Mar. 20th, 2017

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via Do You Say ‘Email’ in Yiddish?:



In a thousand-year-old language like Yiddish, with many of its words rooted in the ancient Bible, how would you say “email”? Or “transgender”? Or “designated driver”? Or “binge watch”?

Those terms came into popular usage long after the language’s heyday, when it was the lingua franca of the Jews of Eastern Europe and the garment workers of the Lower East Side and was the chosen literary tongue for writers like Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Though the Holocaust and assimilation have shrunk the ranks of Yiddish speakers — once put at over 11 million worldwide — to a relative handful, Yiddish still needs to keep itself fashionably up-to-date.

So two of its conservationists have produced the first full-fledged English-to-Yiddish dictionary in 50 years and it is designed to carry Yiddish into the 21st century and just maybe beyond. After all, Yiddish has always had a canny way of defying the pessimists.

“Email”? How is “blitspost” — a combination of the Yiddish words for “lightning” and “mail”? “Transgender”? How’s “tsvishnminik,” which blends the common Yiddish words for “between” and “type.” “Designated driver”? “Der nikhterer shofer” does the trick by fusing the Yiddish word for “sober” with that for “driver.” And “binge watch” is “shlingen epizodn,” literally “wolf down episodes.”

… “In the long run if you keep borrowing English, you end up speaking English,” he said.

Read Joseph Berger’s full piece in The New York Times.

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