With chutzpah, shtum and schmuck now entering mainstream English usage, it is perhaps time to try and be a little more adventurous. In addition to individual words that may have a certain ring, Yiddish provides an array of versatile phrases and curses. For example, one’s attention may be drawn to idiocies such as this:
The current threat of attacks in countries whose governments have close alliances with Washington is the latest stage in a long struggle against the empires of the west, their rapacious crusades and domination. The motivation of those who plant bombs in railway carriages derives directly from this truth.
Of course, an appropriate response is to demolish such nonsense with a tightly argued rebuttal. However, in the interim, it may be appropriate to utter, mutter or declaim one of the following (‘ch’ as in ‘chutzpah’):
Bluz in toches! (Blow it out your ass) Gey koken ahfen yam! (Go shit in the ocean)
Or perhaps – less offensive, but equally disparaging:
Noch a chochem! (Roughly translated as ‘Such a scholar/sage’)
Or if you’re in a real rush, try:
Google “Yiddish insults” and discover a rich seam of invective waiting to be mined. (You know you want to.)
I've been a bit remiss over the last couple of days, but before the night is out expect two posts: one on Yiddish insults and a resolution of the age old conundrum of escalators and the Jewish question. After that, there'll be another gap before the next post as we're off to Southampton for a few days' break. (For some reason, people laugh when I tell them that.)
I'm not the IT consultant in Nashua, New Hampshire (He has his own blog)
I'm not the maths professor at University of Maryland
I'm not the one who wrote "Judaism and vegetarianism"
I'm not the fire and explosion investigator in Davie, Florida
I'm not the NASA scientist who specialises in imaging spectroscopy
I'm not the promising Californian quarterback
I'm not the New York Daily News columnist who thinks subway and city bus riders get a raw deal
I know nothing about the regulation of proinflammatory cytokines (though one of us does)
I never ran the Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
My knowledge of finite element analysis as it pertains to mirrors is laughably inadequate
I was never invited to testify before the Committee on Education and the Workforce on behalf of the American Iron & Steel Institute (just as well really)
I'm not the president, ceo and founder of SoloMio in Austin, Texas
I was never in charge of New York state's part in the Microsoft anti-trust action
I was sadly never appointed to chair the New York State Council on the Arts
I'm not the cantor at Congregation Tifereth Jacob, Manhattan Beach, California
I'm not the one with the neurosurgery practice in Salt Lake City
If you were attracted by the Religious Appreciation Night at Rex's Innkeeper in Waunakee with a menu of chicken, pork, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, two salads, rolls, coffee, milk, and dessert for $16 a head, I was not the one to call
I'm not the former mayor of Hannibal, Missouri
I'm not the assistant pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church of Peoria, IL
I'm not the Australian fan of Spellbinder
I'm not the accountant in Pennsylvania, specialising in partnership taxation
I'm not the one who wrote the Mazda car repair manual
I'm the other one.
So I went to see THE movie this afternoon with my (lapsed Protestant) business partner after a long business lunch. Here are my conclusions (in no particular order):
1. It's quite watchable – time doesn't drag.
2. It is not historically accurate, to the extent that we know the history of that period.
3. If you're a bigot when you go in, you'll be a bigot when you come out.
4. If you aren't, you won't.
5 I understood more of the Aramaic than I expected.
6. Pilate comes across as a bit of a wuss.
7. The guy who helps Jesus carry his cross (excuse my ignorance) looks like my ex brother-in-law.
8. Hollywood movie indulges in racial stereotyping shock horror!
9. The Pharisees are a bit two-dimensional, to say the least, though the main man (Caiphus?) looks a lot like Lenny Bruce.
10. Don't avoid it, but don't put it at the top of your list. Maybe try Starsky and Hutch first.
I grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe, my grandparents having arrived there in the early 1900s from Romania. My family played an active part in the Jewish community, which, when I was a kid, numbered some 2,500-3,000 people across the country, with communities of roughly equal size in the two main cities of Harare and Bulawayo.
Although I left in 1973, I have retained close ties with Harare, with Zimbabwe and with the Jewish community there. I have, however, just received an email from a close friend, which relays the following:
"...the current numbers in the Harare Hebrew Congregation are 41 men, 61 women and 13 children. Some services, but not all, are held with the Sephardic Community where there are another approx. 50 souls. Bulawayo at last count was 143 souls. Total left in Zim is around 300.
The lights are dimming rapidly..."
Although there are reasons for the decline of this community, which may or may not form the basis of some future blog, the fact of its slow death is something that saddens me.
The tie is a garment I have come to appreciate in the last decade though still not enough to want to wear one very often. Could it be the historical connection with 17th century Croatian mercenaries that originally put me off, you ask? No, because I didn’t know anything about that until very, very recently.
It is broadly accepted that the word ‘cravat’ is derived from ‘Croat’ (which in Croatian is, I think, hrvatsko), unless you count yourself among the dissenters who hold that it comes from the Turkish ‘kyrabacs’, or the Hungarian ‘korbacs’, meaning ‘whip’ or ‘long, slender object. I’d put my money on the Croatian connection myself (though cracking a school tie like a whip made a very pleasing noise, when I was a certain age).
In La Grande Histoire de la Cravate (Flamarion, Paris, 1994), François Chaille states (allegedly) that around the year 1635, some six thousand soldiers and knights came to Paris to give their support to King Louis XIV and Cardinal Richelieu. Among them were a great number of Croatian mercenaries. They wore scarves around their necks, made of different material depending on their rank. The idea caught on.
While researching this subject on the internet, I came across an orthopædic surgeon with a thing for bowties. His website is called ‘Kruzlifix's History of the Bow Tie’. He acknowledges the debt to Croatia, but points out that the popularity of the bowtie, such as it is, owes a lot to Frank Sinatra.
(Decorating the neck with cloth is much, much older. Emperor, Shih Huang Ti, the unifier of China was buried in 210 BC with a several thousand strong army of terracotta soldiers. Despite the fact that each figure is different, they are all wearing neck cloths.)
I did not intend that this should be primarily a political blog. However, on a day, one year on from the start of the war against the Ba'athist regime of Sadaam Hussein, when several thousands felt able to march through London to listen to the likes of George Galloway and Bruce Kent, I'd like to second any of the last few posts from SIAW , Harry's Place and normblog , which represent pretty eloquently – each in its own way – the position of the so-called 'pro-war left' on Iraq, to which I subscribe.
A post at Harry's Place on Matthew Parris goes on to question the value of trying to slot positions on Iraq into a left/right framework. I agree that that is probably a waste of energy. So for the record:
1. I hate fascists.
2. I don't care how many weapons inspectors can dance on the head of a pin.
3. I'm pleased to see the back of a murderous fascist regime.
4. While the Iraqi people may not yet have been liberated, a previously insurmountable obstacle to that liberation has been removed.
5. I do not think Tony Blair should be tried for war crimes.
Whatever that makes me in left/right terms (for those who care) is what I am.