Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The S-Word


I never steer way from controversy here at roundseventeen. Maybe I'm too old to worry about the consequences. I like to think it stems from my belief that frank, honest discussion is the best way to get past our differences.  The truth probably lays somewhere in between.

If I find something funny I'm going to write about it.

Yesterday, I went on about a word not often heard these days, "Kike". Today I'm reaching back in time. And in space. To Jerome Ave. in the South Bronx. To talk about a different racial epithet. One that was sadly used way too often by my immigrant grandparents.

The word is Schvartze.

According to the urban dictionary, it is nowhere near as derogatory as the N-word and therefore I don't have to go all third grade on you and say, the s-word. Plus, if you didn't grow up within earshot of Yiddish, you'd have no idea what I was talking about.

The literal translation of the word schvartze is black.

General Schwarzkopf's name literally means black head. I don't know if this stems from a family problem with acne, I just know that's what his name means. Arnold Schvarzenegger is a compound of two German words, schvartz meaning black and...oh, let's just leave it at that.

I'm happy to say that my grandparents unenlightened use of racial epithets stopped at 174th Street and Walton Ave. My parents understood the transitive law of bigotry. That people who see and treat African Americans, or any other ethnicity, with less respect and understanding will easily transpose those feelings toward Jews.

And so words like schvartze and the n-word were never used in my house.

If I could fiddle with the time and space continuum one more time, I'd love to bring back my grandfather just to hear his thoughts on our black president.

Chances are he'd blurt out something like, "the President is a Chocolate?"

Oy.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

All I hear.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYVtGqnjrgs

geo said...

Until I was 16 I thought Schvartze was Yiddish for cleaning woman.