Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Random word play in the city

Just before I came to New York, I saw a short Israeli documentary film, made by an Israeli woman who explored some aspects of contemporary Jewish culture in New York. She was talking to a group of Jewish rappers, one of whom was explaining that he would have no qualms about marrying a "shiksa". The Israeli was quite taken aback by this usage, and couldn't bring herself to say the word. The etymology is so clear, and graphic, to a Hebrew speaker, that it is quite disturbing to hear it used.

After a couple of weeks in the US, I discovered that the semantic field that "shiksa" occupies is more specific than I thought. It emerges that "shiksa" is used specifically in a marital or sexual context. The more general term, for a woman who is not of the Jewish faith and is simply ironing the shirts, or taking the subway, is apparently "goyta" (my father says it is goye-teh). I don't know Yiddish, so maybe -ta is a Yiddish suffix. But it always makes me think of Goitein. Not sure what significance that might have.

Speaking of random associations - the name of the superintendent of the subway station next to where I work is Nag Hammadi. Sorry, I mean Chan Ghamandi.

By the way, the manuscript of Gad the Seer, refered to recently on Paleojudaica, is Cambridge University Library, Oo.1.20 (SCR 907). Oriental hand, 1756. According to the label on the flyleaf, it "was found in one of the Synagogues of the Black Jews of Cochin in India, by the Rav. Claudius Buchanan, in the year 1806". It also contains apocryphal additions to Megilat Esther and the dream "of a London clergyman of friendship and goodwill towards Jews".


Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

Do all of the Ghamandis publish a journal?

3:58 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

My Israeli rolpleyerim friends in Tel Aviv call each other "shiqutz" constantly. And they refer to every kind of occurance as a "hishtaqtzut".

8:29 AM  

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