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Q: Let's try some Yiddish ( No Answer,   10 Comments )
Subject: Let's try some Yiddish
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: archae0pteryx-ga
List Price: $6.22
Posted: 17 Jul 2005 14:56 PDT
Expires: 16 Aug 2005 14:56 PDT
Question ID: 544607
I don't need much, but it has to be old.  In fact, it has to be
appropriate to a Jew of Ashkenazy origin living in the Lowlands of
northwestern France in about 1300.

If Yiddish hasn't changed much in a few little centuries, this won't be hard.

I need two words or expressions that would do for the name of a
donkey.  One has to mean something like "gorgeous," "beautiful,"
"angel," appropriate to a female.  The other has to mean something
like "warty toad," also appropriate to a female (in case there are
feminine and masculine forms).

Can this possibly be difficult?  Of course not.  Somebody here can
zero in on the answer straight off and just give it to me without any
effort at all.

For bonus points, throw in another Yiddish expression or two from that
period--a greeting, an exclamation (happy, sad, surprised, fearful,
other), a blessing, farewell, something--and tell me what it means and
how to use it.

The Jewish character is one of my good guys, by the way.

Thank you,
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: scriptor-ga on 17 Jul 2005 15:55 PDT
My knowledge of European Yiddish is rather limited ... but I know that
"Shayndel", derived from the German word for "beautiful" is a Yiddish
nick- and pet name.

Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 19 Jul 2005 20:35 PDT
Well, thanks, Scriptor, that is helpful.  I admit I'm surprised to
have no other suggestions.  Where are all our language experts?

Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: justaskscott-ga on 19 Jul 2005 20:52 PDT
I presume that it's difficult to find a resource for Yiddish circa
1300, particularly in the Lowlands of northwestern France.  Perhaps a
good dictionary is available in a library somewhere, but I doubt that
it's online.

We could assume that Yiddish hasn't changed much -- but I don't think
that would be an appropriate assumption.  Since German has changed
much in that time, I suppose that Yiddish has changed significantly
too.  (I once heard a Yiddish song from around 1300, and my impression
was that it was quite different from modern Yiddish.)
Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 19 Jul 2005 21:12 PDT
Hi, justaskscott,

Maybe my logic wasn't good, but I thought it would be easy to supply a
single word, say a noun or adjective.  That is different from looking
for one or more complete grammatical sentences, which really would
take some knowing.

If I knew, for example, that "froznarg" meant "warty toad" in
contemporary Yiddish (it doesn't), and I could then find that in an
old document, I'd say that was good enough evidence that it was around
then.  Likewise, if I knew that over time Yiddish nouns ending in "rd"
tended to change to "rg," I might suggest "froznard" as the old form. 
(I'm just making this up, you understand.)  If I knew a single piece
of Yiddish from 1300--say, a song lyric--that I knew was about a
beautiful lady, I would try to pick out the word for "beautiful" and
make a reasonable guess about an inflected ending and offer that
adjective as an answer.

Something like that would be close enough.  If I then run into anyone
who's qualified to correct me, so much the better.

I am willing to gamble on "Shayndel" for one donkey's name.

Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: myoarin-ga on 20 Jul 2005 05:51 PDT
Hi Tryx,

The first three sites below explain that Yiddish originated in
Germany, back then still very close to Middle High German, and that it
spread to the east, with no suggestion that it spread into
French-speaking areas.

This site explains that the Jews were expelled from France in 1394,
suggesting that they took their Judeo-French language with them.

And this one states:  "Jews of Normandy spoke a Norman dialect; in
Troyes, Champagnois; in Dijon, Burgundian."  (just over half way down
the page).

Although you describe your Jew as Ashkanazy (which originally meant
German), elsewhere the term is used to describe all those Jews who
migrated north into Europe, vs the Saphardim who went the Spain and
Of course, if your character were not a native to NW France but came
from across the Rhine, he could speak early Yiddish, but if this is
not the case, it would seem more likely that he spoke Judeo-French.

   (scroll down half way to No. 8)

I hope that is not opening up a new can of worms, but it could be
easier to put French words in his mouth.

Good luck, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: dayenu-ga on 25 Jul 2005 07:36 PDT

the above link discusses different vernacular languages poken by Jews
in the diaspora. Unless the character arrived from germany , he would
not have spoken yiddish but rather a french vernacular language such
as Zarphatic.
Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 15 Aug 2005 22:24 PDT
My character speaks Yiddish.  If he had come from China he would have
spoken Chinese, whether anyone around him did or not.  I'm asking for
the words and not for arguments about why I can't use them in a piece
of fiction that I am writing.  I also know a lot of words in Spanish,
Dutch, Japanese, Greek, and Sanskrit, just for starters, and I don't
speak any of those languages.

Thank you.
Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: myoarin-ga on 16 Aug 2005 16:26 PDT
The problem with our answers  - mine, at least - is the respect for
your search for veracity. You said that he lives in NW France about
1300, but from what can be learned, then he would not have spoken
Okay, you say he speaks Yiddish, he speaks Yiddish! :)  (I once lived in NYC) 

Then it would have been quite close to Middle High German, but that
seems more Scriptor's field.  (And any Yiddish speaking Googlers have
just been driven from their homes in the Gaza Strip.)
Sorry, Myoarin
Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 20 Aug 2005 18:52 PDT
Well, thanks for your comments, Myoarin, and I thank you for caring
about my customary insistence on authenticity of detail.  That's not
quite the same as veracity, of course.  Any piece of fiction is by
definition fiction.  If I were writing a screenplay about, say, a
female president of the U.S., I would not have veracity on my side,
but I would want what I wrote about the office of president to be true
to the office, protocol, process, etc.

I found resources that said Yiddish was spoken in Flanders during my
period of interest.

Regardless, I would like to be the one who decides how much liberty I
take.  For instance, I am fudging the year of death of the Black
Prince by about 5 years to suit my plot.  But I am doing so
consciously and deliberately, with knowledge of his actual year of
death in mind, and I am not going to worry about who might be unhappy.
 Likewise, I may choose to pretend that my character is a member of a
Yiddish-speaking community in the Lowlands, or I may allow him to be
an emigre from his native country, and if I violate the facts, I will
take responsibility for that; but he does speak Yiddish.  I am writing
fiction, not history.

The other point I must mention is that even though I do appreciate
your tracking my themes from question to question, I try to put into
each question what I need for an answer, without dependency on other
questions unless I refer to them specifically.  Not everything I ask
is for one single purpose or reason, and assumptions carried across
questions could possibly be mistaken.  For instance, a few of my
questions have pertained to a fairy tale that was not constrained by
verisimilitude; instead I was looking for clues to what might and
might not have been familiar elements to an audience in my setting. 
But I do not like to tell more than I have to, so I didn't mention
that at the time.

So far my efforts not just on GA but on all fronts to find out the
Yiddish for "warty toad" in any period of history including the
present moment have been a complete failure.  For some reason people
keep translating the word "ugly" and won't just give me the phrase I
am asking for.  I even contacted two translators-for-hire and asked
them what they would charge to translate this two-word phrase for me,
and they have not answered.  Can it be that I have stumbled upon a
sacred expression that no one dares to write or speak aloud?

Subject: Re: Let's try some Yiddish
From: myoarin-ga on 21 Aug 2005 09:45 PDT
Hi Tryx,
You are too kind about explaining, thank you.  I wish that I could
claim I use a wrong word just to elicit your response  :), but it
isn?t so. :(   I will keep your remarks in mind.

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