Wordsmith.Org: The Magic of Words: The Magic of Words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 113

February 15, 2004

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Jon Lasser (jonATlasser.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--schlock

In the wise words of Wordsmith:

Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, is reported to have said, "I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse." One wonders how he would have completed, "and Yiddish to..."
To his mother-in-law, of course!

From: David W. Tamkin (dattierATpanix.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--schlock

"... and Yiddish to my conscience," of course.

Whether that means he'd speak Yiddish to confess his true emotions or to defend his rationalizations is just the kind of ambiguity needed to finish that sentence.

From: Larry Goldman (lgoldmanATcsupomona.edu)
Subject: Schlock

Oy Vay! Will you get comments this week! Like maybe definitions: Oyster--a person who uses a lot of Yiddish expressions (now, with your help).

Or maybe stories like the dyslexic rabbi out here in California who goes around saying "Yo!"

Okay, sorry for this bunch of schlock.

From: Andrew Pressburger(andrew.pressburgerATprimus.ca)
Subject: Re: shlock

Celebrity boxing indeed is nothing new. There is, for example, the famous bout between Hemingway and his Canadian fellow pugilist and "lost generation" expat Morley Callaghan during That Summer in Paris (the title of one of Callaghan's books), celebrated in a TV mini-series a year ago by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

According to legend, the encounter was refereed by none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald, all three of them participating in this more than serious prank as a publicity gimmick, presumed to result in increased sales of their books. Hemingway, it is said, never forgave Morley for flooring him with a left hook (or some such), and the two friends gradually grew apart from then on.

From: Dennis Carr (denniscATltdgi.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nudnik

Phudnik: a nudnik with a PhD.

From: Teri Rosen (teri.rosenAThunter.cuny.edu)
Subject: Yiddishisms

Great choice of Yiddish words this week. As to "nudnick," I remember having learned its meaning, along with the meaning of two other, related Yiddish words, from the following explanation:

A "schlemiel" is the guy most likely to spill the wine at dinner.
A "schlemazel" is the guy most likely to have the wine spilled on him.
And the "nudnick" is the guy most likely to ask (in a nasal voice), "Gee, what kind of wine was that anyhow?"

From: Gloria Ginzach (ginzachATyahoo.com)
Subject: nudnik

In Israel, "nudnik" is also the term used for the snooze button on the alarm clock.

From: Eleanor Tillman (nunnaATcharter.net)
Subject: A poem for you!

I'm happy to know we are learning Yiddish words this week. My favorite town in all the world, Savannah, GA, is just a short distance from where I live. There is an old saying about Savannah: "The Irish run it, the Jews own it, and the Protestants enjoy it!" I have so many wonderful Jewish friends over there and I've always envied their keen sense of humor, their amazing capacity to view life with a "resigned acceptance", often with an amusing twist. Here's a poem you might like:

Eleven O'clock Mass

The storm is howling out of doors,
The drifts are piling high,
And I can see pedestrians
As they go trudging by.
The faces of my Irish friends
Come dimly through the glass.
They brave the blizzard for the sake
Of worshipping at Mass.
I watch a while, then back to bed,
Curled up so safe and sound
While they must tramp the icy streets
On sacred duty bound.
I envy them their strength of heart,
The faith that they renew,
But on a snowy Sunday morn,
It's great to be a Jew.

Don't you just love America?!?


From: Yosef Bar-On (jobaronATgalon.org.il)
Subject: About Yiddishisms

Here's a little story for you, somewhat about Yiddishisms.

I immigrated to Israel over 50 years ago, in 1950 and settled on a kibbutz, a collective settlement. Israel then was a small struggling state with an extremely low standard of living, rationing of basic foods etc. I remember the first day at work on the kibbutz. I was assigned to help a building worker. The work was hard and when we took a break, he asked me where I came from and why I had come. Americans were rare there in those days. I explained that I believed in Socialism and in Zionism and I was rather proud of the fact that I was able to explain my rather involved political philosophy in Yiddish which was, after all, a second language for me. He looked at me, this veteran of the concentration camps and, shaking his head, asked me, " Hust shoyn ge'essen Lebeniah?"

That stopped me short. Lebeniah was a sort of low-grade yoghurt made from Lend-Lease skimmed milk originally for the Marshal Plan. The milch cows from which the stuff was made had probably been slaughtered at least ten years before. It tasted like chalk but was a major source of protein in those days. Awful stuff. What he was saying was, who cares a fig about politics or philosophy or ideology - Living is what matters.

From: Dan Brook (brookATcalifornia.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kvell

Truthfully, I've been kvelling all week. Us Jews are so few in number and my mamaluschen (family's language, literally mother tongue) is spoken by even fewer of us, yet Yiddish spices up the English language and even merits a week on the wonderful A Word A Day. Thanks for making this Yiddishe yingele (Jewish little boy) feel proud!

From: Robert (robsdadATexecpc.com)
Subject: drafter

In the community of those who draft for a living and hire such individuals, the term has been in common usage for several years. Some have substituted the word "draftsperson" for "draftsman", but most would rather use the shorter, equally descriptive word.

In the spirit of the entire Wordsmith we should be readily embracing new meanings for old words, after all it is one of the ways that living languages keep alive.

From: Rip Green (ripATripg.net)
Subject: Re: Stone Wine - the results are in

Here is the summary of answers received from the linguaphlies in response to my question in last week's AWADmail: What is stone wine in the well-known Civil War song, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"?

Stone Soup24
Various brands of Ginger Wine such as Stone's Green Ginger Wine and Rufus Stone Wine; Stone Old Guard20
Made from stone fruits such as peaches, apricots & plums 19
Wine that is fermented or stored in stoneware pottery jugs, crocks, bottles, cups or goblets. 18
From the German term "steinwein," a Franken wine 9
Lyrics are "stone blind," "strong wine", or a mondegreen9
Dropping hot stones into the drinking vessel. Another term for mulled wine. 7
Stone press or a mill stone instead of a wine press. 6
Wine stone aka tartar, cream of tartar. 5
Wine stored in stone cellars or stone vaults. 5
The term "getting stoned" 4
From an Italian term meaning a wine from grapes grown on rocky soil with a low yield. 3
An earlier term for moonshine or home brew. 4
Wine made from fruit stones (pits), or grape seeds. 3
Gravestone wine (whatever that is) 2
Total suggestions, suppositions, guesses, conjecture, etc. 138
Requests for lyrics to WJCMH, including stone wine. 24

Some sample emails:

Stone wine, stone soup: These two phrases probably refer to cold water and hot water. Imagination makes them taste better.
-Charles Hendricksen (veritasATu.washington.edu)

Perhaps the reference is to Stone's Ginger Wine? There is a book with the title "Stone's Ginger Wine: Fortunes of a Family Firm 1740-1990" by David Wainwright that describes the history of the product.
-Thomas M. Menzies (elite14ATsonic.net)

Some wines from the ancient Franconian provinces of Germany, now parts of the new Lands of Bavaria, Hesse and Baden-Württemberg used to be called "stone wines" after their original German name "Steinwein", contained in the "Bocksbeutel" stoneware bottles they came in.
-Dieter Simon (dieterwsimonATlineone.net)

A long shot: Is it anything to do, perhaps, with wine stored in stone jars? OED: "1928 Daily Express 5 June 4 There are few [objects] which exercise a stronger fascination over collectors than old stone wine jugs known as tiger-ware."
-Nathan (nathanATnr-ginsbury.com)

An online etymological dictionary says the following about "stone wine:" This is kinda like Dwight Yoakam having pickles in his head. What you're hearing as "stone wine" is actually "stone blind"...the earliest use of "stone" as an intensifier that I can call to mind. Probably an Irish usage since that was the song's origin.
Nancy Peppin (npeppinATworldnet.att.net)

Here in Australia we have a drink called "Stone's Green Ginger Wine", and I understand it was originally made in stone jars. Perhaps "stone wine" is a drink fermented in stone vessels, similar to whisky jugs. Incidentally, Stone's Green Ginger Wine is lethal!!
-Linda Atkinson (linda.atkinsonATsouthcorp.com.au)

I went to one of my sources, Mark Spivak, co-host of a radio wine show and newsletter (uncorkedradio.com). He writes:
"Simply to hazard a guess, I would assume the term means wine made from stone fruits, i.e. peaches, plums etc. Being from the South, you know more about this than I do. In any event, we can assume that a) nobody had much time for viticulture during the Civil War, b) they didn't stop drinking and c) they used the materials at hand."
That makes perfect sense to me ? A great uncle was noted for his plum wines and peach brandies that he "put up" in Mason jars, stored under the house to keep them cool, and away from those who tattled on him to the Baptist preacher. To my knowledge, however, these were always called "medicines." Never wine, stone or otherwise.
He must have made a "passel" of it: Folks from far and wide were forever dropping by, needing a "tech" (touch) of Uncle Bud's medicine and he always had a jar to share.
-Jan Norris (jnorrisATpbpost.com)

Prior to WW II I lived in a rural area in northern New Jersey on my Grandfather"s "farm". We had an arbor on which we grew concord grapes. My Grandfather employed an old German man as caretaker and he made a good sweetish red wine every year, down in our musty cellar where he had an array of three-gallon stone jugs where the fermentation process took place. We called this stone wine. Wartime rationing ended this, of course, and old Herman passed shortly after the war, ending our wonderful wine supply.
-Charles Missing (landmanbobAThotmail.com)

Wine good enough to get stoned on, perhaps?
-Peter Stangl (stanglATstanford.edu) Could this be the origin? (Doesn't seem likely, does it?)
-Alice James (alice.jamesATap.joneslanglasalle.com)

In John 2:1-11, Jesus miraculously turns the water in six stone jars to wine. I always felt the Civil War musical reference was to the miracle of Johnny coming home.
-Ron O'Brien (robrien151ATcomcast.net)

It could just be an illustration of the difficult time, that is, people were so hard up that they had to make wine out of stone.
-Judee (jedizonATsmart.com.ph)

Stone wine is the same thing as "Adam's ale," water! Take it from someone who lives in Milledgevile, the antebellum capital of Georgia.
-Justin Skywatcher (skymanteATyahoo.com)

Perhaps the words are just a mondegreen (still the best WordoftheDay!). I didn't see them in the example song sheets given at the Library of Congress web site.
-Robb Turnage (turnage.robbATdol.gov)

These verses do not appear in the original form of that song, as written by Patrick S. Gilmore. However, there is controversy over the origins of that song, for there are two other Irish ballads with remarkably similar melodies, from which Gilmore may have (perhaps unconsciously) borrowed material. These are "Johnny Fill Up the Bowl" and "Johnny I hardly Knew Ye." At least one of these, JFUTB, exists in published form prior to Gilmore's "When Johnny Comes marching Home." Each verse of JFUTB ends with:
"An we'll all drink stone blind
Johnny fill up the bowl"
So I think "Stone Wine" is a corruption of "Stone Blind". It's easy to imagine many versions of WJCMH arising during the civil war as verses were exchanged between the three songs for humor or to lengthen it for marching.
-David Potterveld (dhpATmep.phy.anl.gov)

I don't know what "stone wine," is, but apparently "wine stone" is the tartar that builds up in a wine barrel during the aging process. Or, it could be a measurement of weight in Britain, equivalent to about 14 pounds. Fourteen pounds of wine would probably have Johnny marching with a wee bit of a weave.
-Pat Williamson (pat60655ATcs.com)

Is it possible that it refers to wine made from the stones (pits) of peaches, cherries, or plums?
-Naomi Carter (ncarterATsurfsouth.com)

I'm just guessing, but I would like to think that "stone wine" is related (in usage) to the term "stone soup". Everyone's heard the story of the family so poor that they had to eat "stone soup"? Meaning, at the end of each night's meal, another stone was added to the pot to keep the liquid level higher, so it never ran out. Perhaps stone wine is the same thing-- some old sot got the idea to keep filling up his wine flask or bottle with a stone or two to keep the level of wine ever-rising! Just a guess! No etymological sleuthing here.
-Tom McGuire (tmmATunex.berkeley.edu)

A language is a dialect that has an army and a navy. -Max Weinreich, linguist and author (1894-1969)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2023 Wordsmith