A lyric from Fred Neil (1936-2001)’s “A Handful of Gimme.” The song is about a man who sleeps with a woman “With a handful of gimme/ A mouthful of much obliged” and then goes home feeling empty inside. The song was written in 1965, after High Holidays takes place.
Refers to a body position in which the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bowed outward. In context, Rob’s “French cuffs akimbo” means that his cuffs are unbuttoned.
SeeGay cocken affen yam, Alter!
A schtinken auffen kopf
Your hair smells from smoke. Your hair stinks.
Alevei. Hope so! It should happen to you! It should be that way!
Aliyah. During services, the Torah reading is divided up into portions, and various members of the congregation have the honor of reciting a blessing over a portion of the reading. This honor is referred to as an aliyah (literally, “ascension”).
Are you taking a schvitz in there?
Are you taking a shvitz in there?
Are you having a sauna in there?
Refers to the deliberate and systematic genocide of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after The First World War. It was characterized by the use of massacres, and the use of deportations involving forced marches under conditions designed to lead to the death of the deportees, with the total number of Armenian deaths generally held to have been between one and one-and-a-half million.
Laid out flat.
SeeA schtinken auffen kopf
Ba’al Shem Tov
Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer (1698-1760), founder of the Hasidic branch of Judaism.
Nickname for Ba’al Habayit, “head of household,” or “master of the home.”
Ban-Lon is a trademarked, multi-strand, continuous-filament synthetic yarn used in the retail clothing industry. It is artificially crimped in order to achieve greater bulk than ordinary yarns.
Literally, “son of the commandment.” According to Jewish law, a boy becomes Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13, after which he is held personally responsible for his religious obligations. Although no ceremony is needed to confer the Bar Mitzvah’s newfound rights and obligations, in modern times, a religious service, reception, and party are often held to mark the occasion.
A circus act started in 1909 that merged with the Ringling Brothers circus act. The circus continues today, and is known as “the greatest show on earth.”
Baruch Adonoy hamevorach le’olem va-ed
Barechu es Adonai hamevorach. Baruch Adonai hamevorach le’olam va-ed.
The Hebrew prayer before reading the Torah. Translates to: “Praise the One to whom our praise is due. Praised be the One to whom our praise is due, now and forever.”
Baruchu es Adonoy hamevorach
The Battle of the Bulge/Bastogne
The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 December 1945) was the last major battle the Nazis fought against the Allies and the largest, most gruesome battle American forces experienced during World War II. Hitler sent a quarter of a million troops across an 85-mile stretch of the Allied front, from southern Belgium into Luxembourg (including Bastogne, Belgium) in the dead cold of winter. Strictly known as the Ardennes Offensive, it is called “The Battle of the Bulge” because German troops were able to advance some 50 miles into the Allied lines, creating a “bulge” in the Allied defenses. The battle involved over 500,000 troops from various sides. Though the Allies won the battle, over 76,000 American soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured.
Literally, “stage.” A raised platform from which services are conducted in a Jewish synagogue. The rabbi, cantor, and other leaders of the congregation are usually seated on the bima during the service. The Bar Mitzvah will also have a place of honor in front of the congregation.
pp. 40, 90, 99
A 1940s sociologic coinage denoting the over-zealous fans – usually teenaged girls – of Frank Sinatra, the first singing teen idol. By the 1950s, fashionable adolescent girls wore poodle skirts and rolled down their socks to the ankle.
Could refer to a number of conflicts between Britain and the peoples of Southern Africa, but is probably referring to the Second Boer War (often called just the Boer War), which was characterized by a “scorched earth” military campaign by Britain and the first use of concentration camps to confine a civilian population.
Boruch atah Adonoy, elohenuh melech ha-olum ha-motzie lechum min ha-eretz
Baruch atah Atonai, eloheinuh melech ha-olam hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.
English transliteration of the hamotzi. Translates to: “Blessed art thou, oh God, king of the Universe, who hast given us bread.”
pp. 46, 67, 81, 98, 104
Lenny Bruce (1925-1966), born Leonard Alfred Schneider, was an American stand-up comedian, writer, and social critic and satirist of the 1950s and 60s known for obscene jokes.
A traditional blessing done at a certain time in a ceremony. A Bar Mitzvah would be required to say bruchas at his Bar Mitzvah service.
pp. 28, 90
Man built like an ox.
Tzimmes. A sweet carrot meal served as a side dish on Passover. Carrots are served with honey, sugar, and orange juice.
SeeThe chaya from the veldt
Chaider. Religious school.
pp. 108, 114
A brand of cigarette made by Altria. It was one of the most recognized brands of the early 20th century, but sales have declined steadily over the years.
pp. 33, 102
Chicago’s most famous nightclub from the 1930s through the 50s.
Patchentuches literally means “slap in the butt.” In context, “Chief Patchentuches” means something akin to “Chief Pain in the Ass.”
SeeHocking my Chinek
Slang for chupeh, the canopy under which a Jewish couple is married (its four poles signify the four corners of the world and support a blue cloth, symbolic of the heavens). Also, the marriage ceremony itself.
SeeGay cocken affen yam, Alter!
A mispronunciation of “cocktail.”
Likely refers to the approximate eight million Congolese that died as a result of colonial brutality between 1886 and 1908.
Firewood cut and stacked in cords, a unit of measure corresponding to a woodpile 4 feet wide x 4 feet wide x 8 feet long.
Cossack, meaning “guerilla” or “adventurer.” The origin of the cossacks can be traced to serfs who fled from the principality of Moscow in the 14th and 15th centuries and established wheat-growing and stock-raising communities in the valleys of the Dnepr, Don and Ural rivers. From the 16th century, as the czars extended their realm, the cossacks were subjected to the authority of the Russian government, which tried to incorporate them into the state on the same basis as the other inhabitants of the country. Therefore, as subjects of the czar, all cossack males 18 to 50 years of age became liable to military service. In later years, the czars of Russia utilized the cossacks as border troops and as special military force during wars up to the World War 1, when they were used for the most dangerous missions.
Daven. Literally, “to pray.” To recite Jewish liturgy, usually with a back-and-forth swaying motion.
pp. 82, 87
Samuel George “Sammy” Davis, Jr. (1925-1990) was an American actor, comedian, singer, dancer, impressionist, and musician. Known for being a member of the “Rat Pack” of entertainers of the 1950s and 60s, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford. While in the hospital recovering from a near-death car accident in 1954, Davis’ friend Eddie Cantor told him about the similarities between Jewish and black culture. Prompted by the conversation, Davis converted to Judaism several years later.
Davy Crockett, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Cisco Kid and Zorro
All characters in popular 1950s television shows. Three of them, Davy Crockett, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, were based on real historical figures: Davy Crockett was an 18th century American frontiersman and folk hero of English-Irish descent who died at the Alamo, Wyatt Earp was a late 19th century American farmer, lawman and frontiersman and Bat Masterson, a contemporary of Wyatt Earp, was an early twentieth century frontiersman and US Marshall. The shows inspired by them ran from the mid 1950s through 1961. The Cisco Kid, a popular children’s television western was based on a fictional character created by O’Henry. The Cisco Kid traveled the wild west with his sidekick, Pancho. The show ran from 1950-1956. Zorro, a character who has inspired several television shows and movies, was featured in a 1957 Disney series that ran for two years. Zorro (Spanish for fox) is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega (originally Don Diego Vega), a nobleman and master living in the Spanish colonial era of California.
A play on “déjà-vu,” the experience of feeling sure that one has witnessed or experienced a new situation previously, although the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain.
Also known as “Iron Mike,” Ditka (b. 1939) is a former NFL player, television commentator, and coach. He coached the Chicago Bears for 11 years and the New Orleans Saints for three years. Ditka and Tom Flores are the only two people to win Super Bowls as players, assistant coaches, and head coaches. Ditka was the only individual to participate in the last two Bears’ championships, as a player in 1963 and as head coach in 1985.
Benjamin McLane Spock (1903-1998), an American pediatrician whose book Baby and Child Care, published in 1946, is one of the biggest best-sellers of all time. Spock was the first pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand children's needs and family dynamics.
pp. 69, 78.
SeeVas machst du?
Premium brand of high-nicotine, non-filtered cigarettes made by Philip Morris and favored for their rich taste.
Erev Rosh Hashonnah
Though this is technically a day of celebration in some Jewish sects (“Erev” means “the eve of” in Hebrew), it is not generally thought of as a High Holiday. Erev Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is a somewhat important event in that traditional meals are eaten (often with a gathered family) before the fasting that takes place on Yom Kippur. Here, Billy is using Erev Rosh Hashanah as an excuse to skip Hebrew school.
pp. 5, 6, 16, 18, 23, 41, 57, 59, 112
Orval Faubus (1910-1994) was the Democratic Governor of Arkansas from 1955 to 1967. He is most known for his stand against desegregation in which he defied the Supreme Court and barred African American students from attending Little Rock Central High School.
A person short or of slight build, or a person in a comfortable or easy assignment such as headquarters duty or some staff billet. Often used for all civilians working for the military.
Phooey. It stinks. It’s no good.
pp. 9, 37
Feckuckteh. Dungy, crappy, fucked up.
pp. 2, 12, 28, 42, 99
Something of dubious or little value.
Farshtunkenah. Rotten, fetid, smelly.
pp. 18, 99
A woman who sells fish. Such women were notoriously loud and foul-mouthed as in the proverb To swear like a fishwife.
Forshpeits. Snack, appetizer.
Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996), also known as “Lady Ella,” the “Queen of Scat,” and the “First Lady of Song,” was an American jazz vocalist.
A chain of restaurants built from 1870 by English immigrant Fred Harvey. From about 1959 until about 1975, the Fred Harvey organization operated a series of restaurants in the Illinois Tollway oases.
The Freedom Riders set out to challenge the status quo of segregation. The Riders consisted of African Americans and whites riding various forms of public transportation together in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation.
Funfeh. Mumble. Misspeak, make an error.
Farbissener. Bitter person, sourpuss.
pp. 69, 76, 114, 115, 116
Gay cocken affen yam, Alter!
Gai kaken ahfen yam, Alter. Get lost! (Literally, “Go shit in the ocean, old man!”)