The Circus is Coming to Town

No, not the actual circus. Something far, far crazier than that – my mother and grandmother. For anyone who has not had the pleasure of interacting on a regular basis with loud, expressive Jewish women, let me provide some color for you.

My mother and grandmother are coming to visit for three days from the East Coast. I live on the West Coast. They don’t travel much, so the trip is a big deal. Let me start by saying that I *am* thankful to see them. That said, I am liable to go out of my mind during their stay.

Tonight, I was talking to my grandmother and was excited to tell her that we had a fully furnished, clean apartment for her and my mother to stay in while they are here. Her response was not “Thank you!” or “How thoughtful.” Rather, it was silence, followed by “Hmm. That’s interesting. I just figured we would be staying with you. I don’t know how much we’ll get to see you now.” Please bear in mind that I live in a 700 sq. ft. apartment and have no additional sleeping space. Please also bear in mind that the other apartment is literally 5 blocks away, max.

It reminded me of an email a coworker had sent me last week, describing “Hebronics.” It’s pretty long, but also pretty funny. I’ve posted it below:

The New York City Public Schools have officially declared Jewish English, now dubbed Hebronics, as a second language. Backers of the move say the city schools are the first in the nation to recognize Hebronics as a valid language and a significant attribute of American culture. According to Howard Shulman, linguistics professor at Brooklyn College and renowned Hebronics scholar, the sentence structure of Hebronics derives from middle and eastern European language patterns, as well as Yiddish. Professor Shulman explains, ‘In Hebronics, the response to any question is usually another question with a complaint that is either implied or stated.

Thus ‘How are you?’ may be answered, ‘How should I be, with my bad feet?’ Shulman says that Hebronics is a superb linguistic vehicle for expressing sarcasm or scepticism. An example is the repetition of a word with ‘sh’ or ‘shm’ at the beginning: ‘Mountains, shmountains. Stay away. You should want a nosebleed?’

Another Hebronics pattern is moving the subject of a sentence to the end, with its pronoun at the beginning: ‘It’s beautiful, that dress.’ Shulman says one also sees the Hebronics verb moved to the end of the sentence. Thus the response to a remark such as ‘He’s slow as a turtle,’ could be: ‘Turtle, shmurtle! Like a fly in Vaseline he walks.’ Shulman provided the following examples from his best-selling textbook, Switched-On Hebronics:

Question: ‘What time is it?’
English answer: ‘Sorry, I don’t know.’
Hebronic response: ‘What am I, a clock?’

Remark: ‘I hope things turn out okay.’
English answer: ‘Thanks.’
Hebronic response: ‘I should be so lucky!’

Remark: ‘Hurry up. Dinner’s ready.’
English answer: ‘Be right there.’
Hebronic response: ‘Alright already, I’m coming. What’s with the ‘hurry’ business? Is there a fire?’

Remark: ‘I like the tie you gave me; I wear it all the time.’
English answer: ‘Glad you like it.’
Hebronic response: ‘So what’s the matter; you don’t like the other ties I gave you?’

Remark: ‘Sarah and I are engaged.’
English answer: ‘Congratulations!’
Hebronic response: ‘She could stand to lose a few pounds.’

Question: ‘Would you like to go riding with us?’
English answer: ‘Just say when.’
Hebronic response: ‘Riding, shmiding! Do I look like a cowboy?’

To the guest of honour at a birthday party:
English answer: ‘Happy birthday.’
Hebronic response: ‘A year smarter you should become.’

Remark: ‘It’s a beautiful day.’
English answer: ‘Sure is.’
Hebronic response: ‘So the sun is out; what else is new?’

Answering a phone call from a son:
English answer: ‘It’s been a while since you called.’
Hebronic response: ‘You didn’t wonder if I’m dead already?’

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6 Replies to “The Circus is Coming to Town”

  1. I grew up on the East Coast and live on the West Coast as well. This post cracked me up. I have a lot of Jewish friends and this is spot on. Keep up with the great posts. (Side note: you might want to set up a CAPTCHA service – once more people start coming to your blog you might get spam postings).

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