Gai kaken oifen yam!
I know. The translation comes as quite the shock, doesn’t it? Take all the time you need to collect yourself; pick your jaw up off the floor, change your shorts ... whatever you need. This can be tough.
There comes a time in every Jew’s life when we learn the true nature of what our sweet little Bubbes were really muttering to themselves all those years. I imagine the way we feel as a result of this revelation is similar to the way gentile children feel when they find out …
… there’s no Santa Claus. (Just so you know, we Jewish kids were told early on, as a kind of consolation I imagine, that the “jolly old elf” was a fabrication. And, yes, we subsequently enjoyed a quiet and knowing sense of superiority for most of elementary school.) Yiddish expressions, especially Yiddish curses, insults, and the like, are souped-up-turbo-Tim-The-Toolman-Taylor versions of those which reasonable people would consider more than sufficiently invective. However, as colorful as “Go shit in the ocean!” is, it seems unusually tame in comparison to its contemporaries. Accustomed as we are to having our expressions considered extreme, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory here: smack dab in between the G-rated “Go fly a kite!” and the R-rated “Go f--k yourself!” The truth is, its lack of crude language notwithstanding, our seemingly-tame Yiddish taunt has been dangerously underrated.
Let’s delve in, shall we?
To begin with, the aforementioned G-rated “Go fly a kite!” is obviously absurd in that it’s essentially wishing for the target to enjoy a lovely day at the park. Useless! Couldn’t we at least throw some gory details into the mix? Is there thunder and lightning in the forecast? Or maybe a flock of pigeons is about to pass overhead after enjoying a complimentary nosh out of the local Mexican restaurant’s dumpster? (When it comes to vituperation, we Jews will choose specificity over brevity every time.)
Now we’ll look at the Big Macher: the R-rated “Go f--k yourself!” I know modern society has come to embrace this expression and use it ad nauseum, but like the word “awesome” I believe we’ve travelled a great distance from its original meaning. Let’s look at it with fresh eyes. Is it not just—plain—ludicrous? How is one even expected to accomplish such a feat? If the target took just a minute to really think about what was being proposed, would they not be more perplexed than offended? See? Another unmitigated failure!
Finally, let’s examine the supposed PG-rated Yiddish expression: “Go shit in the ocean!” When given proper consideration, the Yiddish version reveals its subtle genius and signature sting. Take a moment to imagine how truly humiliating and difficult a prospect it would be to fulfill this directive. I mean, even if you could find a completely deserted beach you’d never escape the beady eyes of the gulls, circling silently overhead in judgment. And what about the relentless thrashing of the waves, unstable sand, and all that slimy seaweed swishing against your legs (not to mention your unmentionables)?! Eeek! How could you possibly relax enough to let nature take its course?! You wouldn’t wish that on your worst enemy, would you?
Or, maybe next time you will … ?
Marlene and Abe are sharing a blanket and a thermos of Ovaltine in the bleachers at their grandson, Isaac’s, tee-ball game. …
Marlene: “Is that him??”
Abe: “Mar! For the hundredth time, no! His team’s still in the outfield.”
Marlene: “I dunno how you can tell who’s who with all those fakakta helmets. They’re huge! He’s got such a little neck! They shouldn’t make them wear such groisser helmets!”
Abe: “You want he gets a concussion instead?”
Marlene: “Abraham! Tuh! Tuh! G-d forbid! ... Ooo, what’s happening? They’re all running every which way!”
Abe: “That means we’re up, Mar! Isaac’s going to get a chance at bat!”
Marlene: “Ohhh! I’m so nervous for him! He should really be wearing a sweater, it’s freezing out here. I haven’t felt my tuchus in ages!”
Abe: [smirking and winking] “That makes two of us!”
Marlene: “Abe! Don’t be crude—the children!”
Abe: “Mar! That’s him!!! Our Isaac is up!!”
Marlene: “Oh, I can’t look! Tell me what happens!”
On his second swing, Isaac connects with the ball and sends it rolling lazily towards the first baseman who’s more interested in digging in his nose than fielding the oncoming grounder. After some instructive shouts from the coach and the players’ parents, the first baseman manages to get both himself and the ball back to the base before Isaac. The ump makes the “out” call, which was apparently obvious to everyone including Isaac, who trots happily back to the dugout unfazed, except Marlene who’s been watching the whole time through parted fingers. Surprising Abe, Marlene springs to her feet and shouts …
Marlene: “Hey you! Umpire man! Gai kaken oifen yam!”
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