Friday, February 02, 2007
What Nu Is
This Table Talk is dedicated to the memory of the last fluent Yiddish speaker in my family, Yehudis bas Alexander Ziskind.
Yiddish of the Week
The fastest way to start sounding like a Yiddish speaker is to learn the big little word, Nu.
Nu has many meanings that are determined by context and your tone of voice. Here are some examples [inflection in brackets]:
“What’s up?” - “Nu?” (alt: “So, nu?”)
“The usual” - “Nu-nu.” [high-low]
“I know you’re waiting for an answer but I don’t have one yet” - “Nu-nu.” [high-low]
“So, tell me what happened!” - “Nuu-u?” [low-high]
“What would you expect?” - “Nu.” (tilt head, shrug shoulders and turn palms upward) [high]
“No, really, tell me!” - “Nu-nu!” [high-low]
“Whatever happened, happened, let’s change the subject!” - “Nuu!” (tilt head forward, turn palms upward)
“All right.” - “Nu-nu.” [high-low]
“Shall we go get a pizza?” - “Nu?” (with head or hand gesture in direction of exit)
“Sure, why not.” - “Nu-nu.” [high-low]
“Hurry up!” - “Nu-u!” [high-low, insistent]
“I’m coming!” - “Nu-nu!”
“No really hurry now! We’re late!” - “NU!”
“Stop!” - “NU!!”
“May I help you?” - “Nu?”
“Listen:” - “Nu:”
“So what are you waiting for?” - “So nu?”
“That’s the way it goes.” - “Nu-nu.” [quickly]
“Are you a fellow MOT (member of the tribe)?” - “Nu?”
“I am, and I appreciate your discretion.” - “Nu-nu.”
One way NOT to use “nu” is “what’s nu?”You will embarrass any Yiddish speaker who overhears you if you attempt this.
Do you remember what these words mean from last week?
anee (“uh-nee”) —
+ + + +
The last time that I wrote about global warming and terrorist nukes, some people replied with a pledge to start planting trees in order to make their lives carbon-neutral. Others said they were going to start investing some surplus income to save children.
If you have not yet got on one of these bandwagons, the time was yesterday, please get going.
If you have gotten on the bandwagon, the next step is to tell your friends about it. If you want to copy and paste from the link above, feel free – you don’t even need to credit me. Let’s just get the job done.
And if you are not planting trees to replace the tons carbon you are dumping into the biosphere (especially when you fly), your excuse is ...?
A site that calculates the number of trees you should plant per mile traveled
A site that will plant trees for you
A site where you can help starving families
These are small steps that may or not make a difference. But they will at least give you a modicum of defense if your grandchildren are being raised in an underground UV shelter and ask you, “So how did you not foresee this happening? Was it such a surprise? Why did you guys mess up the world?” With advances in medicine, the odds of you living long enough to face such a question (assuming WWIII can be avoided) are
Speaking of trees, tonight and tomorrow is Tu Bishvat - New Year of the Trees, which is celebrated in our family by going to the grocery store to create a centerpiece on the table of as many different kinds of fruits as we can find, to remind ourselves what a wonderful world we live in with such bountiful goodness. Safe to try at home! Then, ask each person, old and young, to take a non-binding pledge to make one new change next week for our planet. Even if that change is to send a copy of this Table Talk to one friend, we’re in the end-game here. Every yard counts.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year