[Mendele] Mendele Vol. 25.001

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Thu May 21 14:00:00 EDT 2015

Mendele: Yiddish literature and language

Contents of Vol. 25.001
May 21, 2015

1) Finf un tsvantsik, biz hundert finf un tsvantsik (Victor Bers)
2) klug-bilet (Moshe Taube)
3) nervous hooleila (Eliezer Greisdorf)
4) Tsunoyfgenumen vi a nikl (Mikhoyel Basherives)
5) "af tselokhes" inquiry (Joyce Tamara)
6) brengen unter di hent (Martin Jacobs)
7) bavayzn zikh (Martin Jacobs)
8) A man is not a potato? (Marian Kaplun Shapiro)

Date: May 21
Subject: Finf un tsvantsik, biz hundert finf un tsvantsik

With this issue Mendele enters its twenty-fifth year. Its founder and for
many years redaktor, Noyekh (Norman) Miller passed on the editorial duties
to a chain of worthy successors--first Iosif Vaisman, then Kalman (Keith)
Weiser, and now Gershn (Josh) Price, who is also our technical expert.
Noyekh's professional work as a sociologist made him a meyvn of computers
in the days of the punch cards, and much earlier than most academics he saw
the power of BITNET and its successor, the World Wide Web (now just
"Web").  Noyekh was a kener in algemeyn, indeed a perfectionist in all
matters of technology and visnshaft. When our membership grew too large for
his own institution's mainframe, he asked me to sponsor Mendele's migration
to the much larger facilities at Yale, and he was reasonably tolerant of my
linguistic and technical shortcomings.

All who read this know the melancholy fact:  the number of native speakers
of Yiddish, already diminished by the Holocaust, has shrunk in the last
quarter century. More particularly, we have lost many of the connoisseurs
of the language and its literature who have contributed to Mendele since
its start in 1991, among them Leonard Prager, who edited The Mendele
Review. Still, we can be consoled by the current size of our membership as
counted by the computer: more than 2,000, although we are too honest to
claim that any are, or ever have been, in Antarctica (but see B. Goldstein,
di ergste nesie af der velt [bgoldstein.org]).

25, biz 125!

Victor Bers, Untershames

Date: April 25
Subject: klug-bilet

A reminiscence that comes to mind [from the inquiry in 24.011] is the
expression vigrishne bilet 'winning ticket' that appears in a Sholem
Aleykhem story with the same name, about a poor shames from the shtetl
whose talented son made it to the big city to study medicine and ends up
converting to Christianity. This is the term both his father and the rich
of the shtetl, who look on with envy at this presumptuousness of a poor boy
to make good, use (the latter with irony and Schadenfreude) for the clever

M. Taube

Date: April 25
Subject: nervous hooleila

[Reply to inquiry in 24.011]

I found the word for cholera in both the Russian and Polish dictionary. In
Yiddish  "kholere' is also used as a curse or swear word.  In Polish and
Russian it is very likely used in a similar manner.

Hooleila reminds me of something entirely different:  "Hulenen' in Yiddish
means to carouse wildly.  In Polish 'hulac' has the same meaning. 'Hultaj'
in polish is a rogue.

Eliezer Greisdorf

Date: May 3
Subject: Tsunoyfgenumen vi a nikl

In a fictional story written by a friend's grandfather he uses the phrase
"tsunoyfgenumen vi a nikl". Does anyone know its meaning? The wife is
selling or throwing into the garbage everything in the house she considers
worthless, out of fashion or not needed, including the husband's beloved
childhood samovar. He appears at the door with a pack of items and she
curses at him, "Host zikh geaylt, e! Avek-hendum-pendum, tsunoyfgenumen vi
a nikl, un na! Itst vet men dikh aroysshteln afn gas mit di bebekhes!"

Thank you,
Mikhoyel Basherives

Date: May 10
Subject: "af tselokhes" inquiry

I'm haunted by a performance by Theo Bikel of a yiddish folk song sung "af
tselokhes" as in "af tselokhes ale sonim, am yisroyel khay". Can anyone
point me to a recording, audio or video, of his or anyone's performance of
this song. Part of the problem may be the transliteration, or the fact that
I don't know the "English" title of the song.

Thanks very much,
Joyce Tamara

Date: May 17
Subject: brengen unter di hent

Can anyone tell me the meaning of "brengen unter di hent"?  The context is:
"Di mener zenen geven vi di dembes un di arbet hot bay zey gebrengt unter
di hent."

Many thanks in advance.

Martin Jacobs
Brooklyn, NY

Date: May 17
Subject: bavayzn zikh

Can anyone tell me what "bavayzn zikh" means in the following context?

"Ven es iz gevorn likhtik hot men ... geshtelt zikh davenen.  Di goyim hobn
demolt genumen redn shtiler, bavizn zikh on dem rashikn tuml un gekukt af
di davendike yidn mit groys derekh-erets."

Many thanks in advance.

Martin Jacobs
Brooklyn, NY

Date: May 18
Subject: A man is not a potato?

Hi –  I am a psychologist/writer, and want to refer to a Yiddish saying I
heard in my childhood, which had been rendered in English to me: A man is
not a potato, or, in a variant form, A man is not a stone. These both
referred to a MAN, not a ‘person’, but a real, male man, and meant that a
girl shouldn’t “lead a man on,” because, being a man, he could not control

Many thanks for considering this request,

Marian Kaplun Shapiro

End of Mendele Vol. 25.001

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