The Shmooze

Bringing Back Yiddish...One Email at a Time

By Elissa Strauss

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Shulamit Seidler-Feller

Last summer brother and sister Yiddish enthusiasts Shaul and Shulie Seidler- Feller decided they wanted to spread their love of the mameloshn, so they started the Yiddish Word-of-the-Week project. Mainly a listserv, but also a Web site in development, the project includes weekly mailings that feature a word of the week with an English translation, a link to hear it spoken, synonyms in Yiddish, the etymology, phrases and expressions in which the word is used and even a photograph tied to the word that Shulie, who has contributed photographs to the Forward, shoots in New York’s Yiddish-speaking neighborhoods.

So far, they’ve covered everything from mashin (a machine or automobile) to likht (a light or candle), and have plenty more in store.

The Seidler-Fellers both live in New York. Shaul, 20, is a student at Yeshiva College where he studies Yiddish, and Shulie, 26, is a photographer who works with Jewish Lens, a Jewish photography organization. The duo grew up speaking Hebrew and English, with a sprinkle of Yiddishisms, at home in Los Angeles, but became more interested in the language during the past few years.

To sign-up for the listserv, send an email to: yiddishwordoftheweek@gmail.com or check out the Web site.

Below is an example of what readers will find on the Web site:

Gleybn/Gloybn - גלויבן/גלייבן GLEYB-en/GLOYB-en Verb: To believe.

Pronunciation: Click here to hear a native Yiddish speaker use this word in conversation.

Synonyms: meynen (מיינען); halten (האלטן).

German equivalents: fassen, glauben, meinen.

Etymology: The word(s) derive(s) from German “glauben,” from Middle High German “g(e)loube,” which is cognate with Dutch “geloven,” from proto-Germanic “*galauƀian” (“to believe, to hold valuable or pleasing”). Cf. Old English gelyfan. Weinreich (here and here) explains that the two words are essentially the result of Lithuanian Yiddish’s transformation of the “oy” sounds in gloybn to an “ey” sounds, producing gleybn. Though gleybn can only be used as a verb, gloybn, as you will see below, is also a noun.

Derivatives of gleybn: bagleybn (באגלייבן) - to trust; ayngleybn (איינגלייבן) - to be brainwashed; gloybn (גלויבן) - a belief, faith, conviction; gleybiker (גלייביקער) - a believer, creditor gleyblechkayt (גלייבלעכקייט) - believability; obergloybn (אבערגלויבן) or gleybechtz (גלייבעכץ) - a superstition; gloybn-heyler (גלויבן-היילער) - a faith healer; ayngegleybtkayt (איינגעגלייבטקייט) - gullible trust; gleybik (גלייביק) or farglebyt (פארגלייבט) - trusting; umgleybik (אומגלייביק) - distrusting; gloybik (גלויביק) - believing; umgloybik (אומגלויביק) - disbelieving; gleyblech (גלייבלעך) or bagleyblech (באגלייבלעך) - believable, plausible; umgleyblech (אומגלייבלעך) - unbelievable; ibergloybik (איבערגלויביק) - superstitious; gleybverdik (גלייבווערדיק) - plausible, veracious.

Phrases with gleybn: gleybn in (גלייבן אין) - to believe in; gleybn emetzn vi a hunt (גלייבן עמעצן ווי א הונט) - I would not trust him as far as I could kick him (lit., to believe someone like a dog); nisht tzu gleybn (נישט צו גלייבן) - incredible (my grandmother would often say, using the German equivalent, “Nicht tzum Glauben”); gleyb mir! (גלייב מיר) - believe me!; ver volt dos gegleybt? (ווער וואלט דאס געגלייבט) - who would have believed it?; gloyb yo, gloyb nisht (גלויב יא, גלויב נישט) - believe it or not; oyf im/ir volt ich es gegleybt (אויף אים/איר וואלט איך עס געגלייבט) - I wouldn’t put it past him/her.

Expressions with gleybn: 1. Az di velt zogt, muz men gleybn (אז די וועלט זאגט, מוז מען גלויבן) - If the everyone says so, you’d better believe it (or, in the Latin: Vox populi vox Dei - The voice of the people is the voice of God). Similarly: Az men zogt, ken men gloybn (אז מען זאגט, קען מען גלויבן) - If people commonly say it, you can believe it. Furthermore: Az men zogt “meshuge,” gleyb (אז מען זאגט “משוגע,” גלייב) - If everyone says “That’s crazy,” you’d better believe it. 2. Zog nisht altz vos du veyst, gloyb nisht altz vos du herst (זאג נישט אלץ וואס דו ווייסט, גלויב נישט אלץ וואס דו הערסט) - Don’t tell everything you know, and don’t believe everything you hear. 3. Gleyb eyn oyg mer vi tzvey oyern (גלייב איין אויג מער ווי צוויי אויערן) - Trust one eye more than two ears. 4. Hit zich far a fayer un gleyb nisht dos vaser (היט זיך פאר א פייער און גלייב נישט דאס וואסער) - Guard against fire and don’t trust water (i.e. don’t trust the water to save you from the fire). 5. Yeder mentsh veyst az er vet shtarbn, ober keyner vil es nisht gleybn (יעדער מענטש ווייסט אז ער וועט שטארבן, אבער קיינער וויל עס נישט גלייבן) - Everyone knows he must die, but nobody wants to believe it. 6. Der zater gleybt nisht dem hungerikn (דער זאטער גלייבט נישט דעם הונגעריקן) - The satiated one doesn’t believe the one who’s hungry. 7. Tate-Mame darfn a kind nisht loybn vayl keyner vet zey nisht gloybn (טאטע-מאמע דארפן א קינד נישט לויבן ווייל קיינער וועט זיי נישט גלויבן) - Parents shouldn’t praise their own children; no one will believe them. 8. Az di muter shrayt oyfn kind “mamzer,” meg men ir gloybn (אז די מוטער שרייט אויפן קינד “ממזר,” מעג מען איר גלויבן) - When a mother shouts at her child, “Mamzer” (illegitimate child), you can believe her. (Though many people use the term mamzer affectionately, mothers, understandably, do not because, Rosten shows, they know that everyone will suspect that the child really is a mamzer if it’s coming from her.) 9. Ven ale Yidn zoln glaych gleybn, volt Meshiech shoyn lang geven gekumen (ווען אלע יידן זאלן גלייך גלייבן, וואלט דער משיח שוין לאנג געווען געקומען) - If all Jews would believe the same thing, the Messiah would have arrived long ago. 10. A shilmazl gleybt nor in mazl (א שלימזל גלייבט נאר אין מזל) - A ne’er-do-well only believes in luck. 11. A ligner gleybt men nisht afile ven er zogt dem emes (א ליגנער גלייבט מען נישט אפילו ווען ער זאגט דעם אמת) - No one believes a liar even when he tells the truth (think: “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”). 12. A ligner gleybt keynem nisht (א ליגנער גלייבט קיינעם נישט) - A liar believes no one else. 13. A ligner hert zich zayne lign azoy lang ayn biz er gleybt zich aleyn (א ליגנער הערט זיך זיינע ליגן אזוי לאנג איין ביז ער גלייבט זיך אליין) - A liar tells his story so often that he gets to believe it himself. 14. Vilstu nisht visn, gleyb; vilstu nisht gleybn, veys (ווילסטו נישט וויסן, גלייב, ווילסטו נישט גלייבן, ווייס) - If you don’t want to know, believe; if you don’t want to believe, know. 15. Tzu vos gloybn az es zaynen do oygn (צו וואס גלויבן אז עס זיינען דא אויגן) - Why believe if you have eyes to perceive? 16. Ver es gleybt nisht in Got, ken tzu Im keyn taynes nisht hobn (ווער עס גלייבט נישט אין גאט, קען צו אים קיין טענות נישט האבן) - He who doesn’t believe in God can have no complaints against Him. 17. Er gleybt nisht in Got un bet zayn genod (ער גלייבט נישט אין גאט און ער בעט זיין גענאד) - He doesn’t believe in God yet he seeks His mercy (we had this expression a couple weeks ago with the word betn, if you remember).

Gleybn in a sentence: Du voltst nisht gegleybt vi fil kave hob ich shoyn getrunken di voch aleyn kdey tzu shtudirn durch der gantzer nacht (דו וואלטסט נישט געגלייבט ווי פיל קאווע האב איך שוין געטרונקען די וואך אליין כדי צו שטודירן דורך דער גאנצער נאכט) - You wouldn’t believe how much coffee I have drunk this week alone in order to study all night long.

Use gleybn in your own sentence today!

A gute voch - a good week,


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