Dead Air Yiddish

In January I blogged about the fact that I speak a little Yiddish that I learned growing up with my Bubbe (grandma) Rose and that sometimes there is no language that expresses an idea or a description so perfectly- at least for me.

For example on page 3 in Dead Air, I knew that if Professor Conrad called on me in biology class when I didn’t know the answer, I’d be ahf tzoris. Last minute prepping for my campus radio show had trumped reading the assigned material. Or on page 25, I told the Professor that I thought it took real chutzpah to flunk Bud Stanton, when the star hoopster was Ellsford U’s last hope to win the upcoming state basketball championship.

Read Dead Air for more examples. If the words are confusing, you can look up their meaning in this Yiddish dictionary, by clicking here

Anyway, I found this poem that the actor Gene Wilder wrote and he seems to agree with me. I’ve copied it for your enjoyment.

A YIDDISH POEM by Gene Wilder

Yiddish was the secret code,
therefore I don’t farshtaist,
A bisseleh maybe here and there, the rest has gone to waste.
Sadly when I hear it now, I only get the gist,
My Bubbe spoke it beautifully; but me, I am tsemisht.
So oi vei as I should say, or even oy vai iz mir,
Though my pisk is lacking Yiddish, it’s familiar to my ear.
And I’m no Chaim Yonkel , in fact I was shtick naches,
But, when it comes to Yiddish though, I’m talking out my tuchas.

Es iz a shandeh far di kinder that I don’t know it better
(Though it’s really nishtgefelecht when one needs to write a letter).
But, when it comes to characters, there’s really no contention,
No other linguist can compete with honorable mentshen:
They have nebbishes and nebechels and others without mazel,
Then,too, schmendriks and schlemiels, and let’s not forget schlemazel.

These words are so precise and descriptive to the listener, So
much better than “a pill” is to call someone ‘farbissener’.
Or – that a brazen woman would be better called ‘Choleria’,
And you’ll agree farklempt says more than does hysteria.

I’m not haken dir a tshainik and I hope I’m not a kvetch,
But isn’t ‘mieskeit’ kinder, than to call someone a wretch?

Mitten derinnen, I hear Bubbe say, “It’s nechtiker tog”, don’t fear,
To me you’re still a maven, zol zein shah, don’t fill my ear.

A leben ahf dein keppele, I don’t mean to interrupt,
But you are speaking narishkeit…..
And …A gezunt auf dein kop!”


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