May you grow like an onion- with your head in the ground!
November 18, 2005 12:01 AM   Subscribe

"May you be like a lamp: hang by day, burn by night and be snuffed out in the morning." Welcome to the long tradition of Yiddish curses. According to one scholar of insults: Curses in other languages differ from Yiddish in both content and style...Anglo-Saxon cultures prefer insults dealing with excrement and body parts, Catholic countries are partial to blasphemy, and cultures of the Middle and Far East go for ancestor insults, while Yiddish curses have a baroque splendor. A bunch more examples are here (keep scrolling).
posted by blahblahblah (33 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"The Malach HaMoves should fall in love with you!"

If anyone is confused the Malach HaMoves is the angel of death.
posted by PenDevil at 12:04 AM on November 18, 2005

MetaFilter: it should be turned into a pancake and the cat should snatch it!
posted by brundlefly at 12:05 AM on November 18, 2005

I like number 30:

"A hundred houses shall he have, in every house a hundred rooms and in every room twenty beds, and a delirious fever should drive him from bed to bed."
posted by Pendragon at 12:31 AM on November 18, 2005

My favourite of all time: Es soll tziblis in sayn pupik waksn.

(Onions should grow in his navel).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:41 AM on November 18, 2005

And for comparison, languagehat recently posted on swearing in Serbian.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:44 AM on November 18, 2005

Thanks for this blahblahblah , I always ask people how they curse in their language, this is great. :)
"You should speak so beautifully that only the cats understand you!"
posted by dabitch at 12:59 AM on November 18, 2005

God should bestow him with everything his heart desires, but he should be a quadriplegic and not be able to use his tongue.

that... is poetry.

another favorite yiddish phrase, thrown around my grandparents' house a lot, translates as:

Shit in one hand, wish in the other, see which fills up first.

It's used when someone whines or complains.
posted by shmegegge at 1:25 AM on November 18, 2005

My fave Yiddish curse:

"Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:36 AM on November 18, 2005

I think that one is French.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:55 AM on November 18, 2005

Wondrous. I've been using some of the Serbian slurs linked above way too much of late ('You're not worth half a cunt of water' is just sublime), and this is another treasure trove.

Thanks blahblahblah.
posted by jack_mo at 2:52 AM on November 18, 2005

ע זאל שוין נאך דיר א נאמען געבן
"They should name someone after you already!"

For those of you not familiar with Jewish tradition: Jews do not name a child after someone who is alive (which is why you'll never meet a Joseph Levi III), so essentially this means, "I hope you die soon!"
posted by Deathalicious at 2:58 AM on November 18, 2005

blahblahblah, you owe me a keyboard!

Deathalicious, that one is my favorite.
posted by Opposite George at 3:00 AM on November 18, 2005

"Go live underground and bake bagels!"
posted by gsteff at 3:21 AM on November 18, 2005

You should be a sock puppet on Vin Diesel's penis.
posted by Joeforking at 3:44 AM on November 18, 2005

I think you give Mr. Diesel too much credit.
posted by shmegegge at 4:04 AM on November 18, 2005

I don't see one of my favorites anywhere:

Geh cocken offen yom.
Go shit in the ocean.
posted by amro at 4:16 AM on November 18, 2005

This is a treasure trove. Thanks so much.
posted by OmieWise at 5:20 AM on November 18, 2005

Time to come up with our own Metafilter curses!

May your most perfect reply to your greatest enemy be swallowed by JRun.

May the FPP of your dreams attract Dios, ParisParasmus, Rothko and Brevets.

May your sock puppet account bring you shame and infamy.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:44 AM on November 18, 2005

My mother in law is fond of one that translates as "slap yourself on the ass and yell 'Bravo!'"
posted by jonmc at 6:45 AM on November 18, 2005

Shit in one hand, wish in the other, see which fills up first.

Hilarious. That was a favorite at our house, and we were poor white trash from down South. Is there a Yiddish version of "If the dog hadn't stopped to shit, he'd have caught the rabbit"?
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:58 AM on November 18, 2005

Deathalicious, it's my fave too--we're so mean! : >

amro, i was taught that one as "Go shit on yourself"
and don't forget "Gai cocken in dreck"
posted by amberglow at 6:59 AM on November 18, 2005

There's a really really good one, too, about a heart attack and the ambulance getting 4 flat tires.
posted by amberglow at 7:02 AM on November 18, 2005

Stop hackin' me a kup, ya yiddisher nudniks.
posted by jonmc at 7:11 AM on November 18, 2005

/walks into a bar/
posted by bardic at 7:11 AM on November 18, 2005

My particular favorite of a bubbeh I knew once upon a time was:

"She should watch for her eyes when jogging"

Implying that she had large pointy breasts and they would poke her eyes out.
posted by lalochezia at 8:53 AM on November 18, 2005

Those are great. "May a child be named after you soon" has always been my favorite, but I also love the ones that start off sounding like blessings and then take a nasty turn: "May all your enemies break their legs as they dance on your grave."

And one that I didn't see on any of these lists plays on the fact that "May God make you like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" is traditional Jewish blessing:
"May God make you like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Like Abraham, may you wander from town to town; like Isaac, may you go blind; and like Jacob, may your children plot to kill each other."

But this one puzzled me:
A mazal-brochoh G-d should send into your bag of tzores!"

If my rather shakey Yiddish serves me right, this means "A good-luck blessing God should send into your bag of troubles." But that doesn't really clarify the intent. Is the idea "May God send you a little luck and a lot of pain"? Can anybody figure it out?
posted by yankeefog at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2005

Oh, and another favorite one that I didn't see on any of these lists was, "May you fall into an outhouse just as an entire regiment of Cossacks finishes a meal of prunes and cabbage."

The blessings are interesting, too. I couldn't figure out what this blessing meant: "May you have King David's fur coat, Judah's error and Boaz's shock."

So I did a little googling, and found the following:
The little fur coat refers to Abishag, the beautiful young maiden who warmed King David in his later years; Judah's error was impregnating his daughter-in-law Tamar when she disguised herself as prostitute; and Boaz's shock was when he found Ruth lying at his feet during the night.
posted by yankeefog at 9:05 AM on November 18, 2005

As for the classic blessing-turned-into-a-curse, there was an autobiographical short story in, I think, the New Yorker once (and if anyone remembers the title, please tell me), in which the author's mother in the 1920s was constantly intimidated by a group of women who were famous for their curses and "evil eyes". People believed in the power of curses, and gave this group a lot of respect. One day, the mother finally gets pushed to far, and she reponds to the ringleader of her tormenters:

"May your two sons grow up happy and strong. And may they become a doctor and a lawyer. And may each marry a wonderful women and have wealth. And may they each have many children and -"

At this point, her tormentor breaks down and apologizes for her actions, since any curse that begins so positively must be so terrible that she didn't want to hear the whole thing.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

Nice blah... sounds like a great movie scene
posted by joecacti at 9:35 AM on November 18, 2005

My grandmother's favorite: "She should only get a cancer... and not die!"
posted by zaelic at 9:45 AM on November 18, 2005

yankeefog: But this one puzzled me:
A mazal-brochoh G-d should send into your bag of tzores!

I think this one means, "May God wish all your troubles 'good luck!'" Cute.
posted by purple_frogs at 11:00 AM on November 18, 2005

Jews do not name a child after someone who is alive

Little correction: Askenazic Jews (who are, to be fair, 90% of the American Jewish population) don't do that, but Sephardic Jews commonly name a child after its grandparents. But of course, Sephardim wouldn't be speaking or cursing in Yiddish in the first place.

On a related note, I was reading through the book "Born to Kvetch" last night at my in-laws' house, and it has plenty of other examples, not just of curses, but of the history of the ironic and twisted ways of referring to everyday things for which Yiddish was so famous. Very interesting book, from both a linguistic and a sociological POV.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:25 PM on November 18, 2005

German Jews also often named their children afetr living relatives. Including the fathers, so there were Jr. and IIIs in German Jewish families.

Of course, German Jews usually spoke German rather than Yiddish. There were pretty well integrated into the mainstream of German society, for all the good it did them.
posted by maxsparber at 1:37 AM on November 19, 2005

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