The informant explains how a common Jewish expression came into existence and the importance of it within the community.
L: Why do the Jews say “wear it in good health?”
M: Okay, so that’s something– um, basically every adult in my life, whenever I got a new pair of shoes, would tell me to “wear them in good health”. And for years, I just thought that was a thing that people said, until I moved away from south Florida and was made aware, no that’s just Jewish people.
So, I asked my one grandmother who’s still alive about it and she told me it’s because, like, growing up in New York– or not even New York — growing up as a Jewish person in the 40s and 50s, like, there was always this sense that you could just die. So, when someone tells you to wear something in good health it’s both like a command to tell you that you need to be healthy, but it’s also, like, a wish for your well being. Because, like, there’s a culture of worrying about people.
Like, there’s a stereotype of the Jewish grandmother who’s always worried. Those things sort of come from the same place. They’re sort of like, a wish for your health — like, don’t do something stupid!
Upon further research, this Yiddish saying is directly related to the saying “Use it in good health”. “Use it in good health” is simply a version of “wear it in good health” that has become popularized throughout the United States.
It’s interesting how much Yiddish vocabulary has made it into the American vernacular. Words like “schmuck”, “bagel”, “glitch”, and “klutz” are just a small selection of words that have crossed over from Yiddish into American English. It’s no surprise that Yiddish sayings have followed with the Yiddish words themselves.