_The Mendele Review_: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to _MENDELE_)
Contents of Vol. 04.006
30 April 2000

1) "nisht fun tog [= _tok_?], nor fun shok" (Leonard Prager)
2) "oylem habe"  (sholem-aleykhem) [hemshekh] [2nd of 4 installments]

For Yiddish version:


Date: 30 April 2000
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: "nisht fun tog [= _tok_?], nor fun shok"

            "nisht fun tog [= _tok_?], nor fun shok"

There are two possible translations for the above phrase in Yekhezkl
Kotik's _Mayne zikhroynes_, selections of which have been appearing in
_The Mendele Review_.  The problematic phrase occurs in the sentence
"dos korn hobn di dresher gedroshn nisht fun tog, nor fun shok" (_mayne
zikhroynes_, band tsvey, kapitl 2, z' 18), which I translate, "The
threshers did not thresh the corn on the threshing floor but straight
from the sheaves."  Lucas Bruin, Hugh Denman and Meyer Wolf all refer to
the word _tok_ ('threshing floor') in Stutshkov and support this
reading.  (Wolf suggests there may have been a special farm building
used for threshing.)  On the other hand, David Assaf, translator and
editor of the first volume of Kotik's memoirs in Hebrew (see _TMR_ vol.
3, no. 007) -- soon to appear in English as well -- reads the sentence
differently.  He takes Kotik's spelling "tog" to precisely mean _tog_
('day') and his rendition is logical in all respects:  "The threshers
were not day-laborers but were paid by weight [of the kernels stripped
from the ears of corn]."

Bruin informs us that he has actually seen husked cobs of corn struck
against wood to break off the kernels:  "If you take up a sheave at the
side were it has been cut of, swing it through the air and smash the top
part with the ears on a fence or other piece of wood, the grains will
come out.  I have seen this done."  It seems to me that this procedure
would necessarily leave kernels on the cob, just as Kotik complains:
"hobn zey tandetevet in der arbet, ibergelozn in yedn zang nisht
veyniker fun a fir kerner un destglaykhn" ('they bungled the job,
leaving at least four kernels in every ear of corn').  But this bungling
is equally well covered by Assaf's explanation "If you work in
agriculture 'by the weight' you tend to fill up the bags quickly; if 'on
daily wages' you work more carefully."  Work in many parts of the world
is divided into work by the hour/day/week/month as opposed to piece
work; the reasoning behind 'not on daily wages but on weight' is sound.
Is it possible that by a kind of "homonymic chance" we have two coherent
readings?  The author, however, could only have intended one of them.

As I point out above, Kotik writes _tog_ and not _tok_; _tok_
(understood as meaning 'threshing floor') is one of many spelling
corrections made on _TMR_ texts to conform to the Standard Yiddish
Orthography.  Prior to the mid-1930s and even afterwards, many writers
followed the practice of imitating Modern German and writing gimel where
today we write kuf.  But I did ask myself:, "Could Kotik have intended
_tog_ 'day'?"  On orthographic grounds Bruin is reluctant to see _tog_
as an old-fashioned spelling for _tok_:  "The person responsible for our
text does not make many mistakes.  He often uses 'khes' for 'khof' in
'loshn-koydesh' words, but he only uses 'g' for 'k' if it is 'g' in the
German equivalent, in the way Harkavi gives them.  I just came across
Kotik describing himself as a 'hek-yeshuvnik', not as a 'heg-yeshuvnig'.
If 'tog' = 'tok' it would be a straightforward printing mistake."  On
the other hand, Denman writes:  "_tok_ does indeed have the meaning of
'threshing floor' in Yiddish (cf.  Stutshkov, 213, left-hand column,
half-way down).  I don't think the gimel is a serious impediment."
_tok_ is not found in any Yiddish lexicon other than Stutshkov as far as
I have been able to determine, but it appears to be a borrowing from
Polish, where it is a regional term for 'threshing-floor' (see Jan
Stanislawski's _The Great Polish-English Dictionary_ [Warsaw 1982, vol.
2, p. 456]).

The second key term in the phrase, _shok_, also raises a number of
questions.  It appears in a number of places in Kotik's memoirs (e.g. in
the phrase "fir shok snopes."  Assaf (in his Hebrew edition, p. 99)
glosses _shok_ in the above phrase "a measurement of sixty units
(especially a Lithuanian coin of 60 grush [?  Polish groszy
'farthings'], equal to two and a half gold coins [Polish zloty])."
Understanding _shok_ as a term of measurement, Assaf's reading makes
sense.  Bruin further clarifies _shok_ 'weight':  "_shok_ is certainly
not a 'weight', but the produce of land is measured in _shok_:  so many
shocks per acre; just like you might measure the produce of a peach tree
in bushels."

The word _shok_ appears to be distinctly Germanic; it has two senses and
the numerical meaning -- which differs with locality -- is
closely tied to that of 'bundle','stack', 'heap' and finally 'sheaves'
[of corn].  Bruin gives us two distinct semantic slots:  _shock_ or
_shook_:  [1] a unit of quantity equal to 5 dozen, 3 score, or 60.  The
unit is more common in German, where the word is spelled schock, than it
is in English.  In cooperage (the making of barrels), a bundle of 60
barrel staves is traditionally called a shock.  [2] a traditional
measure of grain or straw.  A shock of grain is usually 12 sheaves (see
above), sometimes 10.  _Matthias Lexers Mittelhochdeutsches
Taschenwoerterbuch_ (37th ed.) defines _schoc_/_schoch_/_schock_/_schok_
as 'haufe' [heap, pile, stack]; 'bueschel' [bunch; bundle], and 'anzahl
von 60 stuecken','schock' [sixty pieces, heap of corn].

That the numerical value of the term differs from region to region, we
see in Dutch _schok_:  half of a 'groot-honderd' = [104 or] 120 > 60
pieces, used by wood merchants; 20 eggs.  Bruin further reports from
Holland:  "My Frisian neighbor informs me that the sheaves are put in a
'stuke' (with accent circonflex on the u).  He says that they used to
place 6 sheaves on each side of the 'stuke', making 12 in total.  >
Dutch:  Stuik:  8 to 10 sheaves put together.  Comp.  Du. hok:  a number
of 4 to 12 sheaves put together."

Denman writes with proper circumspection:  "I can't find any Yiddish
evidence of 'shok' to mean 'shock/ stook', but the Middle High German is
probably sufficient to justify the assumption that it could have that
meaning in some Yiddish dialect."  We are here reminded that Yiddish
lexical resources are not as fully developed as we would like.

Closer to home, the _Shorter Oxford English Dictionary_ defines _shock_
as "A group of sheaves of corn placed upright and supporting each other
in order to permit the drying and ripening of the grain before
carrying."  The _SOES_ also tells us that the word corresponds to the
Middle Dutch _schok_ 'shock of corn, sixty'.  Modern German _Schock_
means 'sixty' as does Yiddish _shok_; but neither in Modern German nor
in Yiddish dictionaries have I found a specific semantic slot with the
meaning 'group of sheaves'.  Yet it seems to me from the context that
Kotik in this instance means 'sheaves of corn' -- as opposed to a term
of measurement.  Assaf, we are reminded, argues for the latter.

To take another tack, let us try looking at the syntax of the phrase.
In the reading "fun tok", _fun_ does mean 'from', but "fun tog" is
elliptical, explicable as an idiom, but who knows the idiom?  The
translator of volume two of Kotik's _Memoirs_ will have a long pause at
this point in the text.

Perhaps other readers would like to comment on "nisht fun tog [=
_tok_?], nor fun shok."
Many thanks to David Assaf, Lucas Bruin, Hugh Denman, and Meyer Wolf for
their helpful comments.
Date:  30 April 2000
From:  Leye Krikun 
Subject: "oylem habe" (sholem-aleykhem) [hemshekh]

                          oylem habe

                      fun sholem-aleykhem


ikh volt gemegt shvern, az trern hern zikh bay im in kol....ikh vil im
oysredn dos harts, zog im tsu nokh a khotse foygl mit nokh tsvey gute
trunk bronfn, vert er mole kas un zogt mir gants ofn, az tomer vel ikh
nit onshvign vern, nemt er un varft mir gor aroys di metsie fun'm
shlitn! un ikh trakht mir:  vos tu ikh, ashteyger, az er nemt take
kholile un varft mir aroys dem mes fun'm shlitn mit mir ineynem? a kashe
oyf an orl, az er vert in kas?....un ikh muz shoyn shtumen, zitsn in
shlitn ayngenaret in di kishns un hitn zikh, ikh zol khotsh nit
antshlofn vern, vorum, reyshis, vi azoy shloft men, az se ligt a mes far
di oygn? vehasheynis, hob ikh gehert, az vinter oyfn frost tor men nit
shlofn; me kon azoy pavolinke onshlofn vern oyf eybik....nor, vi
oyftsulokhes, klepn zikh mir di oygn davke tsu khapn a driml. ikh volt
in der minut, dakht mir, avekgebn far eyn driml mi yoydeye vifil!....un
ikh rays mir di oygn, un di oygn folgn nit, un zey shlisn zikh
pavolinke, un efenen zikh oyf, un shlisn zikh vider a mol, un der shlitn
shlitlt zikh iber'n vaysn, tifn, veykhn shney, un epes a modne ziskeyt
tsegist zikh in ale mayne eyvrim, un ikh fil epes a meshune gutskeyt, un
es [223] glust zikh mir, az di ziskeyt mit der gutseyt zol gedoyrn nokh
un nokh, a sakh zol es gedoyrn, lang zol es gedoyrn....nor a zaytiker
koyekh, ikh veys nit fun vanen, shteyt un toret mikh:  "shlof nit,
noyekh, shlof nit". un ikh rays oyf mit gvald di oygn, un fun yener
ziskeyt lozt zikh oys a min kelt ineveynik in ale eyvrim, un fun yener
gutskeyt -- a min moyre-shkhoyre mit a moyre, mit a pakhad, mit an umet,
zol zikh der oybershter mrakhim zayn! es vayst zikh mir oys, az mayn mes
rudert zikh, dekt zikh op un kukt oyf mir mit half-tsugemakhte oygn, vi
eyner ret:  "vos host du gehat tsu mir, yungerman, umbrengen a toyte
yidine, a mame fun kleyne kinder, nisht brengn zi tsu keyver
yisroel?....un der vint blozt, fayft mit a kol fun a mentshn, fayft mir
glaykh in oyer arayn, roymt mir ayn a shreklekhn soyd....un shreklekhe
makhshoves, moyredike gedanken, dimyoynes krikhn mir in kop arayn, un es
shtelt zikh mir for, az mir ale zenen do unter'n shney, ale:  ikh un,
lehavdl, der orl un dos ferdl zayns un der mes....mir ale zenen toyt,
nor der mes -- merkvirdik!  -- nor der mes aleyn, dem kretshmers vayb,
iz lebedik....

un plutsem derher ikh, mayn orl smotsket dem ferdl epes zeyr freylekh,
dankt got un tseylemt zikh in der finster un ziftst, un a naye neshome
zetst er arayn in mir, un ikh derze fun dervaytn blishtshet aroys a
fayerl. dos fayerl bavayzt zikh, vert bald farshvundn un bavayzt zikh
nokhamol "a yishuv," trakht ikh mir, un dank un loyb got mitn gantsn
hartsn, un ruf mikh on tsu mayn orl:  "aponem, mir zenen shoyn, zok ikh,
oyf a shtikl derekh? es vayzt oys, zog ikh, az mir zenen bald in
shtetl?"-- -ehe!"-- makht tsu mir der orl mit'n friherikn kurtsn, shtiln
ton, shoyn on a shum kas, un es vilt zikh mir arumnemen im fun hintn
[224] un im gebn a kush in pleytse far der guter bsure, far zayn gutn
kurtsn shtiln "ehe," vos iz tayerer bay mir itster fun der shenster
kluger droshe.  "vi azoy ruft men dikh?"-- freg ikh im, un es vundert
mikh, farvos hob ikh im biz aher nit gefregt zayn nomen.  "mikita"--
entfert er mir kurts mit eyn vort vi zayn shteyger.  "mikita?"-- khazer
ikh iber nokh amol, un der nomen "mikita" bakumt bay mir a modnem khen.
"ehe!"-- entfert er mir deroyf, vi geveyntlekh, un es glust zikh mir
zeyer, az mikita zol mir nokh epes zogn, khotsh tsvey-dray verter vilt
zikh mir fun im horkhn, un mikita vert mitamol tayer bay mir in di oygn.
oykh dos ferdl zayns vert bay mir tayer, mole khen. un ikh makh mit im a
shmues vegn zayn ferdl; ikh zog im, az bay im iz a voyl ferdl. zeyr a
voyl ferdl! entfert mir mikita:  "ehe".  "un a shlitn iz bay dir,
mikita, zog ikh, oykh a voyler!"entfert er mir:  "ehe". un mer vil mayn
mikita keyn vort nisht zogn, khotsh brok im oyf tsen shtiklekh!  "host
faynt, zog ikh tsu im, redn, mikita-serdtse?"-- entfert er mir:  "ehe".
un ikh tselakh mikh, s'iz mir freylekh, gut un freylekh, glaykh vi ikh
hob do ayngenumen otshakov, oder gefunem an oytser, oder antdekt a
nayes, vos keyner hot derfun nit gevust, -- mit eynem vort, ikh bin
gliklekh-ibergliklekh! tomer veyst ir vos? es hot zikh mir gevolt
oyfhoybn dos kol un onhoybn zingen, vi ir zet mikh lebn! s'iz bay mir
fun tomid on aza teve, az es makht zikh amol, s'iz mir gut oyfn hartsn,
zing ikh. mayne zol lebn veyst shoyn mayn kharakter, fregt zi mikh:

"vos iz shoyn, noyekh? vifil host du fardint, vos du host zikh azoy
tsezungen?" bay di vayber kumt oys, nokh zeyer vaybershn seykhl, az
freylekh iz a mentsh nor [225] demolt, ven er fardint; andersh kon nor a
mentsh nit zayn oyfgeleygt. fun vanen nemt zikh dos, ashteyger, vos
undzere vayber zenen a sakh mer loet nokh gelt, vi mir, mansparshoynen?
dakht zikh, ver horevet oyfn gelt? mir, tsi zey? nor sha! mir dakht, ikh
bin shoyn vider farkrokhn keyn boyberik.

zenen mir, heyst dos, gekumen mit got|s hilf in shtetl arayn nokh
farfri. dos shtetl hot gehaltn nokh in rekhtn shlof, s'iz nokh geven
vayt tsu tog, keyn fayerl zet men nit in ergets. koym derzen a shtibl
mit a groysn toyer un mit a bezeml oyfn toyer -- a simen fun an
akhsanye, hobn mir zikh opgeshtelt, aropgekrokhn un genumen beyde, ikh
mit mikitan, klapn mit di kulakes in toyer arayn. geklapt-geklapt, koym
mit tsores, got hot geholfn, mir hobn derzen a fayerl in fenster; nokh
dem hobn mir derhert, emitser shliapet mit di fis un es lozt zikh hern a
kol fun yener zayt toyer:  ver iz?

"efnt, zog ikh, feter, vet ir fardinen oylem habe!"

"oylem habe? ver zayt ir?  "makht dos kol fun yener zayt un hoybt on
efenen dem shlos.

"efnt oyf, zok ikh, ikh hob gebrakht tsu firn aher a mes."

"a vos?"

"a mes!"

"vos heyst a mes?"

"a mes heyst a geshtorbener. a geshtorbene yidene hob ikh aher gebrakht
tsu firn fun a dorf, fun a kretshme.

un fun yener zayt toyer iz gevorn shtil. me hot nor gehert, vi es hot
zikh tsugemakht tsurik der shlos un [226] di fis hobn avekgeshlyapet
vayter, un oykh dos likht iz farloshn gevorn -- un gey shray khay
vekayem! hot dos mikh shoyn fardrosn, un ikh ruf mikh on tsu mayn orl,
er zol mir helfn klapn mit di kulakes in fenster arayn. un mir hobn zikh
genumen beyde klapn azoy geshmak, az dos fayerl hot zikh vider
ongetsundn un dos kol hot zikh vider gelozt hern fun yener zayt toyer:

"vos vilt ir hobn fun mayn lebn? vos far a pritshepe?"

"in gots viln," bet ikh zikh bay im vi bay a gazlen, "hot rakhmones, ikh
bin do mit a mes!"

"mit voser a mes?"

"dem kretshmer's vayb".

"voser kretshmer?"

"ikh hob fargesn vi er heyst, nor zi ruft men khave-mikhl bas khane
refoyl, meyn ikh khane-refoyl bas khave-mikhl. khane-khave-khane, meyn

"ir vet nit avekgeyn fun danen, shlimazl! ot gis ikh aykh op mit an emer

azoy makht tsu mir der balebosnye un shliapket avek fun'm fenster un
farlesht dos fayerl -- un gey tu im epes!....ersht het-het, in a sho
arum, az es hot ongehoybn sharyen oyf tog, hot zikh oyfgeefnt a shtikl
toyer un es hot zikh aroysgeshtekt a shvartser kop mit vayse federn un
ruft zikh on tsu mir:

"dos hot ir getarebanet in di fenster arayn?"

"ikh, ver den?"

"vos hot ir gevolt?"

[227] "ikh hob gebrakht a mes."

"a mes? firt im tsu tsum shames fun khevre-kdishe."

"vu zitst do der shames ayerer? vi azoy ruft men im?"

"yekhiel ruft men im, dem shames, un zitsn zitst er barg-arop, take nit
vayt fun bod."

"vu iz do bay aykh ergets di bod?"

"di bod veyst ir nit? ir zent, aponem, nisht keyn higer? fun vanen iz a

"fun vanen ikh bin? fun radamishli, a radamishlier bin ikh, nor forn for
ikh fun zvohil, un dem mes fir ikh fun a kretshme do nit vayt, take dem
kretshmer's vayb, zi iz geshtorbn fun der tshakhatke.

"nit do gedakht! vos zhe ger zikh es on mit aykh?"

"mit mir? gornit. ikh bin durkhgeforn farbay, hot er mikh gebetn, der
kretshmer heyst dos, er zitst in mitn feld mit pitzlekh kinder, nito zi
vu tsu bahaltn, hob ikh mikh miyashev geven, yener bet fardinen oylem
habe, far vos nit?

"di mayse iz epes nit glat."makht er tsu mir.  "ir vet zikh muzn zen
frier mit di gaboem."

"ver zenen bay aykh, ashteyger, di gaboim? vu, zog ikh, zitsn zey?"

"di gaboim veyst ir nit? reb shepsl a gabe, zitst oyf yener zayt mark.
reb elyezer-moyshe a gabe, zitst same in mitn mark. un reb yoysi, oykh a
gabe, zitst nebn altn beys-hamidresh. der iker vet ir darfn zen zikh mit
reb [228] shepslen, er iz der gantser tuer bay undz. a harter yid, zog
ikh aykh prier, ir vet im azoy gikh nit aynbaysn.

"a sheynim dank aykh, zog ikh, ir zolt derlebn onzogn besere bsures! ven
vel ikh konen zikh mit zey zen?"

"vos heyst ven? im irtse hashem, in derfri nokhn davnen."

"mazltov aykh! vos zhe zol ikh ton dervayl? lozt mikh khotsh arayn a
bisl onvaremen zikh. s'iz bay aykh a min sdom. aponim?"

derhert di dozike verter, hot mayn balabosnie gants fayn farshlosn
tsurik dem tir -- un sha, shtil, vi oyf a beys hakvores. vos tut men
vayter? mir shteyn mit'n shlitn in mitn gas, mikita fayert, vortshet,
kratst zikh in der potilitse, shpayt un shit mit draygorndike brokhes:

"a miese meshune zol kumen, zogt er, oyfn kretshmer un oyf ale
kretshmers fun der gantser velt. meyle er aleyn, zogt er, khapt im der
roykh! ober zayn ferdl! vos hot men, zogt er, tsu zayn ferdl, vos me
moret dos fun hunger un fun kelt? an umshuldike beheyme, a skotine, vos
veyst zi?....s'iz mir a kharpe, a bushe far dem orl, un ikh trakht mir
beshas mayse:  vos klert, ashteyger, zayn kop vegn undz, yidn? vos far a
ponem hobn mir, yidn, rakhmonim bney rakhmonim, kenen zey, areylim,
grobe leyt, az eyn yid dem andern vil di tir nisht efenen, lozt nisht
arayn zikh onvaremen afile, zenen mir dokh take vert dray mol azoy fil,
vos mir hobn!....un ot azoy bin ikh matsdik es hadin, dos heyst, ikh
gefin far rekht altsding, vos mir hobn, un makh shuldik dem gantsn klal,
vi geveyntlekh a yid beshas [229] der anderer yid vil im nisht ton keyn
toyve. keyn ume ve|loshn ret nit oyf undz azoy fil shlekhts, vi mir
aleyn. toyzend mol a tog kont ir horkhn fun voser a yidn ir vilt azelkhe
minim verter:

"a yid iz dir keyn katoves nit!"

"mit a yidn vilt ir epes makhn?"

"mit a yidn iz gut kugl esn!"

"dos kon nor a yid!"

"herst du, deroyf iz dokh em a yidon!"

"oy, a yid, a yid!" ukhedoyme azelkhe sheyne atestatsyes, komplimentn.
ikh volt a baln geven visn, vi azoy iz bay 'zey', az es makht zikh,
eyner dem andern vil nit helfn, -- falt men oykh on oyfn klal un me
zogt, az dos gantse folk iz nit vert vos di erd trogt dos? nor sha! ikh
bin shoyn, dakht mir, vider avek keyn boyberik....

[hemshekh kumt]
End of _The Mendele Review_ 04.006

Leonard Prager, editor

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