Keeping Up With the Katchkes

On a Lighter Note… My last post was criticized for overkill. I took a charming and funny saying and explained it to death. So a short light one today.

In addition to unpacking, I have been flitting from one project to another, without getting much traction on any of them. I’m sure everyone has times like this.

For example, I thought I would work on my listening. No, I haven’t gotten a conversation group together yet, and I have not found a class. But, even for a yishuvnik in the hinterlands, this is a good time to study Yiddish. I’m old enough not to take the world wide web for granted.

It’s true, I said I didn’t love online learning. But I thought I could at least try a sporadic and self-directed project, given the resources out there. For example, the Forverts Yiddish news broadcasts are available as podcasts [link here]. The Yiddish Book Center has digitized old recordings of literary events from the Jewish Library in Montreal. You can hear the great writers reading and talking about their work [link here] . YIVO has podcasts of old radio programs [link here] . I’m sure there are other sources too.

For this try, I wanted the text of what I was listening to, so I went for the Sami Rohr Library, also at the Yiddish Book Center [link here].

I printed out the first three pages of Yud Yud Zinger’s Di Brider Ashkenazi, from the Book Center’s free pdf, and then settled in. The opening is richly descriptive, and the reader went fast, so I had to pause the recording practically every few seconds. That was a little galling— I couldn’t get any kind of feel for the rhythm of the language. So I read a page or two first, underlined the hard words, looked some of them up, and then just relaxed and listened. Less than three pages in, I fell into a deep, sound sleep. When I woke up to the soothing stream of barely comprehensible words, nearly fifty minutes of the recording had gone by.

I will give this another shot. In 3-page bursts. While standing. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share my new Word of the Day I learned from my journey through the first couple of pages.

Wagonloads of Germans are traveling through the Polish countryside as the book opens. The wagons and their occupants are a strange sight to poyerim (Polish peasants) and Jewish onlookers alike. The contents of the wagons, including tools (the travellers are weavers), other physical possessions, and religious artifacts are described. In the commotion of the caravans, Gendz hiner un katshkes hobn nisht oyfgehert kardatshen in zeyere shtaygn.

Kardatshen ( קאַרדאַטשען ) iz nito (is not there) in either my Weinreich dictionary or in my Beinfeld and Bochner. I assume it is Slavic, probably Russian in origin. And that’s a big limitation for me. When a word is not in the Yiddish dictionary, the next try is to go to the source language. I have a German-English dictionary, and a Hebrew-English dictionary, but I would not be able to make any use of a Russian-English dictionary, since I’m not familiar with the alphabet.

Luckily, as with many first encounters with a word, the context provides a lot of information. “Geese, hens and ducks did not stop Kardatshen in the cages.” I can infer fairly confidently that the verb Kardatshen means, “To draw a lot of attention to yourself, despite having no particular talent.”


Chick and ducks and geese better scurry.

Chick and ducks and geese better scurry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s