David Zvi Kalman’s Forward article “The Strange and Violent History of the Ordinary Grogger” is extraordinarily interesting in its own right, as a history of the ratchet from the church crotalus to the policeman’s rattle (only superseded by the the pea whistle in 1884) and the Purim noisemaker. But I’m bringing it here for a couple of etymologies. The Yiddish word grager or greger, conventionally spelled grogger in American Jewish usage, is said to be from Polish grzegarz ‘rattle’; the problem is that I can find no evidence for such a Polish word. Also, the article mentions “the Triduum — the three days preceding Easter”; the word triduum, which was new to me, looks like it means “three twos,” but the OED (in an entry from 1914) says “< Latin trīduum, prop. neuter of *trīduus adjective (sc. spatium), < tri-, tri- comb. form + diēs day.” How do you get –duus from dies?


  1. To your second question: trīduum (and likewise bīduum, quadrīduum) shows one of the wrinkles of the Latin vowel weakening changes. Normally, short vowels in non-initial open syllables all go to i, but in some environments they go to u — including before etymological *w, which is the case here: *trīdiwom > *trīduwom > trīduum.

  2. David Marjanović says

    Crotalus, incidentally, is “rattlesnake” in Scientific.

  3. in some environments they go to u — including before etymological *w, which is the case here

    The things you learn! Thanks very much for that.

  4. Grzegorz ~~ Gregory and grzechotka ~~ rattle, but I don’t think the two were ever conflated outside of Yiddish

  5. I find it really weird (and, frankly, somewhat creepy) that a Jewish site chose an octopus picture to go with that article.

    At tomorrow’s Purimspiel (where I will be playing Vashti, as Elsa from Frozen), we have inserted several “commercial” breaks. The first commercial will be for Crazy Hymie’s Used Groggers, and the interlude will allow people to pass the groggers out before Haman’s first entrance.

  6. Is that because octopus is not kosher ?

  7. And onocrotalus?
    “ass rattle”?

  8. @Brett: At one time I was similarly puzzled by Futurama’s Decapodians – a race of Yiddish-accented sapient lobsters – until it was pointed out to me that humans aren’t kosher either.

  9. That Zoidberg is tref is just part of what makes him funny. However, I was thinking of something entirely different with regard to the octopus. The many-tentacled creature was a traditional symbol of evil conspiracy and thus showed up in a lot of antisemitic imagery.

  10. @Lazar,
    > until it was pointed out to me that humans aren’t kosher either.

    To be “Talmudically” precise, human flesh is not kosher. Human breast milk is kosher which makes it one of those rare substances like bee honey where something kosher comes from a non-kosher source. Oddly enough, human breast milk is not considered dairy, so it does not fall under the prohibition of mixing dairy and meat. Technically, an Orthodox Jew could eat a cheeseburger made from human cheese 🙂

  11. The things you learn around here!

  12. Malamud’s Jewbird eats herring, which makes him a predator of sorts, ergo treyf. As for the blue Jews of Zsouchmuhn in Ellison’s “I’m Looking for Kadak” ….

  13. January First-of-May says

    Grzegorz ~~ Gregory and grzechotka ~~ rattle, but I don’t think the two were ever conflated outside of Yiddish.

    The word grzechotka sounds like it means “loud sound thing”, where the “loud sound” part is cognate to Russian грохот (and probably ultimately onomatopoeic). The Russian word is трещотка, from a different word for “loud sound”.
    I won’t be surprised if some language did, in fact, have a word for “rattle” very similar to “grzegarz” – it feels suitably loud-sound-y.

    As for the blue Jews of Zsouchmuhn…

    It started like an episode from Iona Sheket and continued like an episode from Iona Sheket. And for half more of that story I kept thinking that, hey, nice story, but if I wanted to read something that looks so much like it came from Iona Sheket, I’d read Iona Sheket. (The second half was more silly, and a bit more in Jewish humor, but I kept thinking of Iona Sheket anyway.)

    Iona Sheket, for the record, is that one big novel by Pesach Amnuel, a parody of Ijon Tichy – you can probably figure out where it’s going from that alone – where Israel had conquered most of the Earth sometime fifty-odd years in the future, and the main character is kind of Jewish.
    There’s not much of the Jewish rites, except when it’s important for the story – it usually isn’t, they aren’t especially radical Jews there, most of the time (in particular, I can’t recall anything at all about the kashrut) – and there’s really not much of random Yiddish words sprinkled around, because, you know, that’s how Ashkenazi Jews talk, not Israeli ones (that was how I managed to remind myself that whatever I just read wasn’t actually Iona Sheket); and most of the story has nothing to do with Jewish things, anyway. (But there’s a huge big section about the Zodiac… as much as there is one in a very interstellar setting, which is a big part of the story.)
    It’s not even straight Jewish humor – it’s more like Israeli humor, mixed up with the original Ijon Tichy humor. But there’s an episode early on in the chronology (can’t recall where it is in the actual book, which jumps all over the place in chronology, even accounting for all the time travel) with an alien race that randomly decided to be Jewish despite looking, you know, kind of nothing like humans (back before every other alien race ended up Jewish, because Israel was such a big power) – and it was this section that I was thinking of when I read that story.
    (It was the circumcision that turned out to be the big problem there, incidentally. Their reproduction worked so completely differently that they just didn’t have anything similar.)

  14. @e-k: Are you sure that human flesh isn’t kosher? I know that human blood is not subject to the same restriction as the blood of an animal (so, for example, if you have a cut on your lip and are getting blood on your food, the only thing you have to worry about is mar’it ayin), and I’ve never heard anyone say that (for example) chewing on chapped lips, or biting off a hangnail, could have kashrut concerns.

    In fact, I’ve heard it argued that we’re not even considered food, so kashrut doesn’t apply.

    (Obviously it’s forbidden to eat people, but — not because of kashrut.)

  15. @Ran,
    A disclaimer – I am not a rabbi so this is not a religious ruling.

    I was about to state that because humans are not ruminants and do not have split hooves they would not fit into the category of acceptable mammals. Furthermore, in order for flesh to be kosher, the animal would have to be slaughtered in accordance to the laws of schechitah (which in our case would mean murder)

    However, looking into this in more detail, there is quite a disagreement among the great rabbis of the Middle Ages. The Rambam states that it is forbidden. So does the Ra’aH. However, the Ramban, the Rashba and the Ritvah say it is permitted. I believe that final ruling is that it is not permitted…

    As far as chewing your lips or biting a hangnail, I believe that kosher status applies to what is commonly considered edible.

    Ugh, this discussion of Jews eating people is making me a bit nervous – especially with Passover just around the corner 🙂

  16. @Ran: The full argument for the non-kosher nature of human flesh is, in my understanding, rather complicated. It does not come down to a single simple rule. One important point, however, is that implicit in the laws of kashrut is that if anything is done that violates another law during the food preparation process, the product is non-kosher. This means that, for example, you cannot eat someone you have murdered. There are licit forms of homicide; people may be killed in conflict/warfare or executed. However, in neither case is ritual slaughter allowed. You cannot perform a proper slaughter in a battle situation, and kosher slaughter is not a allowed method of execution. You cannot eat somebody who died of natural causes (or any other cause of death other than kosher slaughter); that meat would be carrion, and hence not kosher. Finally, you cannot eat flesh taken from an animal that was left alive. So I think that rules out all possible ways in which you might eat a human.

  17. J.W. Brewer says

    Is there specific rabbinical authority for the proposition that kosher slaughter is not an allowed method of execution? If so, did the issue actually arise as a practical one in some specific historical context, or is it just a necessary logical consequence of various other propositions that are uncontroversially settled in their immediate but separate contexts, with the dots having been connected between the contexts just because part of rabbinical tradition is the semi-recreational consideration of extreme or unlikely hypothetical scenarios?

  18. @JWBrewer,

    I’m not sure if I got your question… Judaism allows for four types of executions for capital crimes (from Wikipedia). Anything else was not allowed.

    Before any capital sentence was carried out, the condemned person was given a drug to render them senseless. There were four types of capital punishment, known as mitath beth din (execution by the rabbinic court). These four types of capital punishment, in decreasing severity, were:

    Sekila – stoning
    This was performed by pushing a person off a height of at least 2 stories. If the person didn’t die, then the executioners (the witnesses) brought a rock that was so large that it took both of them to lift it; this was placed on the condemned person to crush them.[citation needed]

    Serefah – burning
    This was done by melting lead, and pouring it down the throat of the condemned person.

    Hereg – decapitation
    This is also known as “being put to the sword” (beheading).

    Chenek – strangulation
    A rope was wound around the condemned person’s neck, and the executioners (the witnesses) pulled from either side to strangle the condemned person.

  19. J. W. Brewer says
  20. @JWBrewster,

    I guess these guys wore the wrong tartan:

  21. J. W. Brewer says

    Well, I don’t know how seriously to take the implication in the story that the cloth usually used for kilts is a linen/wool mix which presents halachic problems regardless of the pattern woven into it. I would have assumed that default/generic tartan cloth was just wool, but for all I know that assumption would have been faulty.

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