Sunday, July 29, 2007

A brief Yiddish lesson

I have been reliably informed that there are people in this country who don't know what oy vey means.

True story: when I was in the hospital right after knee surgery, the woman in the next bed kept up a constant moaning of oy vey, or sometimes just oy the lite version. When I mentioned this to my father, who came to visit me, he protested, "But she's black."

Nevertheless, I heard her say oy vey for about 18 hours. The other six of the 24 were given over to exhortations to Jesus.

My Swedish-Scotch-Irish-possibly German son-in-law says it in a midwestern accent.

Oy vey is the international language of woe. In fact, I believe it can be translated roughly as "Woe is me." It expresses misery, pain, dismay, the whole tragic view of life. Saying oy vey over and over is called "kvetching." But lets not get into that.


Attila said...

I get hits all the time from people trying to learn what Oy Vey means. My post has a link to one of yours. Maybe I'll have to update it to link to this one, too.

airforcewife said...

I heard my priest say Oy Vey a while back.

And it didn't seem out of place.

John the Scientist said...

Well, Oy is a Russian exclamation, too. I wonder if it entered Russian via Yiddish, or Yiddish via Russian?

I'm as goy as they come, but I did spend some time in the USSR (2 years). My exclamation is usually: "Oy blyat". Don't ask what that means, I learned it while working construction in Moscow, so you can guess. I still cuss in Russian a lot, and sometimes it gets me into trouble.