Exercise 1: Analyzing Objects of Postvernacular Yiddish
Here are some objects from Shandler’s collection that are not discussed in “Absolut Tchotchke.” How do you read these objects in light of the analysis of objects discussed in the chapter? Pay attention to the particular Yiddish terms being used, how these terms relate to the material object, the interrelation of Yiddish with other languages, and the social practices with which these objects might be associated.
Details of various artifacts.
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- “Se habla Yiddish?” ashtray [Spanish/English for “Do you speak Yiddish?”]
- “Gore/gornisht” button, 2000. [gornisht, which means “nothing” in Yiddish, can also be understood as “not Gore”]
- “Yiddish Daily Phrase & Culture”
- “Parve” kitchen scrubber [parve = food that contains neither meat nor dairy products. Jews who keep kosher do not eat meat at the same time that they eat food with dairy products; parve foods (e.g., fish, eggs, grains, vegetables) can be eaten with either meat or dairy foods. Keeping kosher entails not only separating meat and dairy foods but also having separate dishes and utensils for “meat” and “dairy” meals.]
- “Oy vey” pot holder [Oy vey = “Oh, woe”]
- “Shleppers” moving van [shlep = to drag, haul]
- "Nosh" (snack) candy bar, South Africa.
- “Meshuganah” t-shirt [meshuganah = a crazy person]
- "Yenta" desk sign [Yenta (or Yente), originally a woman’s name, is Yiddish colloquialism for a gossip or busybody.
- "Yiddish lesson" needlepoint, 1959 [shlump = a dowdy person; chazar = literally, “pig”: here, figuratively, a greedy eater; glezel tai = glass of tea; chasid = follower of a Jewish mystical religious movement, led by a charismatic leader.]
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