Staff report, schmaff report!

As a non-Jew, I found Dex’s Yiddish, shmiddish Staff Report very informative. Also amusing. I’m a native Southern Californian, so I didn’t grow up in the “New York Atmosphere” often associated with Yiddish. Sure, I’m aware of some aspects of Yiddish culture; for example, the Yiddish Theatre of the early part of the last Century, and the “Borscht Belt” humour of the Great Commedians. But growing up in San Diego I didn’t hear the wonderful Yiddish expressions on an everyday basis. What a colourful language!

Incidentally, I almost said, “On him, it looks good.” at work the other day. I don’t remember in what context. What? I should carry a court reporter in my pocket?

Good column, Dex.

Thanks, Johnny, it was certainly fun to research and write.

What’s chopped liver, anyway? Paté? Liverwurst? Something else?

Well… paté would be closest, I suppose.

Traditional liverwurst contains, generally, above 30% pork liver. Not exactly what my deli serves. Or course, it could be made with other livers.

The classic pate is goose liver.

I think in the average deli, it’s chicken livers.

(No fowl have been harmed in this posting)

I’ve never liked it enough to get her actual recipe, but my grandmother (and my father) made chopped liver with chopped chicken livers, rendered chicken fat (schmaltz), and onions that had been fried in the chicken fat. The onions tasted like like the schmaltz, and the schmaltz tasted like onion.

My grandmother and my father were both Angelenos, and about as Jewish as they come.


Yeah, I meant that chopped liver was closest to paté in texture, not in ingredients.

Recipes abound.

For this, I opened the thread? Oy!


(notice the proper use of the smiley?)

Interesting, stuff. ;j

Could Yiddish grammar be considered a Creole? There are many creole languages (creoles are pidgin languages that become “full blown” so to speak) and they have some similarities that are not allowed in English. Thus, “black english” has some of the characteristics of these languages when translated literally or when the native speakers learn english as a 2nd language. The two examples that come to mind are the double negative and the use of double expression to express surprise/disbelief. “Pay him I should pay him?” hmm that sounds like just repeating disbelief like a second glance. I guess when I lived in Haiti I recall a sentence I used, correctly I’m proud to say, in Creole “Bake you baked that cake?” Meaning “You baked this yourself? I wouldn’t have believed it! Its too good to be homemade!”

Yiddish has always been a birth tongue, so it does not meet the definition of a creole. If every language that was influenced by its neighbors were a creole, then the word would be a synonym for “language”.

No. Then there would be no creoles (if being a birth tongue means its not a creole).

As I understand it, a creole language starts when two cultures make up a pidgin language. I.e., they speak their own languages natively but they have a “half way” language in between (a “lingua franca” would be a pidgin among many peoples (slave traders) or maybe any pidgin). In anycase, a pidgin becomes a creole when a generation begins to speak it as their main tongue. I.e., it becomes a full-fledge language of its own. Do all languages develop this way? Perhaps, but I guess some languages get labeled creole becuase it has happened more recently. Not sure why it tends to only be applied to Carribean islands, but their are Hindi Creoles there as well as those based largely in French, Dutch, etc. I’ll have to email a linguist, unless one wonders by.

See also this

Always having been a birth tongue makes it not a creole.

Not sure what that means, but it sounds like the article from SD that was linked above means that it was a language created when they moved to the Rhine area. I’m asking if it developed out of conversing with locals and then replaced the prior language they had. Probably not, which means more of an evolution, which I guess is what you mean by “always.”

Just like other immigrants, they picked up the local language, which was German. Because they had reason to dislike the Latin alphabet, they wrote it in the Hebrew alphabet instead. Because they tended to be socially isolated, they mixed in a certain amount of Hebrew vocabulary. Later, when they moved east, they held on to Yiddish, but picked up some additional Slavic vocabulary. Later still, in America, they mixed in quite a lot of English, to the point that jokes are made about “Yinglish”. But Yiddish has always had both an essentially German vocabulary and a German grammar; it was never at any time a pidgin, and modern speakers of German (Jewish speakers of German, that is) view Yiddish as a debased form of German, not as a really separate language. More as an educated Englishman views Cockney than as he views Tok Pisin.

Tsis schver tsu zein a Yid. – Yiddish
Es ist schwer ein Jüd zu sein. – German
It’s hard to be a Jew. – English

JWK, just in case nobody’s said it in a while, I really appreciate your stuff in CCC and CSR.

That is all.

<Count-Danilo>Ach, man tut was man kann.</Count-Danilo>

My wife has just discovered some relevant data on the original “sh-” question.

From A Dictionary of the Yiddish Language compiled by Alexander Harkavy, 1898.

Shtram – meaningless word rhyming with gram (this word occurs only in the expression gram-shtram, uttered to ridicule the pitiful rhymes of a poetaster.)”

(Gram being rhyme or rhythm.)

A Poe taster? … Sounds disgusting.

Also recommended reading: Hooray for Yiddish by Leo Rosten. It’s in dictionary form but a good read. And funny!