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A Goy Who Speaks YiddishChristians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany$
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Aya Elyada

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804781930

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804781930.001.0001

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Blasphemy, Curses, and Insults

Blasphemy, Curses, and Insults

Yiddish and the Jews' “Hidden Transcript”

(p.48) Three Blasphemy, Curses, and Insults
A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish
Stanford University Press

Christians viewed Yiddish as the private and secret language of the Jews, which explains their desire to learn it and Yiddish literature for anti-Jewish propaganda and missionary purposes. From a sociological standpoint, privacy and secrecy both imply boundaries and an act of denying access to others. Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, many authors in early modern Europe produced numerous works on Jews and Judaism that promised to reveal the secret and subversive aspects of Judaism to their readers. Popular Yiddish texts, including those originally written in the Yiddish language, contained anti-Christian expressions. Other authors, particularly theologians and Hebraists, denounced the Yiddish biblical translations and prayer books for alleged blasphemy and anti-Christian polemics. In addition to exploring Yiddish literature, Christian authors also tried to penetrate the Yiddish oral culture. Jewish anti-Christian propaganda may be divided into two categories. The first consists of curses, insults, and other forms of verbal aggression; and the second category encompasses what Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich calls lehavdl loshn, or differentiation language.

Keywords:   Yiddish language, Yiddish literature, Christians, Jews, privacy, secrecy, blasphemy, insults, curses, anti-Christian polemics

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