Sunday, January 04, 2009

Yiddish Expression of the Day

For the holidays, one of my coworkers gave me a Yiddish phrase book. Oh joy! Everyone knows Yiddish is the second language of American publishing. I'm really excited about this.

I've picked one out to share today. Since I'm at work editing right now, I've chosen:

Oi, gevald! --[cry of anguish, suffering, frustration, or for help]

18 comments:

Steve said...

We prefer the spelling "oy," to distinguish from the UK version of "hey," "oi."

:)

Oh, and my favorite Yiddish expression is one my grandmother used on her kids when they complained about being bored: "Shlup kup en vant." It means "So go bang your head against the wall."

David said...

My mother used to mutter "gevald" a lot when I was a kid. I think it usually had something to do with me.

moonrat said...

Hey Steve!! That's in here!!

Miriam S.Forster said...

I say Oy every now and then and people ask "Are you Jewish?" And I say no. I use the word Arrg a lot, and then people ask if I'm a pirate. And I say no.

Perhaps I need a new phrase....

Janet said...

It's stuff like this that makes me wonder if I don't have a Jewish ancestor or two. Oy gevald was a common expression in my grandmother's household, although they were Lutheran to the core. (The language of the household was German.)

Kim Kasch said...

I love learning new sayings. Thanks for sharing.

Anissa said...

I'm oi gevalding with you today, moonie.

Joan Mora said...

My sister once taught a neighbor's child: "The whole meshpucha" because she loved hanging out with our family.

But my favorite is meshugah. Because it applies to so many people... Some of whom are part of my whole meshpucha.

moonrat said...

Joan--I'm definitely going to have to look those both up tomorrow!

Scobberlotcher said...

Now, can I use this in a dialogue tag? As in, she said with a hint of Oi, gevald! Yup. I think I'll try it. :)

pacatrue said...

FYI for a couple of the comments, Yiddish is a Germanic language. Yiddish started developing, as I understand it, about 1000 years so there are a lot of differences from modern Standard German, but there's still going to be a lot of connection between the two, more so than English and German, which diverged even earlier and had far far less contact.

JKB said...

Awesome! Lay more of them down! I would love a Yiddish phrasebook.

Whirlochre said...

I'm not up on Yiddish at all, but when you mentioned 'coworkers', I imagined the Helms Deep scene from LOTRII, only with cattle.

JES said...

LOL, Whirlochre!

One does wonder if the coworker in question might maybe, just maybe have been teasing Ms. Moonrat about Mr. Chabon -- what with, y'know, his policemen's-union novel...

AC said...

Is it sad that I'm excited about actually learning the *spellings* of Yiddish words? I'm pretty sure I thought people were saying "gevalt"...which I hope is not some kind of dirty word or something.

Josephine Damian said...

Hey, I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood - know way more Yiddish phrases than Italian.

My favorite is, of course, nosh!

Moonie, have you heard the news about Travis? Make sure to read his blog, ok?

BTW, PALE VIEW OF HILLS sucks.

Squirrel said...

Yoy. Yes, yoy. A little known variation of oy. Much more sorrowful. Keening even.

Jared said...

As "dialectal language", Yiddish lacks one standardized orthography (un a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot). There is the YIVO standard (for both spelling the words with Hebrew characters and transliterating them into Roman ones), but that is allegedly slanted toward the Litvak pronunciation. Oy vey is the standard transcription אוי וויי but but for example, the yiddish dictionary online lists the approximate Northern Yiddish pronunciation as oy vey while listing the Southern Yiddish as oy vay. This doesn't even get into whether or not the Yiddish "oy" is pronounced like the British "oi" or with a sound rarely heard in English outside of a thick Brooklyn accent (think of how a newsie in the 1920s would pronounce "bird").

Anyway but a lot more information than I can offer can be found on wikipedia (especially check out the Yiddish phonology and Yiddish dialects pages).

Oh and literally, it means "Oh! pain," "vey iz mir" means I hurt, or more literally, pain is to me. More frequently it is used as the English phrase "Woe is me", which shares the same etymological root. The modern German equivalent is "weh ist mir", pronounced much the same way as the Yiddish (depending on accent) and carrying all the same connotations, though not used as bombastically.