May 25, 2024
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May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In last week’s Jewish Link, Mordechai Schmutter, a talented and prolific writer and the author of “The World According to Schmutter,” began his column with the following statement:

“As frequent readers of my columns may have figured, I don’t really speak a lot of Yiddish. Or at least I try not to use it as a crutch in my writing. Like there are some humor writers out there—particularly in the general public—that think that if you pepper in an “Oy vey!” here and there, it’s just as funny as an actual punch line. Oy vey. Am I right? Pause for laughter.”

Mr. Schmutter did not expressly direct his statement at this “Oy Vey!” column but the obvious implications, even if accidental, warrant a response.

First, Mr. Schmutter may have proven something that most people highly doubt: someone out there actually has read or even skimmed this “Oy Vey!” column. If Mr. Schmutter has done either, then perhaps he lost a bet, was forced under duress or needed some newspaper to wrap his Pesach dishes. Regardless of the circumstance, it is cause for celebration. If, however, Mr. Schmutter does not even know that this “Oy Vey!” column exists, then we need to cancel the parade as well as the F-16 flyover. Either way, just for mentioning the phrase “Oy Vey!,” we here at Oy Vey! headquarters present Mr. Schmutter with a one-year subscription to this “Oy Vey!” column free of charge. (Note: We usually have to pay people to read this “Oy Vey” column so, admittedly, giving away a subscription for free actually improves our bottom line.)

Second, if Mr. Schmutter classifies this “Oy Vey!” column as “humor” writing, then that too would be a first. While this “Oy Vey!” column aspires to be humorous, the reviews from critics have described this column as “not entirely unreadable,” “not the biggest waste of time,” and “not a bad cure for insomnia.” And those were the best reviews. The worst reviews were in Yiddish and included phrases like (i) “Du farkirtst mir di yorn!” (Translation: “You’ll be the death of me!”), (ii) “Lign in drerd un bakn beygl!” (Translation: “May you lie in the ground and bake bagels!”) and (iii) “Nem Zich a vaneh!” (Translation: “Go jump in the lake!”).

Third, in this “Oy Vey!” column, Yiddish is not used “as a crutch.” It is used as a wheelchair, the electric kind with all of the bells and whistles. This “Oy Vey!” column simply could not function properly without a heavy dose of Yiddish whenever possible. In fact, if permitted, this entire column would be in Yiddish with only a few English phrases—like “Oh my!” and “Good grief!”—sprinkled in for effect. Everyone should take some comfort in knowing that this “Oy Vey!” column could have featured even more Yiddish. For example, when deciding what to name this column, the runner-up was “Oy Vey Izmir!” It took five focus groups, three mock juries and some Herculean self-editing to drop the “Izmir.”

Fourth, this column does not “pepper in an ‘Oy Vey!’ here and there.” In this column, gallons of “Oy Vey!” are liberally and unapologetically poured like salad dressing until we are drowning in it. We believe that an “Oy Vey!” is like vacation, friends and mazel: the more, the better. That said, for health reasons, we probably should switch to a low-fat, sugar-free “Oy Vey!” or we might wind up on a reality t.v. show called “My 600-pound Oy Vey!.” We also would consider a vegan version like the Impossible Oy Vey! or Beyond Oy Vey!, especially if “Oy Vey!” usage is somehow contributing to global warming.

Fifth, writing an “actual punch line” is extremely overrated. It takes time and effort that could otherwise be spent on more fulfilling pursuits such as (i) auditioning for a new talent show for the super sedentary called “American Idle” (“My name is Atzela and I will be singing ‘Lazy for You’”), (ii) writing Tu B’Shevat-themed song parodies (e.g., Spruce Bringsteen’s “Dancing in the Bark”) and (iii) training for hamantaschen eating contests (something any Mordechai should surely appreciate).

Final thought: If you receive a horrible Chanukah gift, you should exclaim: “Toy Vey!” If you eat an awful plate of tofu, you should scream: “Soy Vey!” But, if you cannot open your safe, then you should yell: “Oy Ge-vault!”

All together now: Oy Vey!


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