Monday, 12 October 2009

The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten

Rosten describes his book on language as a relaxed lexicon of Yiddish, Hebrew and Yinglish words often encountered in English, plus dozens that ought to be... An entertaining foray into Jewish culture, it’s filled with jokes, anecdotes and wit; a perfect book for bedside reading.


This is however a blog on booze, not linguistics, so I’m only quoting from one entry in the book: shikker.

1. A drunk. ‘He’s a shikker.’
2. (Adjective) Drunk. ‘She got a wee bit shikker.’

Rosten points out that in Jewish folklore and literature the souse is almost unknown but he does go on to say that the goodness of wine is frequently mentioned in the bible.

The rabbis also believed that wine possessed splendid curative properties: ‘Wine is the greatest of all medicines.’ ‘Where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary,’ Rabbi Huna said. “Wine helps to open the heart to reasoning.’

I’ll drink to that. Although Rosten then quotes an old saw:

When one man tells you you’re shikker, hesitate; when two tell you, slow up; when three men tell you – lie down!

I’ll leave with the obligatory joke at the end:

In the lounge of a Catskill resort, an hour before the dinner hour, Mrs Meckler asked Mrs Smelkin, ‘How about a cocktail before dinner?’ ‘No, thanks. I never drink.’ ‘No, why not?’ ‘Well in front of my children, I don’t believe in taking a drink. And when I’m away from my children, who needs it?’

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