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More Yiddish, and Remembering Conrad Duberstein

posted by Buce

Judge Conrad Duberstein died back in 2005 at the age of 90, having long since established himself as the grand old man of the bankruptcy bench. I first met him when he was about 70. The best way to capture the experience is to say that he is about the only garrulous old coot that my wife ever found charming—he delighted her as he delighted so many people, and now that I am 70, I try to profit from his example.

Responding to my earlier post, Alan Halperin has favored me with a copy of a one-page typescript where Judge Duberstein tried to introduce the neophytes to the subtleties of the alte language. It's a fascinating read, not least because it suggests just how much of what we once thought of as specialized trade-talk has passed into common speech. Does Nudge count as Yiddish any more (if ever it did?—what about noodge?). Maven (Mayven?)—it doesn't even sound exotic, does it? Others are perhaps borderline: Speakers know these terms are "special," somehow, even if they are a little hazy on just how. I would include Chutzpah, Kvetch,  Megillah,, Nebbish (but perhaps mainstreamed by the late Herb Gardner, whose father, if I remember right, ran a tavern on Canal Street), Nudnick, Schlemiehl, and Shtick—oh, and nu, as in so, nu? And I confess I never realized cackamaymee (many alternate spellings) was Yiddish at all; evidently it is.

Tzimmes which Judge Duberstein defines as "a creditors' meeting," probably does belong on the bankruptcy list, narrowly defined. I would have defined it more generally as "hullabaloo," (which, I think, is not Yiddish). But Google it and you find that most of the hits trace it to its beginnings as a "vegetable stew"—a pretty good suggestion that all these terms arise in a rich cultural stew, belonging as much to Isaac Bashevis Singer, or Cynthia Ozick, or Bernard Malamud (or, perhaps best, the Contract with God graphics of Will Eisner) as it does to bankruptcy. Still, it's a world of which Judge Duberstein was a living monument and I am grateful to Alan for renewing the memory.

I'll try to post Judge D's paper here (it's a one-page Adobe file) but I'm not sure I know how.  Anyway, this may be the link:

Download yiddish_for_bankruptcy_lawyers.pdf


It's always a pleasure to remember the Judge's good sense of humor and how he touched our lives...Long Live His Memory....BJ Roberts

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