in the 
Netherlands was published:

Evi Michels
Jiddische Handschriften aus den Niederlanden
Leiden: Brill 2013
ISBN: 9789004251014
E-ISBN: 9789004251236

The preview on Google books unfortunately does not show sample pages of the catalogue 

Marion Aptroot

Date: October 18
Subject: Peretz' "Di goldene keyt"

The play is in this volume of Peretz's complete works, in the Yiddish
Book Center's Spielberg Digital Library:


These sets can be quite tricky to negotiate, given the limitations of Library of Congress 
cataloging, so Mendelyaners (and others!) should always feel free to contact me with any 

Catherine Madsen
[Moderator's note: the writer is the bibliographer of the National Yiddish Book Center.]

Date: November 16
Subject: "I should hope to smoke a fish."


"I should hope to smoke a fish."

Hoping you can help me figure out the meaning/context of this phrase, and whether it 
originates in Yiddish.  My mother, who was born in 1915 and was a native Yiddish 
speaker, used it all the time. I can't recall the context, but I know she said it in English, in 
the late '40s-early '50s.

Many thanks,
Elizabeth Zimmer

Date: October 22
Subject: Manger's "Ovntlid"
In response to Helene B. Katz's query about Manger's "Ovntlid": 

Dictionaries generally do translate butterfly as zumer-feygele, not zumer-foygl. Indeed, 
butterfly would be problematic here as, firstly, there are not grey and golden winged 
butterflies where Manger lived. Secondly, butterflies need the midday warmth of sun to 
be active and are not seen at dusk whereas birds are often active then. 

There are various possibilities; some finches and buntings have yellow and grey in their 
wings but one feels that the poem requires them to be striking such as the Golden Oriole, 
Yellow Hammer or Goldfinch, all of which have bright yellow and black wings which 
can look gold and grey in the setting sun and all are migratory and so could be described 
as summer birds. 

But perhaps Manger, though, is intending symbolic imagery rather than an actual 

Hirsh Perloff

Date: November 19
Subject: vaybertaytsh font

I would like to use a vaybertaytsh font in an introductory language textbook of Old and 
Middle Yiddish that I am preparing for publication. Do any Mendele subscribers know if 
there is such a font available in a standard Windows True Type format that is 
downloadable or available for purchase?

Jerold C. Frakes

Date: October 18
Subject: kupke

My mother is a native Yiddish speaker from Galicia (Tarnopil oblast).  I recently visited 
wearing a headscarf that is a cross between a bandana and a doo-rag.  My mother referred 
to it as a KUPKE.  A discussion of kerchief ensued.  My mother said that a kerchief tied 
under the chin was referred to as either a SHTIKHL or a FATSHEYLE, but a kerchief 
tied behind the head, under the hairline, was a KUPKE.

My mother said the word KUPKE also means piles (mounds), but didn't believe the two 
senses were related.

I found one on-line reference to a Red Buttons character called The Kupke Kid, which 
stated that KUPKE was Yiddish for a stocking cap.  However, I was unable to find 
KUPKE or SHTIKHL in Uriel Weinreich or any other on-line sources.

Has anyone heard either KUPKE or SHTIKHL used to connote kerchief or headscarf?

Joel Maxman

Date: November 9
Subject: kupke/kufke

tayere khaveyrim,

ikh darf hilf mit a vort. zayt moykhl, vayter shrayb ikh alts oyf english:

I'm translating a scene from a Yizkor book of a Litvak shtetl Divenishok. The whole 
scene is very confusing and in one place a word repeats itself twice - with almost no 
context to go with it. Since there are almost no nekudes, it may be a pey or fey:

Word or Phrase: Kupkes or Kufkes
Location: (http://yizkor.nypl.org/index.php?=id=3D2031) Image 453, Last two words on 
the page

The scene is in a synagogue, but the word probably has nothing to do with religion. Some 
people in the back are mumbling faintly understood words and partial sentences, and end 
with "kupkes/kufkes."  They are complaining of some mistreatment or 
injustice:...Suddenly, from the other side of the heating oven there is a murmur, mumbled 
We will not allow them to carry away cut off a livelihood gradually, one another kupkes 

Now, someone suggested the following: Niborsky's dictionary says that kupke is related 
to kopke, ladies' cap. Do they make caps or something?... but I don't have the dictionary 
so I can't verify that. My response: Thanks, but I don't think so. The whole article is very 
unclear about what everyone was protesting about. It seems that the butchers in town 
were either at fault, or the ones faulted.

Something about meat being sent out of the shtetl, and the butchers collecting money. 
Those protesting in half-mumbled sentences end their words with "kupkes kupkes" or 
possibly "kuFkes kuFkes." I don't see how hats or head-coverings would be involved, 
unless it was somehow used as a symbol of protest (maybe something "socialist," like 
waving the flag, or similar to the Bund motto: sher un ayzn [scissors and iron]) or 
something like throwing down a gauntlet (in this case a hat - maybe like the Muslims 
throw shoes...) in protest...or used as a swear word or curse... and someone else suggested 
a typo (twice?) ... bubkes ... but a Litvak would probably pronounce it bobkes...Please 
share clues or intuitions

a sheynem dank,
Leybl Botwinik

End of Mendele Vol. 23.011

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