Filed under: jewish food, Yiddish | Tags: babka, grammar, Panera, Yiddish words
Just heard from my sweetie in Somerville. Jessie knows that her Mommy is always on the look-out for random misuse of Yiddish, so she snapped this photo for me in her local Panera Bread restaurant:
Oy! Although it’s not as bad as the large display of sparkling apple cider and plastic champagne glasses, arrayed in the supermarket above the sign urging us to “celebrate the Jewish New Year!” — we’re generally not in favor of people turning nouns into verbs. As in: ”Don’t disrespect us by lumping our beloved pastry with your bear-claws.”
This technically is Panera’s second offense; my MIL insists on calling the chain cafe, “La Panera” as if to embody it with a bit of Frenchified high-class when we take her there for a salad.
We like our babka chocolate from the deli without the “la.”
Filed under: Uncategorized, Yiddish | Tags: aging, farblondget, farchadat, farmisht, losing things, Yiddish words
The F word is getting a lot of attention these days. It used to get you a ticket to detention. Now it’s a ticket to fame and fortune: Consider the picture book Go the F- to Sleep and Chef Gordon Ramsay’s cooking show, The F Word.
We have our own F word – in fact we have three – and they don’t rhyme with duck. We’re talking about farchadat, farblondget and farmisht, Yiddish adjectives that describe us these days. We’re confused, distracted, and forgetful. We’re women of a certain age.
Need some examples? Joyce was holding a mug of hot coffee and decided to change the sheets. After the bed was freshly made, she looked around for her coffee. It was nowhere to be found, so she gave up and made a new one. She found the mug two days later in the linen closet.
Ellen got a Phillips screwdriver from the tool shed, went back inside, walked upstairs, checked her e-mail, picked up her son’s sneakers, turned off the bathroom light, and said to herself, “What did I need a screwdriver for?”
Our neighborhood is a minefield of people who think they know us. They greet us by name, ask about our children, and say, “See you at the meeting next week.” Who are these people? How do they know us? What meeting are we missing?
It’s embarrassing to admit that we forgot about meeting you for lunch and can’t find our cell phone to call and let you know.
Clearly, we’re not alone. Holland America Cruise Line had to find a way to deal with thousands of farmisht passengers, so they put “day of the week” mats in each elevator, which they change precisely at midnight.
Here’s how we cope and cover up:
We hope it will eventually turn up: We subscribe to George Carlin’s theory that lost items disappear to a huge pile somewhere – and eventually just come back. Our piles contain at least 79 socks, extra car keys, and teaspoons. “Just hoping it’ll turn up” is how Joyce operates, because she’s not a good looker; she is so unobservant that she once didn’t notice that the saleswoman who had been showing her dresses for 30 minutes had only one arm.
We ask for help: Mostly, our loved ones ignore our cries for assistance. But Joyce’s husband makes it his mission to leave no stone unturned until he finds the missing object. He’s relentless, even if that means he’ll be late for dinner and a movie. He once ran out into the street triumphantly holding up Joyce’s no-longer-missing sneakers – and almost got hit by a car.
We seek spiritual guidance: St. Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost things. It’s said that he first showed his unique skill in this area when he successfully prayed for the return of a stolen book of psalms. Since then, his fame has grown and so has his portfolio of found objects.
Italian grandmothers swear by several versions of this short rhyme: “Please, St. Anthony, look around. Something’s lost and can’t be found.” You can also submit an online prayer request via the Franciscan Friars of Cincinnati. We hope St. Anthony checks his e-mail.
Why are Jewish girls talking about St. Anthony? Because there’s no Jewish equivalent. As far as we know, there was no one to help Joseph when he misplaced his coat of many colors somewhere near Egypt.
We give up and buy a new one: That’s why Ellen owns two identical, gray, scoop-neck shirts. The old one reappeared as soon as the new one came out of the Nordstrom bag. She should have been more patient waiting for it to return from George Carlin’s pile.
Forgetting people’s names, losing car keys, and leaving cups of coffee in linen closets are common signs of aging. But we’ve read that if you eventually remember whatever it is you forgot – “The name of the guy in the old movie was Lee Marvin!” – it’s nothing serious. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.
We’re considering taking Gingko Biloba, which is purported to cut down on memory loss, but we’d have to remember to take the pill. We’d rather just eat a blueberry muffin; blueberry flavonoids are supposed to activate parts of the human brain that control memory.
Experts also say that word puzzles keep the mind active. That’s why we do the crossword puzzle every day. What’s the answer to 4 across? A 5-letter word for “not misplaced.”
Oh yeah. FOUND.
This article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on July 22.
Filed under: culture, Dictionary of Jewish Words, Yiddish | Tags: language, Martha Stewart, maven, word use, writing, Yiddish, Yiddish words
maven: Yiddish noun. An expert or connoisseur, a specialist. A person who considers him or herself to be an expert in a particular area.
When we say “maven,” we conjure up the image of a Jewish expert, like an accountant who’s really good with numbers or a shopper who’s memorized the dates of Nordstrom’s annual sale. Or, we picture someone who is knowledgeable about a Jewish subject or something tangentially Jewish.
When we were looking for a title to go under our joint byline, we dubbed ourselves The Word Mavens. We fit our definition: We’re Jewish and we wrote a Jewish dictionary.
We are not the only word mavens. William Safire was called a “word maven” in his obituary; he wrote a New York Times column called “On Language.” Random House offers The Mavens’ Word of the Day on its website (though its maven is anonymous). We’ll concede that these two are legit, but we get annoyed when the term is thrown around heedlessly and thoughtlessly. These days, it seems like everyone’s a maven. Excuse us while we kvetch about it.
The following confirms our suspicions:
Martha Hall Foose, a Mississippi cookbook author known for her Southern recipes for deviled eggs and skilled fried corn, was lauded as a “cookbook maven.” We think that if you’re going to be a cookbook maven, you there should be recipes for knishes and rugelach somewhere in the equation.
A New England mom of three calls herself and her website “the maven of savin’.” She posts deals, sales and upcoming shopping bargains. Last December she featured Kohl’s holiday kitchen towels with gingerbread, snowmen and Christmas trees. Not a dreidel dishcloth to be found from the “maven of savin’.”
There’s no denying that June Ambrose is a beautiful African-American fashion stylist. She works with celebs like Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Missy Elliott. The website blackgaygossip.com called her a “black fashion maven.” We hope she knows what it means when Mariah demands, “No more shmattas. I want to be all fapitzed for the Grammys.”
In the headline of her obituary, Hawaiian orchid grower May Arstad Neal Moir was called a “gardening maven.” She was famous for introducing tropical plants to the Nu’uanu Valley and for breeding dozens of new orchid varieties. People may have called this Hawaiian native a ke aloha kumu (beloved teacher), but we doubt anyone ever called her a maven.
Martha Stewart seems to be the quintessential maven. She’s been called a “media maven,” “homemaking maven,” “food maven,” and “entertaining maven.” We think she could also be called the “penultimate makeover maven” for the way she reinvented her life and reenergized her empire upon her release from prison.
We concede that there are a lot of mavens out there running around being experts about all kinds of things. We can’t hold on to the exclusive use of the word. When they are calling football stars “mavens of the gridiron,” we realize that ship has sailed. We’ve got to learn to share.