December 29, 2012

Oy: a perfect word

If you live in Manhattan you have not one, but many, Jewish friends. It just happens. And if you've had these friends for a number of years, you know all about the word "oy". Well, maybe not all. But you understand the word a lot better than your typical goyim.

First of all, oy is not as simple as it seems when you see it written down. It's just joy without the J, right? Oy, you gentiles! You just don't get it.

Oy is not a simple word. For one thing, it has at least four, perhaps five, syllables. If you're from Iowa or Arkansas, you probably didn't know that. It's a deep word, with its own world of pronunciations and uses. Yes, it's perfect to express casual dismay, which is the way it's usually heard. But it also expresses fear and foreboding (and surprise) -- and does so beautifully. (This is one of the times when the number of syllables grows). Oy expresses hopelessness like a jewel. It is the perfect word for the verklempt.

I could go on and on, particularly about the pronunciation. But it would be far better if you did a few years of field work. You really can't teach the use of the word; you have to live with it.

I'd like to close with a final thought that expresses the utter perfection of the word "oy". Oy is the yin of yo's yang. If you had any doubts about the almost supernatural nature of the term, surely this observation blew your doubts away. If not, oy.

1 comment:

cm said...

I don't even live in Manhattan and it's still one of my favorite words. I like to use it in text messages. For some reason AutoCorrect wants to change it to "it". Oy with a side of vey.