Monday, July 07, 2008

"It isn't tzinius": A "frumspeak" mystery

Here's a pronunciation guide, for "latecomers" like me: "Tsnee-us," or, for us Sefardi-Hebrew speakers, "tsnee-ut," with the "u," in either version, pronounced like, well, "you."

I can't even count how many times I've seen that phrase since I started reading Orthodox blogs.

This is pure "frumspeak," a dialect in common usage among yeshiva students and graduates. It is not standard Hebrew.

Why does it seem never to occur to users of that phrase, most of whom speak Hebrew far more fluently than I do, that "It's not tsnuis" is grammatically incorrect? "Tsniut" is a noun meaning "modesty." If you were speaking English, would you say, "It's not modesty"?

For the record, the grammatically-correct way of saying this is, "It's not tzanuah." "Tzanuah" is an adjective meaning "modest."

Please pardon this B.A. in French for tossing in her two cents.


Blogger PsychoToddler said...

We'll take it as a given that frummies can't speak Hebrew correctly (yes, I'll sadly include my own offspring here--"Ivris" isn't given much priority in their schools).

Anyway, when they say "it's not tznius", what they really mean to say is "it's not tznius-dik" or "it's not modesty-like."

If that's any better.

Mon Jul 07, 02:40:00 PM 2008  
Blogger SuperRaizy said...

Grammar is irrelevant in the world of frumspeak. Think of it as a shorthand that insiders use, similar to how family members speak to each other when no on else is around: "Honey, wheredya put the blue thing?" "It's next to the... remember?" "Oh, yeah."
In some circles, "tznius" is a very frequently used word (when learning, teaching, reprimanding children or each other) and so it's taken on a life of its own.
It may be technically incorrect to use it that way, but it doesn't sound odd to frummies.

Mon Jul 07, 02:41:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frumspeak or Yeshivish are about as proper languages as Spanglish or "Ghetto English, AKA Ebonics." Now, the improper speech patters won't stop the usage of Yeshivish to speak racial slurs about both Hispanic or Black Americas, it just adds to the irony.

From what I've seen of most of the frummies (and even MO offspring), secular subjects aren't the priority, Hebrew isn't the priority, and Halacha isn't the priority... about the only thing that appears to be a priority is Tzinut, and even then only for women and only applying to clothing, not attire.

Mon Jul 07, 03:27:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

We call it Heeblish. It's hard to get sometimes because of the grammatical errors with it...but there you have it.

Mon Jul 07, 03:40:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Tziniut is modern Hebrew. Sephardic Hebrew would pronounce it "tziniuth".

(just the two cents from the sephardi litvak :P )

Mon Jul 07, 04:19:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sorry Mark/PT, "it's not modesty-like" isn't English, either. Nu, what's wrong with the good old-fashioned word "modest"? Tznius-dik, on the other hand, might actually be legitimate Yiddish.

"it doesn't sound odd to frummies." That's the problem, SuperRaizy--At least a person should *know* when they're not being grammatically correct.

Alex, if the list of subjects considered low-priority in the Orthodox community is really as extensive as you say it is, I would be quite upset. (Did you mean that women are taught tzniut with regard to clothing only, not to attitudes?)

Z, Heeblish, not to mention the seemingly endless list of initials and acronyms used in the Orthodox community, can really make it rather challenging for us non-Orthos to understand what our Orthodox brethren are talking about. RYBS (Rabbi Yosef Ber Soleveichik?), RHS (Rabbi Hershel Schacter, maybe?), TUM (Torah u'Mada), TIDE (not the detergent--Torah im Derech Eretz)--the list goes on and on.

RivkaYael, while it's true that tzniut is Modern Hebrew, I still think that it's a noun, no matter what version of Hebrew one speaks. Also, unless I'm mistaken, the "th" pronounication for what Ashkenazim would call a "sav" is used by B'nai Edot haMizrach/Children of the Lands of the East/Middle Eastern "Sefardim" (such as Syrian Jews), but not by Western Sefardim (such as Sefardim who ended up in England or the Netherlands). Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Mon Jul 07, 04:40:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Some Sefardim/Mizrahhim use "th" for soft ת, others do not. In my experience, only Yemenites do... i've never actually heard it from a Sefardi or Mizrahhi person.

And there's nothing wrong with Yeshivish, Ebonics, Spanglish, or any other living spoken language.

Tznius in Judeo-English can be used as an adjective, even though it's a noun in Hebrew. Big whoop. :-P

Mon Jul 07, 05:03:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Steg, I've heard of Heeblish, Hebrish, Yeshivish, and Frumspeak, but Judeo-English is a new one. Oh, well, why not?

So you're of the opinion that using "tznius" as a noun is okay in Judeo-English. Sigh. I'm fighting as much of a losing battle in Hebrew (or whatever) as I usually do in English. Don't get me started on what I call "the double verb": Any poor soul who uses the phrase "the problem is *is* that . . . " is guaranteed to get such a lecture . . . (There's absolutely no good reason to say the word "is" twice in a row, ever!)

Mon Jul 07, 05:19:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although while slightly off-topic, the expression the Conservative use, at least at one east coast Camp Ramah, is "lo matim", translated as "not appropriate". This generally refers to garments several of my daughter's friends wear. Of course, if my daughter is wearing such garments, she must be smart enough to avoid the camp photographer's daily rounds when she is so attired.

Mon Jul 07, 07:13:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Steve, good luck with that. Having an only child who's male does have its advantages--I've never had to worry about my kid wearing bottoms that were too high and/or tops that were too low. (The major disadvantage of having an only child who's male, of course, is that since, according to halachah/Jewish religious law, a child's religion is determined by the religion of the mother, we have only a 50/50 chance of having Jewish grandchildren.)

Mon Jul 07, 08:16:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Shira: Was not arguing with you about adjective/verb. That I certainly agree with you.

Steg/Shira: Western Sephardim do use it (in my acquaintance). I've only heard Temani people pronounce the 'th' in spoken language, but my Sephardi-identifying acquaintances generally transliterate differentiating the taf from the thaf. Or even the daled and the dhaled (or the zzzaled). I can't recall if the shelichei tzibbur in Sephardic batei knesset do it though.

Now now, Judeo English in that sense is just too Ashkenazi centric...

Tue Jul 08, 01:46:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the pronunciation clarification, RivkaYael.

"Judeo English in that sense is just too Ashkenazi centric"

Right you are, since "Yeshivish," "frumspeak (Ashkenazi-Orthodox-speak)," or whatever you want to call it is based on Ashkenazi Hebrew or Yiddish, neither of which is spoken by Sefardim or B'nei Edot haMizrach. Sefardim and B'nei Edot haMizrach use Sefardi or Mizrachi/Eastern pronunciations of Hebrew. The traditional folk language of Sefardim is Ladino; the traditional folk language of many B'nei Edot HaMizrach is Arabic. It might be more accurate to use the term Frumspeak, a half-Yiddish, half-English word, which would clearly indicate that one is speaking of Ashkenazi Jews only. The use of the term Judeo English as a synonym for Frumspeak might tend to indicate that all English-speaking Jews are Ashkenazim. That's both inaccurate and exclusionary, and a no-no on both counts.

Tue Jul 08, 08:10:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

Personally I prefer Authentic Frontier Gibberish.

Tue Jul 08, 05:33:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Another wiseguy heard from. :)

Tue Jul 08, 05:50:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Judeo-English is the general scientific term for Jewish varieties of English.

Wed Jul 09, 11:26:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i.e., NYC/NJ Syrian Jewish Vernacular is a form of Judeo-English just as much as Yeshivish is.

Wed Jul 09, 11:27:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Varieties" is the operative word. There are considerable differences between Yiddish-and-Ashkenazi-Hebrew-influenced "Frumspeak," Ladino-English, and Judeo-Arabic-English.

Thu Jul 10, 12:25:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually you guys are wrong, Sephardim would say

Sseni'ut(h) with the "tzadi" being like Arabic Ssad and not swalowing up the vocal Sheva in the word

Tue Dec 23, 08:30:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

thanx 4 the info. i'll have 2 take your word 4 it, since i don't know arabic.

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists (see dec 12, 2008 post). c u sometime after today's surgery on right wrist

Tue Dec 23, 09:12:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

re comment #1, recently read article in cj magazine (conservative judaism) claiming that 1 distinction between schechter conserv day schools & both reform & ortho day schools is emphasis on hebrew fluency. wonder how much truth there is 2 that assertion

may b true in right-wing frum schools that r ambivalent about israel or anti-zionist. c my Monday, December 10, 2007
Hebrew and politics post. (sorry, can't create links in comments with 2 wrists in casts)

Tue Dec 23, 09:28:00 AM 2008  
Blogger RabbiDude said...

what is Heeblish?

Sun Feb 05, 08:35:00 AM 2012  
Anonymous RabbiDude said...

to Shira Salamone, there is a place where it's okay to use "is is", and what is Heblish?

Sun Feb 05, 08:39:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

RabbiD, "Heblish," or "Heeblish," is a combination of Hebrew and English that might also contain words from other languages spoken by Jews in either a religious or a folk context, such as Aramaic, Yiddish, Ladino and/or Arabic.

Okay, I'll grant you that I have encountered situations in which it's appropriate to say "is" twice in a row, but that's a fairly rare occurrence.

Tue Feb 07, 11:37:00 PM 2012  

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