Delaware Top Blogs

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reprise of a Yiddish lesson

I thought this bore repeating:

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.


Dick Stanley said...

Obviously, this is one of the good results of multiculturalism. Or, at least, television watching. Speaking of Yiddish, I finally bought and began that Michael Chabon novel "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." It is funny. I recommend it, especially to one who will instantly understand the Yiddish words, which I sometimes have to puzzle out. The Web certainly helps in that regard, though. For instance, the detective hero calls beat cops "latke."

miriam sawyer said...

Dick: On your recommendation I just took the book out of the library, and am looking forward to reading it.

Dick Stanley said...

Deeper into it now, I see that it is funny-sad. Not entirely a laugh riot, but still amusing. Do let me know what you think. We can compare notes.

Jack Steiner said...

It is true. I hear all sorts of people you wouldn't expect to say it, say it.