the schmooze
*"Por"  is the Yiddish word for pair
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Samuel Butler, writer (1835 - 1902) said, "Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from the shelf and frees them."

The year was 1944.  I was in 1st grade at P. S. 42 in Rockaway Beach (Arverne), New York.

Everyone was singing "Don't Fence Me In" and "Swinging on a Star."  Life magazine ran a photo of Wellesley students in jeans, with the tails of white shirts hanging over them. Many readers were outraged. (Such a "shande"!)   FDR was elected for the fourth time, running with Harry S. Truman as the VP candidate.  Band leader, Glenn Miller, was killed, and the national speed limit was 45 mph.  Commercial broadcasts were canceled in June to make way for reports of the American landings on the Normandy beaches.  Programs with titles like "The Man Behind the Gun" and "The FBI in Peace and War" were popular.

My parents, Jeanette and Bernie Gottlieb, were reading "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"; I was taken to see the movie, "Going My Way" with Bing Crosby.  In Talmud Torah,  Mr. Lieberman was teaching me Alef, Bet, Gimel, Dalet.  My 1st grade teacher presented the entire class with copies of "Dick and Jane," published by Scott, Foresman, and Company.  I learned to read by memorizing a small handful of "sight words" and repeating them over and over.  This was known as the "look/say" method.

On December 19, 2004, sixty years later, The New York Times Book Review (Children's Best Sellers) lists "Dick and Jane (Series) at #7.  (You have to remember that 'Walter the Farting Dog"  ascended to #3 on The New York Times best-seller list and has been printed in a dozen languages!)

In addition, "Yiddish with Dick and Jane"-- the new Basic Parody--was published by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman in 2004.  The yellow-and-red cover is illustrated with Dick, Jane and Spot. Dick is NOT playing with ESPN Game Station. (It comes with a "hundert" page instruction  manual!).  Instead, he's spinning a low-tech dreidel.

The Author's Note:

   "We use the Yiddish like a series of flares, little bursts of irony, worldliness, and savvy to illuminate the dopey innocence of Dick and Jane's world.  It's a world in which Sally once lived and which we, as children, once  lived and which we, as children, once visited and took at face value."

The book's glossary contains Yiddish words from A - Z--from "alter kocker" to "zetz."

My favorites:  "farblondget" - Lost, confused, wandering around, wildly astray.  "I go to Starbucks for a lousy cup of coffee,I take one look at the grande this and vente that, with the Macchiato and the carmel latte cream, I get totally farblondjet."

The above-definition brings to mind a review that Kenneth Jones wrote of Jeremy Kareken's play, "Farblondjet":

Farblonjet shows  the story of a young man as he looks for love amongst the ruins of a dying civilization, the Jewish Catskills.   There, he finds the one love he can not have, the father he never liked, and a whole lot of tsuris, michigas, and maybe a shtup or two.

   On page 42 we read:

   See Susan and Phil!
   Susan and Phil are in a booth!
   Susan and Phil are drinking margaritas.

   What, no cell phones ringing?  Susan and Phil don't hear the ring and say to each other, "Is that YOUR 'God Bless America' or mine?"  And why aren't they sipping a "Tom Ridge Collins" or a "Bloody Mary Cheney," two drinks mentioned in "The Bush Survival Bible" by Gene Stone?

I chuckle at the author's definition for "freylech" - Happy, cheerful, upbeat. Used more to describe a general personality trait than a specific response--and usually concerns the behavior of others rather than one's own mood.  "Prozac schmozac, at least she's more freylech now (kina-hora)."

I was "freylech" in 1st grade, too, when my teacher divided the class into three reading groups:  The "bluebirds" (the highest group); the "redbirds" (the middle group); and the "yellowbirds" (the lowest-performing group).  "Danken Got!" I was placed with the "bluebirds."  But, little did my teacher know that I couldn't tie my shoes!

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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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