So Nu? Who Are You?

So Nu? Who Are You?

Dear English-B Interpreter Friends,

(First, my letter to you to using words from Post #17)

Late last semester, I had the opportunity to interpret a lecturer who spoke the language of my childhood, which is not English. Well, not exactly. Or not so narrowly. I grew up speaking an English generously peppered with words from two other languages (Yiddish and Hebrew), patently molded by the cultural mindset of American Jews, and uttered with the telltale lilt of an Ashkenazi Jewish community now well-established in metropolitan pockets mostly along the coastal United States. It has a beauty, a timbre and a doleful humor all its own.

I hear this language infrequently now, the attenuated strains of a once-ubiquitous cant. Like most of my assimilated generation, I have moved off (our unofficial sections in big cities), moved on, moved away. And with the moving, I – we – have doggedly doffed the verbal garb of parents and grandparents. (The irony has not escaped me that one even older trait of this culture-cum-language-cum-religion, the endless wandering since Biblical times, remains so ingrained as to have sardonically trumped the attempts of all of us less religiously observant to neutralize our childhood Northeast-US-Ashkenazi-Jewish-sons-and-grandsons-of-immigrants-and-of-Holocaust-survivors English.)

I wax mildly wistful now when I hear it, on those exceedingly rare occasions I do: when I meander in one or another Jewish enclave and listen in on conversations, or stick around for a shala shudis and hear fellow Jews expound on the weekly Torah portion, sometimes at weddings and sadly at funerals too. What once seemed an irritating revelation of geography, upbringing, social class and culture is now something I appreciate for the intimate understanding, and thus (noisy) comfort, it  affords. And I see, years later, in an interpreting booth 7,700 kilometers from my hometown, that to some extent what framed my childhood still frames my adulthood.

Happy words,

*** A short article by Maria Popova to contemplate who we truly are and how our personalities change over time, with five words (in befitting context) to bring into the booth:<


— from “What Is Character? Debunking the Myth of Fixed Personality

One thought on “So Nu? Who Are You?

  1. rodrigo bauler says:

    wonderfully written! Greetings from Harlem !

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