Re: Toponymic Names and Judaeo-German #general

Jules Levin

At 02:11 PM 9/8/2006, you wrote:

==We must distinguish between four languages: German written in German
characters, German written in Hebrew characters, Judaeo German, and Yiddish.
The first is self explanatory. By and large, most Jews in Germany before
around 1800 -- even the wealthy, highly-placed and well-educated who generally
could speak a high-quality German -- did not write in German letters but used
Hebrew letters for their bookkeeping, correspondence, and literary work.
This as I recall included the first Rothschild's wife, who even in old age
wrote to her sons, already heading financial empires in London, Paris,
Frankfort, Vienna (I think there was a son-in-law in Italy also),
in German in Hebrew characters.

I have never even seen Glueckel's memoirs in their original language but I would
guess that more than likely she wrote, as Joe states initially, "in German
words but in Hebrew characters."

==Judaeo-German developed out of Medieval German, which is in many ways akin
to the spoken language of today's inhabitants of small towns and villages in
Southern Germany, and to current Swiss and Alsatian dialects. To this Germanic
folk language, German Jews added many Hebrew words reflecting the Jewish
culture--Schabbes (Sabbath), Broches (blessings), Chassne (wedding). They also
introduced many Hebrew words into their language to create a secret language
not easily penetrated by their Christian neighbors, customers or rivals:
Ganeff (thief), Pleite (bankruptcy) and also Die Ische (my wife), Das Bajis (my
house), Sus (horse), Behemes (cattle).

This secret language in fact became the basis, or at least strongly
influenced, criminal jargon in much of Europe, including England.
Several years ago at a semiotics conference in Berkeley, a young
woman gave a paper on a dictionary of criminal jargon compiled
by the police chief of Berlin in the 19th Century. In the introduction,
the chief quotes a "saying" of the criminals about keeping their
jargon secret. I will translate the German (as that is how I have
stored it in my memory): Never teach the loshen kodesh to the
goyim. There were many fascinating examples in the paper, but
the only one that stuck in my mind (make of it what you will)
is "mezuzah" for a prostitute. Why? Because it stands up in the
doorway, and you kiss it!
The role of Jews in the pre-20th Century underworld has, for better or
worse, been largely forgotten by the Jewish community,
and thankfully by most gentiles as well.
Jules Levin

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