Tuesday, February 07, 2012

18th and 19th century Jewish word lexicons. Also, ba'alei shem, and Hebrew conversations.

Here's an interesting excerpt from a 1754 lexicon of Hebrew terms used by Jews and translated into German. The Hebrew is transliterated into German for the ease of readers, who may not even know how to read Hebrew. Here's an excerpt under the category "Spiritual Terms:"

Gallach - A shaved person, or pastor
Lamdan - a learned person
Melamet - a school master
Rabbiner - a Jewish priest
Rav - ibid.
Rosch Jeschiwe - a Jewish rector, magister
Balschem - a necromancer
Bochur - a student
Chason - a Jewish choirmaster [I know it's not the best translation, but I'm trying to keep it literal]
Chosid - a frommer man, or pietist
Zadidig [sic] - a righteous man
Schames - the synagogue knocker (i.e., the man who knocks on homes to wake people for synagogue)
Bess Hackneses - the synagogue
Tefilla - the prayer
Schir - song
Orrun Hackodesch - the altar where the 10 commandments are contained
Omuth - the choirmaster's place
Allmemer - where the 10 commandments are placed
Drosche - the sermon
Migdol - the church tower (?)
Paimon - the bells
Zedocke - alms
Bes Chaiem - the Jew's graveyard
Kewer - a grave
Mazewa - a grave stone
Kabron - tomb of the dead
Mitta - bier for the dead
Orren - not exactly sure, but I guess funeral prayer?
Mess - a dead body
Heureg - a murder victim
Owel - the mourners
Kewura - burial
Kriereissen - a nearby friend tears the clothes

From Friedrich Osterchrist "Hebräisch und teutsches Sprach-Buch" (Regensburg 1754).

In the introduction there is a guide to pronunciation. By way of illustration it points out that there is a huge difference between "chinim" חינם (umsonst, free) and "kinnim" קינם [sic] (leusse, lice) and gives several other examples along those lines.

One of the more interesting entries is probably the one for Balschem, given that the most famous one who ever lived was still very much alive in 1754. Here's an excerpt from a 1748 book which explains what a Ba'al Shem is, and quotes a saying among Jews:

"Er kann oder verstehet Schemos." "He comprehends Names."

For those interested in the lexicon, there is an even better, more updated version from 1846 (link). It translates Rosch Jeschivoh as "ein juedischer Controvers-Prediger" which seems to mean "a Jewish preacher of controversy." It also has a sort of proto-entry for "klezmer," which it calls Kelee Semorim, and translates as the musical instrument.

There's also a section on how to have a Hebrew conversation. the example is between a buyer and a seller (zwei handels-Juden), because of course that's what Jews do. An excerpt:

B: ?ומה הוא הדבר אשר אדוני רצה למכור"What do you, Sir, have for sale?"

A: .יש לי בגדי הולנדי יפים מאוד "I have very beautiful Dutch fabric."

B: ? זה כמה רוצה אדוני באמה או בחתיכה קולו "How much is it, Sir, per yard or for the whole thing?"

Following this is a creepy Hebrew conversation between a missionary and a Jew. An excerpt:

St[udent]: ?מי אתה

J[ew]: .יהודי אנכי

S: ?ומה הוא אמונתך

J: .אני מאמין באלהי אבינו בורא שמים וארץ שהוא יחיד

S: .והלוא אני מאמין באלהי בורא שמים וארץ, אך אני מאמין בשלשה יסודות אב, בן, ורוח הקודש

J: ?דבר זה לא אוכל להבין. ולמה לא תעשו העשרת הדברות



  1. Also, you translated "amah" as "yard". When did Europe change to metrics?

  2. Meaning when should "amah" be translated as "meter" instead of "yard". Curious how time can change meaning sometimes.

  3. Funny, I wasn't even thinking about that. I guess technically you're right, but I was translating to English. "Stück" means by the piece, which is not an exact translation of באמה, but of course we buy fabric by the yard (in America). For all I know fabric by the stück was good 19th century German for "by the yard/ meter" and that's how it should be translated.

    In my opinion when writing American English its fine to write "yard," particularly in a case like this where you would buy fabric by the yard, not meter. However, we probably wouldn't measure distance by the yard, unless we're discussing football. In that case we might say "meter," since there is no real good equivalent unless you want to triple the number and make it feet.

  4. It's a good thing I buy my suits off the rack, I'm not sure what I'd buy for a tailor :)
    When I was a kid, my father was friendly with a gentleman who escaped re-capture from the Germans after jumping from a train. He managed this because he was a tailor and made himself and others German uniforms from various fabrics, and he became a tailor after the war. At least that's the story he told me. I guess he was a great tailor because we'd drive from Philadelphia to Cherry Hill just to have the cuffs of our suits done. As a kid, I didn't really give it much thought.

  5. I Googled "fabric by the meter" and "fabric by the metre" and I get UK lists.

  6. Orren is ארון. Google translates truhe, chest.

  7. LOL Of course.

    It's funny, because I was thinking of "orenen," to "daven." Maybe the fact that it used Orrun earlier rather than Orren.

  8. Yeah, the change in spelling had me doubting myself there too for a minute.

  9. קולו should be כלו, from the שורש of כל.

  10. Of course. In my defense I must point out that I type Hebrew using a unicode converter. What this means it that I do not type קולו, I type kwlw - or in this case, qwlw.

    And if you're who I think you are, glad you're reading. :-)

  11. S, Can you please fix the link to the book? The "blogger" part of the URL shouldn't be there. -- Phil

  12. The verb is "oren" (er ort - he ores), not "orenen" (er orent - he orens).

    Controvers-Prediger: cleric engaged in discourse (such as learning gemore)?

    Vorsinger: That's not a choirmaster but a precentor, or simply cantor. No other professional singers implied.

    Kreiereissen: tearing one's clothes over a close friend (ie because he died, not literally above the friend)

    Yard: Of course it's yard! Look it up in Wikipedia, I'm sure they tell you for how long yards continued to be in use in Europe for each and every hicktown (which had its own yard standard).

    handels-juden: Jewish merchants (by profession)

    Kabron, der Todten-Gräber: undertaker

    Some transcriptions are clearly hypercorrect, from the Christian chap's knowledge of Christian Hebrew, eg the -a endings, and the -im endings despite the more phonetical spelling in Hebrew, indicating the usual kinnem and v.v. the hypercorrect German spelling chinnim.

  13. The translation "Vorsinger"--a "fore-singer," or one who sings before or in front of the congregation--is a close equivalent of "Chason." (Was your translation "choirmaster" based on a reading of the pesky old German type as "Chorsinger"?)

    One of the oldest historic landmarks in Staten Island is the "Voorlezer's House"; the Wiki article explains that "'Voorlezer' is a Dutch word that can be translated as 'Fore-reader'. A voorlezer is an assistant to a pastor who, in the absence of a pastor, may hold religious services and read scripture, as well as run a school."

  14. S., Dan, have you heard of the English word precentor?

  15. I was going to make the point about todttruhe, but Dov beat me to it: "Dead man's chest" - with apologies to Jack Sparrow.

    Regarding kirschthurm, you have it as "church tower." Kirsch is "cherry" - I think it's talking about the old-school tower-shaped silver spice box used at havdala.

  16. He writes Kirch- (church), not Kirsch- (cherry).

  17. Can you enlighten me as to how it's creepy? The portion you present doesn't seem so bad.

  18. Is that really the derivation of "galach"? It never occurred to me. Why were priests specifically distinguished by being clean-shaven?

  19. https://www.google.co.uk/images?q=tonsure+priest

  20. Did they think that the ten commandments were inside the Aron Kodesh, or were they symbolically represented in the exterior decoration of the Aron? Or did they think that when Jews say "Aron Kodesh" they always referred to the biblical one?

    Interesting post!

  21. I've seen this expression in similar contexts - the authors mean the seifer tôre. (An ancestor of mine was listed sometwhere as a "Zehngebotschreiber" or the like, literally a Ten-Commandment scribe and meaning a sôfer.)

    I wonder if it was just an expression, or if at least the readers thought such a scroll contained the Ten Commandments and nothing else.

  22. I suspect that it means the Torah scroll, not the representation of the lukhot, reason being that according to it the 10 commandments are also on the almemor (bimah). This is corrected in the second book, which says the 5 books of Moses. I'm not sure if the author, Friedrich Osterchrist, literally meant the 10 commandments or used that as a shorthand for "the law," i.e., the Torah. Either way it doesn't sound like he had much, if any, firsthand experience.

    Thanks for all the translation help, everyone. I am not that competent with German but 1) no one else is showing these things, and במקום שאין אנשים, etc. and 2) doing this helps me brush up.

  23. most of my German comes from watching reruns of Hogans Heroes. Gotta love that Sargent Schultz, and Colonel Clink was Homer Simpson's Guardian angel. How can you beat that?-LFD

  24. Isaac Newton: Homer, I'm your guardian angel. I've assumed the form of someone you'd recognize and revere: Sir Isaac Newton.

    Homer: Sir Isa-who-who?

  25. Yes, Lipman, I have heard of the English word "precentor." A perfectly cromulent equivalent of "Vorsinger," all right, though it's one of those words, like "phylacteries" or "ritualarium," that is not exactly common on the lips of most Yidden.

  26. (I didn't mean to imply you actually hadn't heard of the word, of course. Sorry if it came over too snappy.)

  27. Kabron, der Todten-Gräber: undertaker
    gravedigger. Todten -Graber will literally mean "digger of the dead".

  28. Dan Klein, while reading your comment, I felt quite cromulent myself. In fact, one might say my spirit was embiggened.-LFD

  29. Lipman -- not to worry, no offense taken.
    LFD -- Excellent.



Related Posts with Thumbnails