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Tag: yiddish

Review of the Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary

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by Alec (Leyzer) Burko

Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary, edited by Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath and Paul Glasser (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016), 856 pages, $60.00.

INTRODUCTION

The 2016 publication of the Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary (CEYD) was a milestone in the history of Yiddish lexicography.¹ It is a great work, enormous both in size and contents: it contains some 50,000 entries and 33,000 subentries (that is, the number of English words and phrases translated). But because one English word may be glossed by multiple Yiddish equivalents, the total number of Yiddish words and expressions is probably larger; I estimate about a hundred thousand.² This would make the CEYD more than twice as large as its recent counterpart, the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary (CYED) by Beinfeld and Bochner, and more than five times as large as its true predecessor, the English-Yiddish half of Uriel Weinreich’s Modern Yiddish-English English-Yiddish Dictionary (MYEEYD).³ The CEYD is exceeded only by the unfinished Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language (GDYL), the massive 1915 Encyclopedic English-Yiddish Dictionary by Paul Abelson, and the recent Yiddish-Dutch online dictionary by Justus van de Kamp.⁴

The CEYD is an important new resource for anyone who reads Yiddish, but it is a real godsend for Yiddish writers and translators in particular. For the first time, they can find accurate Yiddish equivalents for English words and expressions far beyond the level of basic literacy. Using this dictionary, it is possible for novices to write in Yiddish with nuance about complex topics of modern life. Even the best-read Yiddishists will discover new idiomatic treasures, like how to say “beat around the bush” dreyen mit der tsung (lit. “to twist one’s tongue”), or “to give it one’s all” araynleygn dem tatn mit der mamen (lit. “put in one’s father and mother”). The CEYD is carefully designed and is the ideal instrument to expand the linguistic horizons of Yiddish-speakers everywhere.

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Red Seder

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Bdikas khomets (Search for leaven). Illustration from the first edition of Hagadah far gloybers un apikorsim (Passover story for believers and atheists). Kharkov, 1923.

Blessed is October, dictator of the proles, who produces, distributes, and consumes the earth’s harvest.

In Berlin 5777, a new communist Haggadah for a Red Passover Seder was brought forth into the world. It replaces the communist Haggadah of  Brooklyn, 5771. This new one is the first Red Haggadah since the Jewish Bolsheviks used them in the 1920s. I now offer it here for use (the Hebrew text came out backwards, unfortunately). The historical background text is below, but to do an actual seder, one must download the Haggadah and follow the steps. Love live October 5778!

Download the Haggadah for a RED SEDER: to read/ to print

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A Guide to Swearing in Yiddish

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Shtup (SHTUHP) – To have sex with. The connotation is the “four-letter word” kind. Generally most of the words on this list that start with “sh” are going to have the emphasis on that syllable.

Shmuck (SHMUCK) – Penis. All of them. Every last one of these following terms. I’ll let you know when we’ve reached the end of the cavalcade of dicks.

Putz (PUHTZ) – “”

Schmeckel (SHMEH-cull) – “”

Schlong (SH-long) – “”

Schvantz (SH-vontz) – “”

Petzl (PET-zull) – “”

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Fakakta (fuh-COCK-tah) – “Fucked up” (hey, look, we’ve exited the magical forest of dongs!). This is my personal favorite term on this list. Goes very well with the modifier “all,” as in, “the Senate’s filibustering procedure is all fakakta.”

Alta Kaka (AL-ta COCK-ah) – Literally, “old shit.” Weirdly, not hugely derogatory in common usage (typically used to refer to senior citizens in general), but that’s Yiddish for you; even the words we don’t intend to be offensive have that soupcon of a linguistic middle finger to them.

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Schlemiel

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This schlemiel from Chełm gets to work and he’s almost half an hour late. “You should of been here at 8:30,” growls the foreman. “Why?” says the schlemiel. “What happened at 8:30?”