Vos bay a nikhtern af der lung iz bay a shikern af der tsung, “What’s in a sober person’s lung is on the drunk one’s tongue”: people who have had too much to drink don’t know which of their thoughts should remain unspoken. Just ask Mel Gibson, whose recent statements to the Malibu police seem to have confirmed the prejudices that he denied when The Passion of the Christ was released. Gibson hot zikh ongehongen a lung-un-leber af der noz, “hung a lung-and liver-on his nose,” left himself, as it were, with egg all over his face—in the form of a Jewish delicacy that can only be described as troyerik-barimt, “notorious, renowned for its bad qualities,” the two main ingredients usually being accompanied by a thick red sauce that claims descent from one or more tomatoes.
It’s a far cry from the Blood of the Lamb, but az me’ klingt iz khoge, “When church bells ring, it’s a gentile holiday,” i.e., “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”—and it isn’t as if the money raised by The Passion of the Christ is being used to help fund the public display of Talmuds on Shushan Purim.
Khoge, which Yiddish has borrowed from Hebrew, has a literal meaning of “trembling” or “terror;” it’s a pejorative term for gentile, especially Christian, holidays (as distinct from the complimentary Yiddish terms for gentile, especially Christian, holidays) and seems to have been adopted because of its resemblance to the equally Hebraic khag, an entirely positive term for Jewish holidays, especially Passover, Shavues and Sukkes.
There is a more comprehensive version of the saying: Az me’ klingt iz a khoge oder a sreyfe oder a peyger, “When the bells ring, there’s either a khoge or a fire, or a corpse has turned up.” Whatever else he’s been doing lately, Mr. Gibson has sure been ringing those bells.
This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week. Below are some items for sale from eBay for those of you with an interest in Yiddish.
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