Knowing my interest in plants, Sally Placksin, the esteemed writer and host of the long-running radio show “What’s the Word?” (www.mla.org/radio) passed along the delightful news that there is a Yiddish-English dictionary of plant names. It was compiled by Yiddish linguist Mordkhe Schaechter and published by YIVO Institute for Jewish research (www.yivoinstitute.org).
On the YIVO site, I came upon the following in a description of the book: …‘potato’ is regionally known as búlbe, búlve, bílve, kartófl(ye), kartóplye (!), érdepl, ekhpl, ríblekh, barbúlyes, zhémikes, mandebérkes, bánderkes, krumpírn, etc. One town in Galicia, Sanok, at a crossroads of languages and cultures, boasts five different synonyms for ‘potato; such examples display the richness of the Yiddish language and its regional diversity.”
Reading the description, I became very nostalgic about my gram, who was born in this part of the world and loved potatoes. How well I remember her delicious potato latkes, but given her own way, I think she would have been very happy to eat plain boiled potatoes with a little sour cream every day of her life.
Had I known about the five different synonyms for potato when she was alive, I would have asked her all about the differences. She had a great memory about the early days and loved to tell stories.