A YEKKISH DICTIONARY.

Ofer Aderet reviews “The Ben Yehuda Strasse Dictionary: A Dictionary of Spoken Yekkish in the Land of Israel” (Yedioth Ahronoth Books) at Haaretz; here‘s a regular link and here‘s a link to the print version in case the first sends you to a subscription page (I’ve had both results). Yekke is a term used to describe Jews of German-speaking origin, and Yekkish is basically German, though with incursions from Yiddish. The book is not really a dictionary so much as a collection of words and phrases lumped under various categories:

The first part is called “Foreigners would never understand this” and it presents “the basic elements of Yekke DNA.” It includes basic words and expressions such as unglaublich (unbelievable), ach so (precisely), ach wirklich (come on, you must be kidding), genau (exactly), gratuliere (sincere congratulations), Weg damit (get out), Quatsch mit Sosse (nonsense – literally, with sauce added), Kleinigkeit (a petty matter) and schrecklich (absolutely horrible).
The second part is called “Life according to the rules” and it contains everything from curses and praises to expressions related to order, cleanliness, precision, diligence and sloth. … The sixth and final part, “Blending into the Asiatic region,” includes expressions that only a Yekke living in Israel could possibly understand: for instance, “zum Tijul gehen” (going off on an outing), Schmerian Dorf (Kfar Shmaryahu), Telawif (Tel Aviv), and Tozsores Haaretz (a combination of totzeret haaretz, Israeli made, and tsuris (trouble, aggravation).

There is, of course, the requisite quote demonstrating complete linguistic ignorance; Reuven Merhav, president of the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin, says Yekkish “has neither grammar nor syntax. It has no roots and no orderly morphology.” If you can access it, there are more goodies at the link. Thanks, Paul!

Comments

  1. Just what exactly information sites meant for governmental criticism would you recommend us you just read?
    Priceless lunacy, truly moon-struck. Everything looks almost sensible until the last just, “like the thirteenth stroke of a crazy clock, which not only is itself discredited but casts a shade of doubt over all previous assertions.” (A. P. Herbert)

  2. I have to wonder how much Yekkish owes to Western Yiddish, the now essentially extinct Judeo-German spoken in the German-speaking lands?

  3. ach so (precisely)
    Could be, could be. But I find it rather hard to believe that the rock-bottom-everyday German expression ach so ["Ah, I see"] would have taken on the meaning of “precisely”. It would be as if “ah, I see” in a Jamaican dialect had taken on the meaning of “precisely”. Interesting if it’s true …
    Weg damit (get out)
    Another interesting-if-true puzzler. The rock-bottom-everday German expression weg damit ! means “away with that thing !”, i.e. “get that (thing) out of here !”. It is not addressed to a person. You could say weg da ! to someone, meaning “get out of the way !”, but not weg damit !
    In a situation where B wants A to leave, B could say dismissively to C (gesturing towards A, treating A as a thing): weg damit !, meaning “get that A out of my sight !”. It would be misleading to claim that weg damit ! here means “get out !”, as if addressed to A. Instead, it would mean “get him out of here !”.

  4. My last comment was motivated by Hat’s statement that “Yekkish is basically German, though with incursions from Yiddish”. If such everyday German expressions as ach so and weg damit have changed their meaning and usage in Yekkish so radically, then the claim “Yekkish is basically German” may be true as regards syntax, but a bit misleading as regards semantic features.
    The other examples in the paragraph of the article from which weg damit is taken (“Quatsch mit Soße” etc) mean what they mean in German. That’s why I am puzzled by the discrepancies for ach so and weg damit.

  5. Speaking of German and dialects, DRadio Wissen has an interesting series of broadcasts at the moment. The first one is on Cimbrian and a couple of other Germanic Sprachinseln in northern Italy; the second, which I haven’t yet listened to, is on Sorbian. Occasionally the Hoersaal broadcasts are in English (and this should be better, and there probably will be a few in English in this series, but the first and the second are in German.

  6. If such everyday German expressions as ach so and weg damit have changed their meaning and usage in Yekkish so radically
    But who knows if they have? We’re dealing with 1) an amateur dictionary 2) with definitions (presumably) in Hebrew 3) translated into English for the story 4) by a reporter. Those are four powerful sources of possible error and misunderstanding.

  7. Here is the review in Hebrew. “וג דמיט” is glossed החוצה ‘outside’, which does mean “Get out!” as an interjection, right? And “אח זו” as אכן כן ‘exactly!, precisely!, spot on!’

  8. four powerful sources of possible error and misunderstanding
    A fifth one being my “feeling” that ach so and weg damit are “rock-bottom-everyday” expressions whose meanings would be unlikely to change. After all, a few Yiddish expressions I have guessed at in the past have, as often as not, meant something other than I had guessed from the similarity with German.
    It bugs me that I am still no wiser than before as regards these two expressions in Yekkish.

  9. the requisite quote demonstrating complete linguistic ignorance; Reuven Merhav, president of the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin, says Yekkish “has neither grammar nor syntax. It has no roots and no orderly morphology.”
    Hat, I appeal to your experience with people who make ignorant claims about linguistic matters. Suppose one were charitable for a moment, to the extent of being disposed to imagine what Merhav might have in mind – something not as ridiculous as what he actually says.
    Might he mean that there is no official printed work, or academic faculty, devoted to the grammar and syntax of Yekkish ? There also seems to be a suggestion that Yekkish is something the cat dragged in, from the wrong side of the tracks. “Amusing in its way, my dear, but not our sort of person”.

  10. I am by now used to claims that language X has no grammar, syntax, etc. and basically charitably interpret them as “its grammar, syntax etc. do not correspond in an orderly fashion to language Y, with which we are all familiar [usually English], and therefore baffle me”.
    But “no roots” is a new one. A language composed only of affixes attached to 0; that could be a fun conlang project (if you didn’t cheat and take the degenerate route of simply declaring all roots in your existing conlang suffixes to 0). I wonder if what Merhav meant by “roots” was “Semitic-style consonant-only roots” (ablaut notwithstanding…)

  11. Might he mean that there is no official printed work, or academic faculty, devoted to the grammar and syntax of Yekkish ?
    No, while that’s a theoretical possibility (like the possibility that what he really said was that it has grammar, syntax, roots, and morphology like any other language, but it got mangled in translation), I’m afraid what such statements essentially always mean is that non-official languages are just sloppy messes of words picked up god knows where and stuck together god knows how, unlike the real languages you learn in school.

  12. I propose that by “roots” Merhav meant “history as a written medium.”

  13. “לייקית המדוברת אין דקדוק ואין תחביר. אין לה שורשים ולא מורפולוגיה מסודרת”
    I’m pretty sure that in this context shorashim would be taken to mean just what Matt says.

  14. I wonder if what Merhav meant by “roots” was “Semitic-style consonant-only roots”
    This, without a doubt. “Roots” (shorashim) in the Semitic sense is the primed linguistic jargon item for any Israeli. It’s what I understood when I read the original piece.

  15. Well, on that count, then, he was absolutely correct!

  16. “Well, on that count, then, he was absolutely correct!”
    But isn’t that just another case of “I am by now used to claims that language X has no grammar, syntax, etc. and basically charitably interpret them as “its grammar, syntax etc. do not correspond in an orderly fashion to language Y, with which we are all familiar [usually English], and therefore baffle me”.
    If most of the vocabulary is of German origin, then of course it has roots, just not of the type you find in Hebrew or Arabic. So he’s still just being a redneck.

  17. Lojban (and Loglan as well) have in a certain sense no roots. Each primitive word has two to five allomorphs, of which one is used only when the word is isolated, and the others are used to construct compounds somewhat like English neo-classical compounds or Russian stump compounds. Thus mamta ‘mother’ is used stand-alone, but in the compound matma’a ‘mother’s mother’, the allomorphs mat and ma’a are employed.

  18. (The above remarks do not apply to function words, borrowings, or proper names.)

  19. One of the less probable etymologies of Yekke is the Hebrew acronym “Yehudi ksheh havana” which can be translated as “a Jew who is difficult to accomodate”.

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