Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Can't make a streimel out of a pig's tail

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Y is for Yiddish wit, for example:

You can't make a shtreimel out of a pig's tail.
  • Fun a khazer-shventsl ken men keyn shtrayml nit makhn.
  • English equivalent: You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear.
  • Meaning: You cannot produce anything of good quality from poor raw material; often used of people.

In case you've never seen a shtreimel, it's that fur hat on the right.
Worn by certain ultra-orthodox Jewish men on holidays and Shabbat.
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(Linking to ABC Wednesday.)
UPDATE: Please see added interesting information in the comments.
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12 comments:

William Kendall said...

Interesting variation on the English expression!

Susan Rafael Otter Jolie Nixon said...

any wit is cool.
good luck.

Petrea Burchard said...

It's good to know this word, "streimel." I believe you're familiar with my old neighborhood in Los Angeles, the Fairfax district. We see these hats there sometimes, and also those like the man on the left. And of course the payess.

Hels said...

I am managing the History Carnival for January 2016 and need nominations for your own blog post or someone else’s by 31/1/2016. The theme I have chosen is History of the Visual, Performing, Musical and Literary Arts, but all good history posts will be welcomed. The nomination form is at http://historycarnival.org/form.html

Gosia k said...

Dina what a nice photo of men. I have never seen those strange hat before. Have a great year 2016

Melody Steenkamp said...

Like sometimes before... i 'see' that the Yiddisch language has similar things to my own dialect... even without your extra info i would have known what i read.

Have a nice ABC-day / ABC-week
♫ M e l o d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

VP said...

This is quite funny!

José Mendonça said...

The top shot is so funny! And yes, I've seen those strange hats...

Reader Wil said...

I always like what. you tell about. traditoons and Yiddish wordd too.
Happy , 2016
Wil, ABCW Team

Roger Owen Green said...

fun saying!

ROG, ABCW

Dina said...

Melody, yes, I imagine so. As for me, full disclosure: I don't know Yiddish; I can only guess at its pronunciation insofar as it is close to German, which I do know.
I have copied and pasted mostly from this source:
http://www.yiddishisms.com/yiddish-7.html and
http://kehillatisrael.net/docs/yiddish/yiddish_pr.htm and
http://www.yiddishwit.com/List.html

Dina said...

Petrea, nope, I've never seen Fairfax.

William, yes. And now that I read about streimel in Wiki I understand why the Yiddish version uses "tails" instead of "sow ears."

Gosia from Poland, it is funny you have never seen these "strange hats" before. The funny part is that centuries ago the Jews copied the hats from what the Polish and Russian nobility were wearing.

Here are interesting tidbits from the Wikipedia article on Shtreimel:

The hat is "of genuine fur, from the tips of the tails typically of Canadian or Russian sable, stone marten, baum marten (pine marten), or American gray fox. The shtreimel is comparable in construction to fur hats worn by Eastern European and Russian nobility and royalty.
A traditional story has it that an anti-Semitic political figure once issued a decree that male Jews must be identified on Shabbat by "wearing a tail" on their heads. Although the decree was an attempt to mock the Jews, the Hasidic rabbis considered the matter seriously, in keeping with the universally accepted Jewish law stating the Law of the Land in which Jews live is to be upheld so long as it does not obstruct Jewish observance. They arrived at a plan that complied with and even exceeded the decree by arranging to make hats such as worn by royalty, encircled by a ring of tails, thereby transforming an object of intended ridicule into a crown.
There are those who say that to wear a shtreimel is to wear a crown. Viewed from atop the head, the ring of tails is wrapped clockwise spirally connoting that the spiritual forces invoked by the shtreimel are radiating in such a fashion as to invoke the Divine Presence to become more tangible in creation."