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July 15, 2008


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Oy, was that survey fun! Yes, I say "hah-rible" and "ah-range," and my Northwest-born daughters laugh at me.

Did I just breeze through it too quickly, or did they omit "shlep," the Yiddish word I probably use most frequently?

@Jessica: I didn't see "shlep" -- or "mitzvah" or "bupkes," either.

On the other hand, one of my cats is named Yofi, which *is* on the survey. (Hebrew: literally "beauty," but also a slang term translating to "cool" or "awesome.")

I'm looking forward to completing the survey, but in the meantime your mention of "John" caught my eye. My husband's middle name is John, and I've told him (and his parents) many times that he is the ONLY Jew I've ever met named John (as opposed to Jon, short for Jonathan, which is a very popular Jewish name).

@Karen: I've known at least two Jewish Johns, both with distinctly Jewish surnames. And Mary used to be not uncommon among Jewish women of my grandmother's generation. I even used to know one Jewish Mary of my own generation. As a name, it certainly has more Hebrew cred than "Christine."

I'm looking forward to taking the survey and completing the links, though that could be because I recently finished reading The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon and wanted so badly to have a giant Yiddish dictionary with me as accompaniment to the narrative.

And, probably superfluously, as someone with a Hebrew name, I really like it. It's no-nonsense. Especially when, in public, a mother calls for her daughter, by name, over and over again and I (and invariably at least one other woman), turn toward her, instinctively, every time she calls, "Sarah!"

This is cool, Nancy. I just took the survey. Thanks for the heads-up!

Oh, and I found you from a TweetScan search on "american jewish" and will be following you in a minute...

@Sarah: I *loved* the language in Yiddish Policeman's Union. Chabon's a clever writer. But ... it would have killed him to include a glossary for the poor shmucks who don't know a sholem from a shvitz?

@Ari: Nice to meet you! I hadn't known about TweetScan--looking forward to trying it.

You've piqued my curiosity. What's the Ladino word in the survey? And its translation? Are there many? Is it only Yiddish that has so many ways to say "ineffective male?" -- shmo, shnook, shlemiehl. Or can you be a female shnook?

@Jane: The only Ladino word I recognized was "meldado," which means "study group." (I had to look it up -- the survey doesn't include definitions.) There may be others.

Good question about all the synonyms for "unfortunate male"! There are disparaging terms for women like "kurveh" (whore), but I'm not aware of equivalents to "shmo," etc. But then again, I'm hardly fluent in Yiddish.

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