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Meaning of a Yiddish expression my Mother used.
February 4, 2014 6:02 PM   Subscribe

What did my Yiddische mother mean when she said, "You can have [reasonable alternative choice 1] or you can have [reasonable alternative 2] or you can have 'kakebetchke with hindigzumen'" ? In that context, what is "kakebetchke with hindigzumen"?

My family had many Yiddish expressions that I learned verbally according to their pronunciation, which may have been idiosyncratic. Searching Google translate has not helped, because I am not sure of the spelling. For example, My father's "Ist Och und Veh zum Tuchas als die Katzen mussen fartzen" translated to "You know your a** is in bad shape if the cat has to fart for yoou".

What did my mother mean when she said, "You can have [reasonable alternative choice 1] or you can have [reasonable alternative 2] or you can have 'kakebetchke with hindigzumen'" ?
In that context, what is "kakebetchke with hindigzumen"? I can guess from context, but literally, what does this expression mean?
posted by SamFrancisco to Writing & Language (33 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know about "with hidigzumen" but "kakapitshi" means a conglomeration. Could the first part (kakabetchke) be kakapitshi? Might make sense: you could have one, the other, or a conglomeration...with something.
Maybe this will spark the rest of the answer...
posted by third rail at 6:51 PM on February 4


For clarification, is the 'with' English or Yiddish?
posted by hoyland at 6:51 PM on February 4


The "with" is actually "mit", i.e. "kakebetchke mit hindigzumen".
I always understood "kakebetchke" to be a complainer or a complaint, but I was a young kid and my understanding is not trustworthy. For example, I always thought that "Hok mir nisht vie a chinik" meant "don't irritate me like a Chinese man" rather than the more accurate "Don't irritate me like a [rattling China]teakettle". :-)
posted by SamFrancisco at 7:20 PM on February 4


Have you checked Leo Rosten's Joys of Yiddish?
posted by brujita at 7:40 PM on February 4


First thing that comes to mind is that beczka and бочка mean barrel in Polish and Russian, respectively. Something about a barrel... "Like a barrel ... ", "like in a barrel with ..."?
posted by ellenaim at 7:48 PM on February 4


I don't know Yiddish, so take this with a grain of salt, but I've been messing around trying to translate this for you, and I *think*:

kakebetchke = kaker patschkie

"alte kaker" means "old timer" or "old geezer" or "old fussbudget" (you get the idea).

"patschkie" means "to fool around."

"hindigzumen" = "halt din zoken," which means "hold onto your socks"

"You can have [reasonable alternative choice 1] or you can have [reasonable alternative 2] or you can have 'kakebetchke with hindigzumen'"

Maybe your mom is saying:

"You can have [reasonable alternative choice 1] or you can have [reasonable alternative 2] or you can have 'fooling around like a fussy old geezer holding onto his socks'"?

Which I would interpret as, "You can [do reasonable thing] or you can [do reasonable thing] or you can "sit here freaking out about what you should do."

Does that make sense in context?
posted by rue72 at 8:24 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I don't think "patschkie" necessarily means fooling around in a fun way, I think it's more like "pointless activity."
posted by rue72 at 8:25 PM on February 4


In a similar vein, a Becher in German is a cup, but the Yiddish cognate seems to be bekher, but I don't know that you'd have heard that as betchke. My knowledge of Yiddish basically amounts to spotting obvious German cognates and nothing is so obvious that I can guess with any confidence. I've passed it on to someone who actually knows Yiddish.
posted by hoyland at 8:29 PM on February 4


I always understood "kakebetchke" to be a complainer or a complaint,

Maybe this does fit with the kake = shit idea. (It's Kacke in German.) The Yiddish dictionaries online have kak, but not kake and I don't know enough to guess whether kake should be the same word.

'fooling around like a fussy old geezer holding onto his socks'"

I'm pretty sure this doesn't fit the grammar. I'm expecting "[noun] with [noun]". (I'm tempted to want 'hindigzumen' as a verb, but I can't figure out how that would possibly work, unless I'm being misled by German.)
posted by hoyland at 8:45 PM on February 4


Can you make a recording of yourself saying the words? It might help those of us who are trying to guess based on knowledge of other Germanic languages. I'm pronouncing the words as though they were German, but it's possible you are transliterating them as for an English speaker, which would make them very different. E.g. is "zumen" pronounced as though it were German ("tsoomen") or like English ("zamen")?
posted by lollusc at 9:51 PM on February 4


Butchke means "chat." Kake-butchke (betchka?) might mean shit talk, which sure sounds like "complainer."
posted by Wordwoman at 10:06 PM on February 4


Here is someone asking (in Yiddish) about the phrase hindig zimen mit katshke fise -- which definitely sounds like your expression (reversed.). "Katschke" is "duck" and "hindig" is "turkey"...not sure about the rest. Perhaps "fise" here is "fus" or "fis": feet?

So, putting all that together, maybe the expression means "turkey [something] with duck feet" -- ie, some impossible hybrid poultry?
posted by neroli at 11:05 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


(The Yiddish word for turkey is usually transliterated as "indik," but I'm pretty sure "hindig" is the same word.)
posted by neroli at 11:42 PM on February 4


Please don't quit thinking about this, but I have a tentative idea so far that starts with the expression "hindig zimen mit katshke fise" as Neroli suggested. Then my Mother conflated "katsche fise" with "kakebechke" to effectively convey roughly the same idea of something impossible or outrageous.

For rhythm, she reversed the order to "kakebechke mit hindig Zimen". This is somewhat plausible, but I hope the hive-mind can come up with something more definitive.
posted by SamFrancisco at 12:37 AM on February 5


patschkie

For a frame of reference, patschkie means having your hands all over something. For example the word Ongapatschkie means something so overly ornate that it's hideously ugly.

So to patschkie around means to have your hands all over whatever it is that you're doing.

A phrase heard in our house while I was growing up was, "Don't patschkie around with your food, either eat it, or take your plate into the kitchen."

Just for more context.

Yiddish has the Mot Juste, and that is why it's so freaking awesome!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:34 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


The folks saying kake=poo reminds me of my own family's canonical third option, which is "poop sandwiches and piggy toe pie." We have no Yiddish background that I know of but it's been in the family a long time, and it wouldn't be the first cross-cultural phrase to seep into family usage.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:34 AM on February 5


Hmmm, my family said ongepotched and used it only in its slapped together context.
posted by brujita at 8:47 AM on February 5


An article from the Forward on potchkie/patschkie/ongepotched/umgepatched, with some additional information on accents/transcription/spelling; my anecdata is that in my family usage from a multilingual grandma whose childhood language was Yiddish, "potchkie" meant dawdling or fooling around.
posted by nonane at 9:19 AM on February 5


I really appreciate all the contributions to this discussion. I am pretty sure though that "kakabetchke" is different from "angepatchkit", a term which my Mother also used but in the context of messed up or sloppily patched together.
posted by SamFrancisco at 9:34 AM on February 5


> I don't know Yiddish

Then maybe refrain from suggesting an answer? (Not just you but everyone in the same boat.) Wild guesses don't really help. The only actual answer is provided by neroli, who I think must be right—hindig zimen mit katshke fise is almost certainly the same expression in reverse order.
posted by languagehat at 11:09 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


I agree, languagehat, but what is the "zimen" of "hindig zimen"?
posted by SamFrancisco at 11:17 AM on February 5


> but what is the "zimen" of "hindig zimen"?

I don't know, which isn't surprising, since the Yiddish-speaker Misha Nathani (from that mendele thread) didn't know either. It may not be possible to get a satisfying analysis of every element of the saying—idioms are often like that. But you've gotten a long way!
posted by languagehat at 11:38 AM on February 5


I don't actually know Yiddish either! Though I did grow up around it (my grandmother and great-grandmother spoke it fluently and often, and my mother was unusually adept for someone of her generation.) That and a couple of years of college German and a couple of years of Hebrew school is all I'm going on here.

Anyway, just a couple more thoughts....

The word you would use for duck (or chicken, etc.) feet is "fisslach"...so maybe "kakebetchke" is "katsche fisslach"? That's at least a little closer, sound-wise.

I've been poking around trying to figure out "zimen," and only have one idea -- which is so eccentric, I don't really think it's a viable theory. But just for the hell of it...

"Zimun" is an after-meal prayer recited when three or more people eat together. A "brokhe" (or "bracha" or "brucha," etc.) is a blessing used, among many other occasions, before meals.

Considering both sounds and parallelism, I thought about the idea of "katsche brokhe" (which sounds more like the word you remember) and "indik zimun" -- a duck pre-meal prayer, and a turkey after-meal prayer.

But I don't actually think this is what's going on. There are different brokhes for different kind of food, but not for different varieties of poultry...so this doesn't really make sense. Still, I though I would share it in the spirit of wild guessing.
posted by neroli at 12:09 PM on February 5


Ultimately, I think this is a case for Michael Wex.
posted by neroli at 12:36 PM on February 5


Thanks for the suggestion. I have asked Michael Wex, and will post any response from him.
posted by SamFrancisco at 1:44 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Copied from an email by Michael Wex:

<>
I'm not familiar with the phrase, but as you say, the basic meaning--s.f.a,
kadokhes, bupkes-is clear.

Hindigzumen = standard language indik-zomen (or: zoymen), turkey seed--and
you can take "seed" in whatever sense you like.

Could the "betchke" in "kakebetchke" perhaps have been "betke"? A betke is
a mushroom, so you'd get "mushroom that grows from shit." There's another
word, "petsheritse," that also means mushroom--note the first syllable. If I
were to have heard this expression in conversation, that's the meaning I'd
have assumed.

The only other "betckhe" with which I'm familiar means "prattle, idle talk,
bleating (if you're talking about sheep)" (cf. standard language
"batchken"). The verb "betshen," has almost the same meaning: to bleat
(like a sheep) or talk to no purpose.

If I'm not completely out to lunch here, my first suggestion strikes me as
the more likely, if only because "hindigzumen" is fairly concrete and you'd
expect both terms to match on this score. Shit mushrooms would go well with
turkey semen. I've never run across betchke/betshe paired with kaka.

Again, this is simple guesswork and I might have it completely wrong. Se
treft zikh a mol. Sorry I can't be more definite.

All the best,

Michael
posted by SamFrancisco at 6:34 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Ha! That's great. Wex obviously knows way, way more than me, but I'd still make a case for "katschke" over "kaka," just because the duck - turkey match seems so neat. "Duck mushrooms with turkey seeds" to me sounds like a perfect Yiddishism for a thing that doesn't exist.
posted by neroli at 7:12 PM on February 5


Just Googled "turkey seeds" and found this:

I have just had time after several busy months to read my mendele list & in
an old posting someone trying to remember a saying with "hindik ... " Since
no one seems to have answered this, I'll try. The woman who I learned most
of my Yiddish from (b. 1888, Korostishev, Ukraine) once told me the following
annectode: When she was a child & she or her siblings would pester their
mother asking repeatedly,"what's for dinner?", the mother would answer
sarcastically, "kakapitzi mit indik zoimen" . "Kakapitzi" is, I assume ,a
nonsense word which doesn't soundo very nice, served with "turkey seeds" I
remembered the saying because it struck me as very funny!


So maybe "kaka-" is right!
posted by neroli at 7:37 PM on February 5


Or...

Susan Ganc assumes kakapitzi is a nonsense word which doesn’t sound very
nice. I just guess that it has not do with a ‘kaka’ variant but with a Polish
duck: P. Kaczka -duck + P. pieczen – roast

If that would be the case, another meaning might have to be found for
‘zoymen’, because Turkey-seeds make less sense than roast duck [zoymen: Hark.
zoym, -en -seam, border; zoymen - seed, linseed (c. zamen)]

Unless ‘pitzi’ is Y. pitsel – little bit. In that case the ‘zoymen’ could be
‘thin slices’??

posted by neroli at 7:39 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Perhaps you're parsing it wrongly: the phrase might be "kaczka pieczona i indyk zomen". That's jumping between Polish and Yiddish, but you can read it as "(roast duck and turkey) seeds"; i.e., the fabulous seeds that would grow into an elaborate dinner.

I also note that there is a Polish word zmienny that can mean something like "alternative"; perhaps the phrase means "your choice of roast duck or turkey"; a waiter's recitation as remembered by a Yiddish-speaker giving you a list of options. I like this alternative because it doesn't require any weird supposition about imaginary products.

Incidentally, it seems that duck and turkey are a popular combination in Poland, at least for a very select market :-)
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:16 PM on February 5


Another family member, my sister, weighs in:

I like "conglomeration" as in: "I don't know about "with hidigzumen" but "kakapitshi" means a conglomeration. Could the first part (kakabetchke) be kakapitshi? Might make sense: you could have one, the other, or a conglomeration...with something."

I also like: "Butchke means "chat." Kake-butchke (betchka?) might mean shit talk, which sure sounds like "complainer."

That seems to be closer along the lines of how Bernice thought. As Max said, "The only other "betckhe" with which I'm familiar means "prattle, idle talk, bleating (if you're talking about sheep)" (cf. standard language "batchken"). The verb "betshen," has almost the same meaning: to bleat (like a sheep) or talk to no purpose."

His explanation of "Hindigzumen = standard language indik-zomen (or: zoymen), turkey seed--and
you can take "seed" in whatever sense you like." seems less likely.

You need to give the real sense of how she said it.

"Do you want me to make you a sandwich?"
"No."
"Do you want just some corned beef on a plate with a little cole slaw"
"No thanks."
"Do you want some ice cream?"
"No."
(frustrated and sarcastic) "Do you want kakabetchke mit hindigzoomen?"
posted by SamFrancisco at 9:36 AM on February 6


Was she the sort who took it as a rejection of her love if one didn't want the food she offered?
posted by brujita at 2:25 AM on February 8


Oh yeah, for sure she did.
posted by SamFrancisco at 8:02 PM on February 9


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