LINGUIST List 7.197

Tue Feb 6 1996

Sum: Yiddish/English

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Douglas J. Glick, Sum: Yiddish/English

Message 1: Sum: Yiddish/English

Date: Tue, 06 Feb 1996 14:36:09 EST
From: Douglas J. Glick <>
Subject: Sum: Yiddish/English
Not too long ago, I requested information on behalf of a student on
the various kinds of 'presence' that Yiddish has in contemporary
English (especially in the mass media). The many helpful responses are
summarized below in three basic categories: (A) Written Sources (B)
Relevant Electronic Lists/Sources (C) Other. My student and I would
like to thank the following people for sending in suggestions:

Anita Citron, Peter Daniels, Rachel Falmagne, Morris Feller, Anne
Gilman, Burton Leiser, David Lidksy, Norman Markel,
(sorry, no name listed), Larry Rosenwald, Bob Rothstein, Janice
Rothstein, Andrew Lloyd Sunshine, R. D. Swets, and Cheryl Zoll

A. Written Sources
- ----------------

1. Henry Roth's 1930's American classic on a Jewish boy growing up in
NYC's Jewish slum, Call It Sleep and perhaps the 1960's sequel Mercy
of a Rude Stream (haven't read the latter). Some of the dialogue is
rendered in Yiddish, more dialogue in Yiddish-accented (and possibly
Yiddish-constructed) English.

2. This one's fun: Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and
Literature, by Gene Bluestein. Athens: The University of Georgia
Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8203-1084-0.

3. In a recent search of articles whose subject was "Language" in the
San Francisco chronicle I saw a few references to how Yiddish has
worked its way into the technical vocabulary of lawyers. I suspect
similar articles may have appeared in other papers, such as the NYTs.

4. If your student wants a serious look at the question, have him
... get hold of Sol Steinmetz, _Yiddish and English: a Century of
Yiddish in America_ (Univ. of Alabama Press, 1986).

5. a very enlightening essay by Hana Wirth-Nesher of Tel Aviv
University. Her essay focuses on the linguistic aspects of the
Jewish-American novel and her 22 footnates give numerous references to
other studies, essays, commentaries and work on Yiddish/English
diglossia and bilingualism.

6. You will find a wealth of material in Leo Rosten's delightful
books, especially "Hooray for Yiddish: A Book about English." "The
Joy of Yiddish" is also very good.

7. Deborah Tannen has written about what she calls "New York
conversational style" which may be rooted in patters of discourse
transferred from Yiddish. Her article appears in the International
Journal of the Sociology of Languages 30 (1981). If I'm not mistaken,
she developed the idea further in a later article; I'm not sure where
this appears.

8. Hurvits, M. [Yiddish Expressions in American
English]. _YIVO-bleter_ 6 (1934), 187-188. [The article is in

9. Feinsilver, L.M. Yiddish and American English. _Chicago Jewish
Forum_ XIV (1955-56), 71-76.

10. Weinreich, Uriel. "Linguistic Convergence in Immigrant
America. _Report of the 5th Annual Round Table Meeting on Linguistics
and Language Teaching_, Washington, D.C., 1954, 40-49. [I am not
familiar w/this article, but wd venture to guess that Weinreich
discusses the influence of Yiddish on American Engglish here.]

11. Weinreich, Uriel. Notes on the Yiddish Rise-Fall Intonation
Contour. _For Roman Jakobson_. The Hague, 1956, 633-643. [He's mainly
concerned w/Yiddish; however, he considers the same intonation contour
as it's used in English. I've also written a paper (Sunshine,
unpublished) on this subject called "For this I sent my son to
graduate school?" It attempts to be a transformational treatment of
"Yiddish movement" in English. J.A. Fishman also refers briefly to the
topic of Yiddish movement in English on either p. 76 or 78 of his
_Yiddish: Turning to Life_, Amsterdam/Philadelphia : John Benjamins
Publishing Company, 1991. It's also worth looking at Fishman's article
"The Sociology of Jewish Languages ..." in _IJSL_ 30 (1981), 5-16,;
see e.g. examples on p. 15, last paragraph.

12. Also check Joan Bratkowsky's _Yiddish Linguistics: A Multilingual
Bibliography_, New York and London : Garland Publishing, Inc., 1988
for other sources (possibly).

13. Lillian Mermin Feinsilver. "Yiddish Idioms in American English."
_American Speech_ 37 (1962, 200-206.

B. Relevant Electronic Lists/Sources
- ----------------------------------

1. MENDELE, Yiddishist List (send message: subscribe MENDELE 'your
name' to

2. I have a vague memory of there existing a list of all the entries
in the Oxford English Dictionary which mention Yiddish in their
etymology sections. I think that it may me available somewhere on the

3. The YIVO institute in New York. They have a homepage on the WWW
where you should be able to obtain further information about
them. Their subject is Yiddish, not English which is really the
subject of your inquiry, but perhaps they can help.

C. Other
- ------

1. Dr. Jeffrey Shandler is a scholar of Yiddishh language, literature,
and culture (now at U of P?) who wrote his dissertation on the
representation of Jews on American TV and in movies. Perhaps he makes
some reference there to Yiddish.

2. your inquiry about Yiddish in songs was forwarded to me. I teach
Yiddish at the University of Maryland and might be able to help the
student. My knowledge, though, is more of Yiddish songs than English
with Yiddish in it but there was a period in which there were lots of
dual language songs. The real authority on this is a Henry Sapoznick
who runs something called Living Traditions in New York. Miriam

3. I do not know of any studies in this area but am keenly aware of
Yiddish being used (Whoopie Goldberg uses it on a national TV
commercial, the NY Times has printed ads from a major airline with
using "schlep".It seems that the words being used are the paltry
inheritance that most of us received from parents who spoke Yiddish
when they didn't want us to understand. Evidence all the younger
comedians (Seinfeld,Crystal,Mandel,Steinberg,) whose Yiddishisms
pretty much parallel my own for the same aforementioned reason. Those
comedians who emulate Jewish characters (Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy)
use the same limited vocabulary. It seems that the "feeling" of being
a Yiddish speaker is more the norm than the use of the words.

4. You may be interested in the latest coinage, which I just spotted
in today's Wall Street Journal, on page 1: Cyber-dreck.


Douglas J. Glick
Department of Anthropology (914) 437-5504 - Office
Maildrop 242 (914) 437-7187 - FAX
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601-6198
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