the schmooze
*(Yiddish for "It will help like blood-cupping a corpse; it's absolutely hopeless; wasted effort; useless)
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Cupping was an old "sgule" (remedy) for chest or "rukn" (back) pains, colds, and inflammations. A dozen or so small round-bottom glass cups were applied to the affected areas by means of vacuum suction. The air was evacuated from the cups by swabbing the inside with alcohol and then igniting it. When the flame died, the cup was quickly placed on the skin. The suction caused the blood near the surace of the skin to be drawn there much like liniments do today.

Leo Rosten shared an anecdote about " toyten bankes": He wrote, "Mrs. Kitzman, weight 170, brought home a new dress, size 12, plus a new miracle "korset" (girdle), whi ch she claims will enable her to get into the new "kleyd" (dress). Will it? 'It will help vi a toyten bankes!'"

Jackie Mason ("How to Talk Jewish") says that "toyten bankes is a hopeless case. It's like trying to talk your son out of marrying a gorgeous shiksa."

Mason continues, "Someone in the real estate business is trying to sell his condominium in Staten Island, but no one has bought a condominium there in sixteen years. He says, 'I've got an idea. I'll put in a swimming pool. I'll put in a tennis court. I'll get a doorman.'" His friend says, "Forget it, Harold. It's a toyten bankes."

You grab the guy and tell him, "Look, it's a two-million dollar condominium, and I'll sell it to you for three hundred dollars. It's the biggest bargain in history." He's beating a dead horse. If the real estate guy had any intelligence ("inteligents"), he'd understand that a Jew on Flatbush Avenue wouldn't have the slightest interest in a condominium in Staten Island, no matter how cheap it was. He tells you, "There's no way to send your kids to Hebrew School in Staten Island. And who can get married there? Do you know how big Staten Island is? Stop kidding yourself. It's a toyten bankes." (Author's comment: This book was written in 1990, and today there are many more Jews residing in Staten Island.)

You may recall when Gwyneth Paltrow showed up at the premiere of Anchorman with "royt" (red) circles on her back. She had "cupping" done. Despite the "royt" circles, she was "sheyn vi di zibn veltn" (beautiful as the seven worlds).

In a 2005 inquiry to the readers of Reminisce magazine regarding their experiences with "cupping," the writer received almost 100 responses. The most interesting ones are shown be low:

When it comes to high fever, what then? Tylenol, Advil, Aspirin, Aleve? Any of those will probably do the trick, but if you have an allergy toward that type of medication, then what?

BINCUS! That's right, another old- fashioned method. What are BINCUS? How do they work? ...I'll try to tell you about them from what I remember my my mother doing when my father got sick. You need:
1) a very large pot with boiling water
2) a lit candle ("likht")
3) a set of (24) BINCUS, which are small glasses that resemble whiskey ("shnaps") glasses, but are round.
4) large tongs
5) a large bath towel ("hantekh")

The patient ("patsyent") must lie face down, naked from the waist ("talye") up.

1) Put BINCUS into the pot of boiling water.
2) With the tongs, remove the BINCUS from the boiling water, hold the open end to the candle, then place the BINCUS on the pers on's back and repeat this in rows until all the BINCUS are used. For warmth, cover the person with a bath towel.
3) Allow the BINCUS to remain until they are ready to pop off, usually in about a half hour. When removed, they leave big brown polka dots, which will eventually disappear.

Are BINCUS still available? Not that I know of, unless you find them at a garage sale that an eastern European might have from their grandmother's time. My mother had hers from her mother which she had brought to America from Germany.

If you ever find them, I want them." Thanks, Lauretta Abrams, of David, CA, for your story.

Thanks to (former Bronx boy), Mel Siegel, who now resides in Tucson.

Rick Lyons

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe loves old-time remedies. She remembers when her mother would place a warm, wet tea bag over the eye when she had a STY. She prayed that it would work because the second solution was ALWAYS an enema ("kane").


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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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