the schmooze
 It Takes a "Yiddisher Kop" to Teach Math and Science
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

   I have one thing to say to Harvard University President, Lawrence Summers:  "Bistu meshugeh"?  (Are you crazy?)  There are no "innate differences"  between men and women when it comes to science and math.  As sociologists Yu Xie and Kimberlee Shauman found, "girls are not only on a par with boys" in  math and science courses, but "they attain significantly better grades."   The problem: women leave science when they have kids. If you're pushing a stroller, you're not building a quantum computer.  Women have to choose between the two; men don't.

   "Fregn" means "to question."    Solomon ibn Gabirol once taught, "The finest quality of the human being is asking questions."  Jewish mothers have been answering math and science questions for years.  Here are some examples:

Q.  "Is it true, mama, that nothing is faster than the speed of light?"

A.  "Yo.  Try opening the refrigerator door before the light comes on."

Q.  "What did P. E. Morris say about water in the body?"

A.  "You are 87% water; the other 13% keeps you from drowning."

Q.  "Mom, what did Woody Allen say about the universe?"

A.  "I'm astonished by people who want to 'know'  the universe when it's enough to find your way around Chinatown."

Q.  "Mama, what in the world is electricity?"

A.  "The question is 'where does it go after it leaves the toaster'?"

Q.  "My teacher said that Photons have mass."

A.  "I didn't even know they were Catholic!"

Q.  "My science teacher said something about a body being immersed in water....."

A.  "When the body is immersed in 'vaser,' 'der telefon'   rings."

Q. "What did you learn at your money management for seniors lecture in Palm Beach?"

A.  "I learned that the leading cause of death in South Florida is exhaustion, caused by house guests from the north."

Q.  "My math teacher said that he shops at a bagel store that offers a Baker's Dozen. What does that mean?"

A.  "A Baker's Dozen is 'draytsn'--13.  And remember what actress Shirley Jones said: "Eating bagels with someone other than your husband constitutes some sort of Hebrew adultery."  And Dr. Joyce Brothers said,"Bagels are the best teething rings ever made."

Q.  "Mom, what's a duodenum?"

A.  "I think it's a  number system in base two."

Q.  "My science teacher at Solomon Schechter discussed 'VD' today. Do you know what the term means?"

A.  "Lomir redn fun freylikher zakhn."  (Let's talk about more cheerful things.)  I think it means "Voo Den?"  Or, perhaps, "Volume Discount."

Q.  "Mama, in science we're learning about CIRRHOSIS..."

A.  "Nit do gedakht!"  (It shouldn't happen here.) All I know is that CHAROSIS is not a liver disease!"

Q.  "Mama, when I type control-S, the whole computer system comes to a halt for 30 seconds..."

A.  "So don't do that!"

Q.  "Mama, are there really 1 billion stars in the universe?"

A.  "Yes.  And when I tell you that the wall has wet paint, don't touch it to be sure."

Q.  "Why does your car have a bumper-sticker that reads:  RADIOACTIVE CATS HAVE 18 HALF-LIVES?"

A.  "Hak mir nit in kop."  (Don't talk so much.)

Q.  "Mama, what does the Talmud say about the stock market?"

A.  "When prices drop, buy."

Q.  "My economics teacher said that today we've got many 'boomerang kids' and 'twixters'; they're full-grown men and women who still live with their parents."

A.  "Parasite singles!  Kleyne kinder, kleyne freydn; groys kinder, groyse zorgn."  (Little children, little joys; big children, big worries.)

Q.  "Mama, my science teacher said that if you hook Jell-O up to an EEG, it registers movements almost identical to a human adult's brain waves."

A.  "Go ask Bill Cosby! He's the Jell-O maven."

Q.  "According to my teacher, 20% of Americans think that the sun orbits around the earth."

A.  "Oi, g'vald!  Have we got 'tsores.'"

Q.  "Mama, I read that Richard Hatch, winner of the first 'Survivor' reality series, has been charged with tax evasion for failing to report his $1 million prize."

A.  "A gonif!  Hindert hayzer zol er hobn, in yeder hoyz a hindert tsimern, in yeder tsimer tsvonsik betn un kadukhes zol im varfn fin eyn bet in der tsveyter."  (A hundred houses shall he have, in every house a hundred rooms and in every room twenty beds, and a delirious fever should drive him from bed to bed.)

Q.  "Mama, did you know that astronauts cannot burp in space.  There is no gravity to separate liquid from gas in their stomach."

A.  "Zun, the Yiddish word for burp is 'greps.' Ask me another."

Q. "Mama, are you aware that the average child recognizes over 200 company logos by the time he enters first grade?"

A.  "Bubelah, you're too young to remember when Shapiro's House of Kosher Wines had a logo which featured a knife standing upright in a glass of wine. They claimed 'The Wine So Thick You Can Almost Cut It With a Knife.'"

Q.  "Mama, my Hebrew teacher said that since 1980, the National Yiddish Book Center has rescued more than 1.5 mllion endangered Yiddish books..."

A.  "And, according to Aaron Lansky, 40 titles begin with the word 'Mama.'  Oh, there's one book titled, 'Tata is Nisht a Mama.'"

Q.  "Mama, my computer teacher said that the most popular MP3 digital music players employ so-called microdrives that can store thousands of songs..."

A.   "We'll buy one when they store the songs, 'Mayn Yingele,' 'Shlof My Kind,' and 'Unter Dem Kinds Vigele' (Under
      Baby's Little Crib)."

Q.  "Mama, listen to this statistic:  71% of office workers stopped on the street for a survey agreed to give up their computer passwords in exchange for a chocolate bar."

A.  "Her nor!" (Listen!)  A 'hundert' percent would divulge the password for a piece of Joyva Marble halvah!"

Q.  "My science teacher said that a 'dangerous' global warming is possible by 2026.  If nothing is done, the earth will have warmed by 2.0 Celsius above pre-industrial levels by some time between 2026 and 2060.

A.  "And there's a technical term for a sunny, warm day which follows two rainy days.  It's called 'Montik'  (Monday)."

Q.  "Mama, researchers havre found that doctors who spend at least 5 hours a week playing video games make about 37% fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery than surgeons who don't play video games."

A.  "Sounds like a 'Bobe-mayse'--a far-fetched story.  NO, you can't play the quirky 'Viewtiful Joe 2' (VJ2) with its straight-up beat-'em-up action.  Do your homework... or you'll be a 'dumkop.'"

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N O P Q R S T U V W   Y Z
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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