Speaking Yiddish

In the US today, when someone needs to pay for a ride to get somewhere, someone in the house may wait by the window to see when it arrives. And then they’ll call out “Time to go, the taxi’s here!”

In pre-war Eastern Europe, they would have called out “Der balagalah iz du — The wagon driver is here.”

And in that, lies all the difference.

זו היא כל התורה כולה ואידך פירושה הוא זיל גמור

This is the entire Torah, and the rest is explanation. Go learn!

– Hillel (to prospective convert), Shabbos 31a

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  1. moshe says:

    Sums up, al regel achas, what America is all about.
    It is about everything but humans and, by extension, also humanity (metchlichkeit)

  2. Jon Baker says:

    As is my wont, I see it as a change in technology. You look out the window, you see a big black car (or in Israel, a small white car) with tinted windows. You see the taxi, you don’t see the driver.

    In the pre-automobile period, you’d see a wagon or hansom, where the driver sits on a high bench at the front of the carriage or wagon. So the most prominent thing is the driver.

    So Yiddish developed in a time when people used horses for transport, and reflects that technology. Our usage reflects our reality, without need to resort to homiletics about the degenerate state of American culture.

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