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December 22, 1989 - Image 42

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


The Universal Need
For Descriptive 'Oy'

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Ask for Details

Little Bob,

my brother, is an architect.
With style. Which is why I
steered him to Newton
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his house. We compromised . .
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fabric for him. He paid.
Boy, does he have style.

Newton Furniture

Livonia, Novi, Ann Arbor, Sterling Hts.


Special to The Jewish News


n the glossary of A
Treasury of Jewish Folk-
lore; edited by Nathan
Ausubel, "oy" is defined as
the Yiddish exclamation that
denotes pain, astonishment,
or rapture.
I wondered in my research
if the word "oh" might in
some way be related. The
Random House Dictionary
says: oh 1. used as an expres-
sion of surprise, pain, disap-
probation, etc. The definition
continued with familiar stuff
which I haven't entered here,
because I was forced to look
up the word disapprobation.
Finding it to mean disap-
proval, condemnation, etc., I
was put off by its harshness
and stopped all further
research of "oh."
I have determined "oy" to
be a kinder, gentler word.
"Oh," the English cousin, is
too self-righteous and pallid.
"Oy" is full of promise: rich,
musical, mysterious, poetic,
and expensive. It conjures up
memories of chicken soup
replete with chicken feet and
tiny yellow eggs, bubbies,
aunts, cigar smoking uncles,
bratty cousins, other times
and other places — a con-
tinuum as oval as the
precious little word itself.
"Oy" is intangible. Its
meaning exists only in con-
nection with something else
such as the rise and fall of a
voice or body language — be
it subtle as a whisper or as
fleeting as the arch of an
eyebrow or the rolling of the
Chameleon-like, "oy" slips
through emotion and physical
feelings, gathering its color
and shading: so ethereal it
seems only nuance, at the

same time, so real it can seed
the air with feeling.
Take "oy" as an expression
of pain. A stacatto oy-oy-oy in-
dicates intermittent pain.
Talk about virtuosity!
One expressive "oy" is the
equivalent of lines and lines
of dialogue, but that never
stopped such contemporary
Jewish American authors as
Phillip Roth, Saul Bellow,
Bernard Malamud, Woody
Allen, and the like from
writing books whose contents
if boiled down would be in
essence --. You've got it!
The Jewish holy scriptures
are filled with characters who
suffered more than their
share of "oys." Job comes to
mind with good reason. Life
pursuing him like a swarm of
angry bees, very often, he
must have cried, "Oy, how
much can a person take?"
Jonah swallowed up in his
dismaying situation surely
shouted, "Oy, talk about
alone in the dark!", and Noah
on the 39th day probably
lamented, "Oy, enough rain
Who am I to criticize
Shakespeare? But I really
believe he could have greatly
improved Hamlet by allowing
the Dane in his famous solilo-
quy this slight enrichment:
"lb be or not to be, oy, now
that's a question!" Everyone
could identify with that. -
So you see, "oy" is no mere
utterance. It is a fine kosher
whine: bittersweet, full-
bodied, profound, and yet
light. It is used to comfort the
bruised psyche and restore it
to health.
We must never let this word
slide into obsolescence for it
is a unique Jewish treasure,
a common bond to be passed
from one generation to
another. It is a thing of
coy: , ❑


'Jewish Agency Lacks
Budget For Mass Aliyah'

Jerusalem (JPFS) — The
Jewish Agency won't be able
to raise enough money to
handle the absorption of
50,000 Soviet immigrants
next year, and should turn
over all absorption activities
to the government, Agency
treasurer Meir Shitreet said
last week.
"No matter what alter-
natives we consider,"
Shitreet said at a meeting of

returning aliyah emissaries
in Tel Aviv, "we will be
short about $150 million,
and won't be able to pay our
part of the absorption of the
50,000 Soviet Jews expected
next year."
The only reasonable solu-
tion, he maintained, would
be to carry out the agree-
ment to transfer absorption
services to the government.
"We will have to shove the





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