Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Empowering in Yiddish

Every language has a personality, and when I think about Yiddish, I think “self-mocking,” “Ironic,” and “wistful humor.” The last contains the contradiction that makes the Yiddish voice, or narrative personality, so hard to define and yet so appealing. We all know the best storytelling makes you cry and laugh at once.
What Yiddish does not connote is power. It is the language of a people who were shaped by powerlessness. Even a blunt statement such as “you can't pee on my back and tell me it’s raining” suggests someone is humiliating you while you're determined to stand tall. (A parallel idiom in English would be, “I don’t take wooden nickels,” and it is clearly of a different, self-possessed, voice. Both mean you can't fool me. But they don't taste the same.)

So when I heard this saying translated from Yiddish—
 וואס אין אים פאלט מען אריין קען מען פון אים ארויספאלן.
*What you fall into you can fall out of*

I’m going to repeat this^ to self as often as needed. In Yiddish, English, Hebrew, or by thinking while humming intelligibly. If I did it I can undo it. Wow-wee.


  1. Definitely a good thing to remember.

  2. I like that saying a lot....nothing is certain. Don't take anything for granted. That's how I interpret it, but could it also mean that life is about the luck of the draw? Take a different path, and everything changes?

  3. These are beautiful ... they have pathos and humor.

  4. Love it. And you're right, each language has a personality. I wish I could speak more of them more fluently.

  5. A very powerful thought! I'm a big fan of Yiddish. We use punim a lot around our house.