Litvak v. Galitsiyaner

Life on our New Jersey chicken farm was work from early morning until dusk.  However, Friday night suppertime was special.  We boys all had to “wash up.” In the early years it was a communal bath.

Mama pulled out all the stops to make it very special.  This meant the embroidered tishtekh (tablecloth) and silverware.  Mama had only a fleyshik good set.  Of course there were the everyday and peysakh sets, so Mama had five sets of silverware.

Mama took care of the lighting of the candles with her special tikhl (kerchief).  We boys took turns doing the blessing over the khale and grape juice which we called “wine.”

This unusual arrangement came about because Mama was Orthodox and Papa was at the other end of the spectrum, off the chart.  At that time we boys did not consider it unusual.

The best part of the evening was the banter that Mama and Papa had about each other’s accent.  We boys had fun with how they pronounced the English words, but for Mama and Papa it was their Yiddish.  Mama said she was a Litvak and proud of it.  She called Papa a Galitsiyaner which put him on the defensive.  This normally was not Papa’s style of operation.

The give and take on their parts was full of humor and often Papa would touch Mama’s arm when she made a particularly good point and we boys couldn’t stop laughing.

There are several words that I remember which resulted in this foray into linguistics.  Mama differentiated between zun and zin (son).  Papa was only a “ziner” (a new word).  It made no difference whether our neighbors had only one son or like the Gordeuk’s who had 11 or the Gombosi’s who had 5 sons.  Papa always said zin for one or the whole clan.

Another was shoyn, shen, shan and sheyn.  Many years later I learned about a Mr.  Weinreich and his dictionary.  In it he says that shoyn is already and sheyn is pretty.

Mama made khoyzik (ridiculed) of Papa with his shin words.  She said, “Oy, du shushket nokh amol.” (Oh, you are shushing once again.)

Papa always laughed because Papa said, “There is no such word as shsuhken.”

Papa and we boys laughed and Mama said, “Du veyst vos ikh meyn” (You know what I mean.)