Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yiddish for You, Too

In The Meaning of Yiddish (1990) Benjamin Harshav undertakes to describe the  relationship between Yiddish and other languages.  It wasn't just a "folk language," he argues: it was deeply rooted into the complex of languages (Yiddish, plus Hebrew of course, but also Aramaic) in the religious life of the community. But even though deeply rooted, Yiddish was a sort of "retail language;" the one used when explaining religious matters to the unschooled.  And since religious life was largely reserved for men, Yiddish became, in a sense, feminized.   Harshaw says:
Yiddish was the language of home, family events, intimacy.   It was the "mama-language," with all possible connotations, negative and positive, which the division implied.
In a footnote, he adds:
Title pages of Yiddish texts would make this humble point.  Often, however, the dedication in the book itself was expanded to read: "for women and men" or "for women and men and men who are like women, that is, uneducated."
Id., aat 13.


Anonymous said...

That's it? That's all you got out of Harshav's book? So, what's your point?

Buce said...

My blog. Don't have to have a point.