Yiddish Frowns on Gender-Nouns

Siegelmania

By Stanley Siegelman

Published June 24, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

NEWS ITEM: Students of Yiddish in universities are taught to treat nouns as either masculine or feminine. But among Hasidim — the foremost speakers of Yiddish today — grammatical gender is largely ignored. Hasidim, for example, use di (“the”) for most nouns without respect to the noun’s gender. (Di has historically been applied only to female nouns, while the equivalent der has been used for male nouns.) As Yiddish scholar Zelda Kahan Newman recently noted in the Forward, a gap has emerged between the Yiddish that is actually spoken among Hasidim and the formal Yiddish taught in universities. She called for more attention to be paid to Yiddish as spoken by Hasidic Jews.


So who would know? So who would guess?
That Yiddish nouns go genderless?
Gramatic’ly, we bid adieus
To gender ’mongst Hasidic Jews.

The der and di as specified
In texts no longer are applied
In daily verbal intercourse
Where mameloshn thrives, perforce.

Consider di, the word for “the”:
All nouns take di now equally,
While “the” as der goes all unused
Among Hasidim! We’re confused!

(The word for female nouns is di,
While der is masculine, you see?)

Illogic’ly, old grammar rules
Continue to be taught in schools,
But Yiddish, in vernacular,
Elects to follow its own star.

The Yiddish tongue, once scorned and shunned,
Refuses to be moribund!
Hasidim, with their glottic skill,
Keep it alive and versatile.
Indeed, they teach it to their kids,
Who constitute our future Yids!

If they change Yiddish more, we might
Some day read it from left to right!


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.