Yiddish curse on "All in the Family": What did it mean?

And how did it mean that Levy (TV repairman) “really got even?”

Earlier thread.

I don’t think it was ever answered a) whether or not this was some well-known phrase in Yiddish or b) what was so "evening"about it. Basically “I hope you have a hotel with a thousand hungry guests.”

Doesn’t seem very cutting, in my opinion. Maybe it was just that the writers figured that outside of New York City that hardly anyone would now what it meant, and assume it was really something vile.


It’s sounds typical of many Yiddish curses. The point is that you need to feed the guests, who are going to be very demanding. So you have to run around to the thousand rooms, constantly cooking and serving food. Archie is being an overly demanding customer; the curse is that he has to serve that sort of person a thousandfold.

Yiddish curses aren’t “cutting” in the sense you mean. Their form is somewhat ritualized, with the beginning of them sounding like praise. For instance, "May you have a hotel . . . " indicates that you are successful; “with a thousand hungry guests.” means misfortune is wished upon your success. Here’s a discussion.

I liked this one a lot:


Or this:

“I hope that you should lose every tooth in your head except one, and that one have a cavity.”

This thread reminds me of something I heard when I was an adolescent sometime in the mid-70s. I was visiting my grandparents in Oregon, and an uncle was reading a newspaper. He said that a sailboat was stolen in Seattle, and that the victim of the theft said this:

‘To whoever stole my sailboat: I hope you’re enjoying it. I hope it springs a leak. And as it sinks into the cold waters of Puget Sound, may the only thing your mother can do be to run up and down the shore barking for help.’

I don’t know if my uncle really read that out of the paper, or if he was pretending. Still it’s a nice way of calling someone an SOB.

In William Tenn’s “My Mother was A Witch” the protagonist’s mother is challenged by a woman who is legendary in the neighborhood for the effectiveness of her curses. She (the mother) finally wins with a curse that goes something like this (from memory) “Your daughter Pearlie, here. May she become engaged within the year and such a groom he will be: a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist. May their wedding be so fancy that people write about it in books, even. A year after their wedding, may your grandchild be born, and mazel tov, it’s a boy. So smart, that the mohel expects him to give the prayer at the bris. And one year later, just as you are gathering joy at every turn, my your grandson…” (at this point, the old lady gives up, and retracts her previous curses).