Author Archives: Brandon Marcus

Proverb – Yiddish

“Je länger ein Blinder lebt, desto mehr sieht er.”

“The longer a blind man lives, the more he sees.”

My informant first heard this proverb at the age of twenty (circa 2001) when he was visiting his grandfather during winter break.  He was attending the University of California at Berkeley at the time, when he decided to visit my grandfather who lives alone.  When Adam was watching television at his grandfather’s house, he saw a television show that my grandfather had been watching.  My informant forgets the name of the show, but recollects that during the show, this proverb was stated.  At first, my informant was not sure what it meant or why it was being said, but my grandfather turned to my brother and said “That is one of the best Yiddish sayings. Did you happen to catch what was being said?”  Adam responded by telling my grandfather that he had no idea what it meant, but would like to know.

My informant’s first reaction upon seeing and hearing the proverb was that it was interesting, but more importantly, informative.  Adam told me that the meaning of the proverb is that it “teaches people in life to live life to the fullest and no matter whether you can or cannot see, each day you will experience and see something new.”

This proverb is used in the Yiddish culture; moreover, it is used to tell someone to live life and not take anything for granted.  The example being used in this proverb is a blind man who isn’t supposed to see, but as he lives each day he may not be able to see everything, but he can experience different aspects of life and paint a picture in his head of what the object looks like.

The reason why this proverb is important in my informant’s life is because “it shows someone who may have a disability that he can still enjoy life and see things that [one] would not normally see.”

The reason why this proverb means so much to me is because of how sick I was when I was born.  I was born 3 lbs, 11 ounces, 7 weeks pre-mature, so my life was definitely at risk.  So, when I hear this proverb it makes me really think about what is important in life.  Since I was so close to dying at birth, this proverb really enforces the fact that one should live life to the fullest and not take anything for granted.

Food – Jewish

Elie’s Noodle Kugel

My informant first heard of this dish approximately ten years ago (circa 1997) when he was at a dinner to celebrate Yom Kippur.  The dish was served at my best friend’s grandmother’s house (Elie), and my brother, Adam, was the first from our family to taste it.  My informant was someone that loved almost every kind of food, so when he ate it and said it was “delicious,” it came of no surprise.  This dish is one that consists of cottage cheese, noodles, frosted flakes, and other small ingredients. The reason why it is so important to talk about is because it is a very famous Jewish dish.  While it has been eaten in our family for quite some time, this particular kugel had never been eaten.

My informant’s first reaction upon seeing and eating the dish is that “it was one of the best things I had ever eaten.  Seriously, I would eat it every single day if I was given the opportunity.  This is definitely worth the calories.”  This is now a dish that my informant’s family makes ever Yom Kippur.  Yom Kippur is a holiday when everyone fasts the whole day, so a great meal is what everyone expects at night.  This is a dish that my brother hopes will continue to be eaten at every Yom Kippur from now until he dies.

The reason why this dish is so important in my informant’s life is because it is a dish that has been passed down by a great family friend.  Ten years ago, my brother experienced Elie’s kugel for the first time, and for the next six years when he went to her house, he had this same kugel.  After Elie got cancer, Yom Kippur could no longer be celebrated at her house, so the dish had to be made in the Marcus household.  The cooking duties were handed over to my informant’s mother, and ever since she has started making the kugel, my informant has helped her make it every year.  The reason he does this is because it is in honor of his great family friend who he hopes to honor every Yom Kippur.

My reaction to this dish consists of two parts: the actual taste of the dish and the cultural/family aspect of the dish.  The noodle kugel is one of the best dishes I have ever had and I would become a Jew just to eat this kugel (even though you don’t need to be Jewish to have kugel).  I think this dish is important because it shows how a dish can be carried down from generation to generation.  It has been carried down from my informant’s family friend to his mother, and he and I both say that we will continue to carry down the dish to our children and their children.  This shows how the dish is more than “just some noodles:” it is a dish that shows family values and how something can be shared to all.

Proverb – Italian

“È meglio un uovo oggi di una gallina domani.”

“An egg today is better than a chicken tomorrow.”

My informant first heard this proverb at the age of fifteen (circa 2003) from his mother.  He was going to the movies one night with a few friends when he didn’t have any money so he asked his mother for some money and she gave him ten dollars.  He responded by asking for more, and being Italian, his mother responded by saying “È meglio un uovo oggi di una gallina domain.”  Daniel knows Italian, so he responded by saying “okay” and walking away.

My informant’s first reaction upon seeing and hearing the proverb was that it was interesting, because it relates to one’s everyday life.  He told me that “there is so much greed in this world that it is so common to see teenagers asking for more from their parents.  You also see it in other aspects of daily life when people say they want more of something.”  This proverb is meant to be said by an older individual, such as a grandparent or a parent, to a younger kid.

This proverb is used in the Italian culture; moreover, it is used to tell someone to take what they are given and don’t be greedy.  There is a very similar proverb in the American culture that is interesting as well.  The proverb “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” is one that is said so often by my parents as well as other parents.  This shows that Italian parents and American parents and many other parents are trying to teach their children at a young age not to be greedy.

The reason why this proverb is important in my informant’s life is because he said “I really take pride in my Italian culture and when my mom taught me this proverb, it really hit home, because I know I shouldn’t be greedy even if I am sometimes. Then again, who doesn’t like money?”  After telling me this he started laughing, because in our culture today everyone likes money and everyone wouldn’t mind a little more of it.

The reason why this proverb means so much to me is because my mom says the same proverb to me all the time, but in English.  It makes me realize that it is definitely not a good thing to be greedy because greed will end up hurting you in the end.  One should be happy with what they have and not ask for more, because there are people in Africa with absolutely nothing and would be happy with ten dollars.  In conclusion, this proverb really makes you think about what is important in life, and in this case, love or any other irreplaceable aspect of life is much more important than ten dollars.

Festival – Italian

Carnevale

My informant first heard of this festival at the age of ten (circa 1997) from both of his parents.  He was doing a family history project and he happened to ask if his grandparents took part in any “cool Italian parties,” so they responded by telling him about an Italian festival called Carnevale.  Carnevale is supposed to begin on the 6th of January and last forty days until the first day of Lent.  Since Lent is a time where one is supposed to give up something for forty days, Carnevale is a huge party where one can splurge until Lent begins.

My informant’s first reaction upon hearing about this festival was that “it is a cool festival, but I am not really religious so it doesn’t affect me too much.  But, then again, who can turn down a party.”  Since he heard about the festival at a young age when he wasn’t much of a partier, this festival didn’t affect him; however, he plans on going to Italy in the near future to take part in these festivities.

The reason why this festival is important in my informant’s life is because he is Italian and it is his roots.  He values everything that his grandparents went through and this festival was one of them, so he enjoys hearing about his family’s past.  Secondly, it is important because it shows that he does value his culture.  He told me that he enjoys being Italian and “because of certain traditions like these” he is proud to be an Italian.

The reason why this festival is important to me is because of its culture.  The Italian culture is something that I cannot relate to, but I can relate to my Jewish culture.  Daniel’s desire to go overseas to Italy and take part in these festivities makes me want to go to Israel and celebrate Israel’s Independence Day or some other holiday with my fellow Jewish folk.  This is a great festival and I hope that one day I will be able to see it in person.

Game – American

“Quarters”

My informant first heard of this drinking game during his junior year of high school.  The point of the game is to bounce your quarter into your empty cup.  The materials should consist of two cups, two quarters, a table, and participants.  The goal is to bounce your quarter into your cup and after successfully doing so, you put your cup into the person’s next to you and they have to drink.  There are many other little rules to the game but the basic principle of the game is stated above.  The reason why my informant learned of this game was because he was at a party where there were some kids drinking.  After a little time of drinking, the kids decided to have some fun and play a game so they played “quarters.”  This is where Matt learned the game for the first time, as he watched as an observer.  Now, the game “quarters” is played when a group of people want to drink and play a game at the same time.

My informant’s first reaction upon hearing about this game was that “it seemed pretty easy to follow and was pretty cool because it was the first time I had seen drinking being combined into a game.”  These games are usually played at parties, especially college parties.  Being a member of a fraternity, Matt said that a lot of fraternity members play these kinds of drinking games all the time.

The reason why this drinking game is important in my informant’s life is because he is currently a college student, and it is common for college students to drink upon entering the college atmosphere.  Matt joined a fraternity during his first semester of college, and almost every Thursday there are parties at his fraternity.  However, before one attends a party, it is the “cool thing to do is pregame,” which consists of getting drunk before actually attending the party.  Matt said the game “quarters” is a “perfect game for one to get a little alcohol in them so someone is tipsy when they come to the party.  That way someone is loose and ready to party when they come to my fraternity.”

The reason why this drinking game affects me is because I cannot drink.  I was born extremely sick and if I drink alcohol I will get acid reflux which could cause cancer of the esophagus.  Therefore, I do not drink, so I think these games are very interesting because I have never heard of them.  I think this game is interesting and simple, and the reason why it is so simple is so that when someone is drunk, he or she can still sit down and enjoy the game while at the same time understanding what is going on.

Joke – New York

“How is a sewer like a woman?”

– They both have “manholes”

My informant first heard this joke when at the age of seventeen (circa 1972) he was hanging out with his friend Ernie Murphy and he told my informant the joke.  The joke was told when both were living in New York City, a few years before they went their separate ways.  The informant learned the joke at the house of Ernie Murphy.  The two were playing some video games and my informant told Murphy a joke, so Murphy told my informant the joke.

This joke is a sexual one that is meant to compare a sewer to a woman’s private area.  This joke is not really told until someone reaches the age of 16 or 17 when he or she knows about sex and all that it encompasses.  The joke is told between two men for the sole reason that it would be extremely rude and awkward to make the above comparison.

The reason why this joke is important in my informant’s life is because of one reason: my informant is a CPA and gets really stressed, so a simple joke helps get rid of a little stress that my informant has.  This is why my informant is so jovial.  He has an extremely tough job so in order to live a life without anger, he decides to get rid of stress by telling jokes and laughing at them.  One little joke can go a long way in helping one’s health.

When asked his reaction to the joke, my informant states that he thinks the joke “has gotten old, but I keep telling it because young ‘whipper snappers’ like you have never heard it.”  It is very interesting to note the situation in which the joke was told.  My informant and I were on the couch, so he was relaxed which truly shows that jokes help my informant ease some stress.

My first reaction to this joke was laughing because I believe the joke is really funny.  Being 19 years old, I am old enough to understand the sexual jokes and I know that this isn’t the way you talk about a woman; however, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the joke is very funny.

Joke – American

“A Chinese guy, a white guy, and an Italian guy all get a job in a coal mine. The boss comes out and says,” I am going to be leaving for a few hours.  Before I get back, I need some lanterns, shovels, and supplies.  Chinese man, I want you to take care of the supplies.  White man, I want you to take care of the lanterns, and Italian man, I want you to take care of the shovels.”  Two hours later, the boss returns and awaiting him are two men: The American and the Italian. The boss asks where the Chinese man is and the two have no idea.  After 10 minutes of searching for the Chinese man, a man jumps out from behind the cave and yells “Supplies!”

My informant first heard this joke from a fraternity brother when in college at the University of Southern California.  The fraternity brother, Jimmy Houseberg, told my informant the joke one night at the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house.  This is a joke that Jimmy heard from his friend Sam.  Therefore, this is a joke that has been passed down from a few generations.

This joke is a racist one that is meant to make of the way Asians talk.  There is a tendency of Asians who come to America to confuse their L’s and R’s.  Therefore, this joke makes sense because supplies really means surprise.  This joke is not really told until someone reaches the age of 15 when he or she knows about racism and how the joke is something that is done in jest.  The joke is told between two Americans for the sole reason that it would be extremely racist to say the joke to an Asian.

The reason why this joke is important in my informant’s life is because of one reason: my informant is a CPA and gets really stressed, so a simple joke helps get rid of a little stress that my informant has.  This is why my informant is so jovial.  He has an extremely tough job so in order to live a life without anger, he decides to get rid of stress by telling jokes and laughing at them.  One little joke can go a long way in helping one’s health.

When asked his reaction to the joke, my informant states that he thinks the joke “is hysterical and after 25 years, I still laugh at it.”  It is very interesting to note the situation in which the joke was told.  My informant and I were on the couch, so he was relaxed which truly shows that jokes help my informant ease some stress.  One final note to make is that my informant tells this joke over four times a year, and every time he tells it, he starts laughing hysterically for over three minutes.

In conclusion, this is a joke that I find absolutely hysterical.  My father told it to me approximately five years ago, and he tells it every single year when he is in the mood to tell the joke.  Even though I have heard the joke so many times, I still find the joke really funny.  I do know it is racist, but then again, it is one of the funniest jokes I have ever heard.

Annotation:  This “Supplies Joke” was found at

http://www.nearlygood.com/joke/chinesesupplies.html

Joke – American

“There once was a man from Nantucket

Whose cock was so long he could suck it

He said with a grin as he whipped off his chin

If my ass was a cunt I could fuck it”

My informant first heard this joke from a fraternity brother when in college at the University of Southern California.  The fraternity brother, Jimmy Houseberg, told my informant the joke one night at the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house.  My informant wasn’t sure how the second informant heard about the joke, but he did know that the joke has been passed down from a few generations.

This joke is very vulgar, but extremely hilarious at the same time.  It has a few words that are very inappropriate for anyone under the age of about 16; therefore, this joke can be classified as an adult joke.  The purpose of this joke is to pretend to tell a story, but in reality it is just a rhyming dirty joke.  The part of this rhyme that I find extremely unique is that all the body parts that are being described are ones of a male except for in the last sentence, but that sentence is just describing what the male wants his body part to be.

The reason why this joke is important in my informant’s life is because of one reason: my informant is a CPA and gets really stressed, so a simple joke helps get rid of a little stress that my informant has.  This is why my informant is so jovial.  He has an extremely tough job so in order to live a life without anger, he decides to get rid of stress by telling jokes and laughing at them.  One little joke can go a long way in helping one’s health.

When I interviewed my informant, I asked to hear a dirty joke, and he hesitated for a while because he didn’t want to say the joke, for the sole reason that he didn’t want it published.  Then once he obliged to tell a dirty joke, he couldn’t think of what the joke was.  Then finally the joke came to him and after saying the rhyme, he slammed the newspaper on a nearby table exclaiming, “Yes! I knew I could remember it!” When asked his reaction to the joke, my informant states that he thinks the joke “is a classic.”  It is very interesting to note the situation in which the joke was told.  My informant and I were on the couch, so he was relaxed which truly shows that jokes help my informant ease some stress.

When I first heard this joke I thought it was really funny because of all the vulgar words.  Also, I find it interesting how one joke can be so dirty, but at the same time so comedic.  I love how my informant can remember so many jokes.  It shows that my informant is a funny man and I am proud to have him as my father.

Joke – American

“With a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary at the synagogues marriage marathon, the Rabbi asked Moshe to take a few minutes and share some insight into how he managed to live with the same woman all these years.   Moshe replied to the congregation, “Well, I treated her with respect, spent money on her, but mostly I took her traveling on special occasions.”  The Rabbi inquired…… trips to where? “For our 25th anniversary, I took her to Beijing, China.”
The Rabbi then said, “What a terrific example you are to all husbands Moshe. Please tell the audience what you’re going to do for your wife on your 50th anniversary? “Moshe replies: “I’m going to go back and get her.”

My informant first heard this joke from a close friend, Fred Litzky, on Valentine’s Day.  Fred sent the joke to my informant as a Happy Valentine’s Day joke.  The interesting thing about this joke is that it was sent to my informant on Valentine’s Day, and the joke’s topic is love between a couple.  Ironically, there isn’t much love between the couple in this joke.  A side note to add is that Fred always sends my informant jokes, usually about three a week.

This joke is making fun of how hard a happy marriage is to find in today’s world.  The only happy marriage consists of a husband and wife being separated from each other for 25 years, according to this joke.  My view on this joke is that it is very funny, because as a man I have found that a good woman is so hard to find and this joke properly portrays the difficult of maintaining a strong relationship.

The reason why this joke is important in my informant’s life is because of one reason: my informant is a CPA and gets really stressed, so a simple joke helps get rid of a little stress that my informant has.  This is why my informant is so jovial.  He has an extremely tough job so in order to live a life without anger, he decides to get rid of stress by telling jokes and laughing at them.  One little joke can go a long way in helping one’s health.

When asked his reaction to the joke, my informant states that he thinks the joke “is really funny because as a married man for 26 years I know how hard it is to maintain a strong relationship.  This joke is perfect for Valentine’s Day.”

When I first heard this joke I didn’t really understand it because I was eating dinner and wasn’t really paying attention to my informant.  After telling the joke again, I finally understood it and laughed because it is funny to make fun of how hard it is to obtain a long marriage.

Folk Metaphor – Yiddish

“Kinder daffan hubben”

English translation- “For this abuse, I needed to have children”

My informant first heard this phrase at the age of twelve (circa 1967) when she would make fun of her mother in a playful way.  When a young teenager starts to make fun of his parents, with such words as “mom, you are getting old” or “dad, how’s that receding hairline,” the parent gives the response “kinder daffan hubben.”

This phrase is really meant to inform the child to lay off a little because without the parents, their wouldn’t be any you.  Sheryl said the phrase is very funny and generational.  When parents get “dissed” by their children, it is a funny expression.  You are supposed to take in the spirit that it is intended to be delivered.

The reason why this is so important in Sheryl’s world today is because she has two sons who love to give her a hard time and joke around with her.  Both of her sons act like smart asses with her and in this generation, the mother needs to just take the jokes and not make a big deal out of it.

Sheryl commented on the Yiddish language in general by stating that the funny thing about Yiddish is it is a language so full of expression that when you translate it, it loses so much of its expression.

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Sheryl was spoken to in Yiddish during her childhood years and understood the language very well.  She knew it so well that she could talk the language fluently to anyone who understood her.  Now, as an adult, she does not speak the language anymore, so she has lost most of it.  But, with her two kids out of the house, she is eager to take a class of Yiddish, in hopes of being able to speak the Yiddish language again.

I think this phrase is one of the only Yiddish phrases that I have heard that actually pertains to my generation.  In my generation, parents are made fun of so often, that it makes sense for the parents to question “if this was the reason why I had kids.”  In conclusion, this is a Yiddish phrase that is very generational and pertains to everyone, including non-Jews.