HyC Adventures
The Poetics of Perception
Chaim Yankel

 

 

 

 

Chaim Yankel

 

In his splendid book, The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten gives two definitions of the Yiddish term Chaim Yankel:

 

1. A nonentity, a nobody, any “poor Joe.”

2. A colloquial, somewhat condescending way of addressing a Jew whose name you do not know—just as “Joe” or “Mac” is sometimes used in English.

 

He then illustrates it with the following joke:

 

A Chaim Yankel, visiting a cemetery, beheld a magnificent marble mausoleum, on the portal of which was incised: ROTHSCHILD.

 

“Ai-ai-ai!” exclaimed the Chaim Yankel. “Now that’s what I call living!”

 

 

Chaim Yankel is pronounced as one word, Khym-yonk-’l (not “chime,” but with a throat-clearing kh sound); rhymes with “dime jonquil.”

 

This is on pages 66-67 of my paperback edition.

 

 

 

HyC

 

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