‘Speak a Jewish Word’
‘And make an extra sale,’ 1950s brochure advises
On the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s reader-produced blog, Stephen J. Gertz posts about a fascinating pamphlet called “Speak a Jewish Word and Make an Extra Sale,” which was published in 1954 by Joseph Jacobs Advertising. (Jacobs still bills itself “the Jewish market experts.”) Gertz’s copy of the brochure was branded by the Calvert distillery, to provide its salespeople and distributors a lesson in offering, says Gertz, “a little schmear of Yiddish to grease the ethnic gears and help all concerned put a little extra gelt (money) in their pockets and mach a leben (make a living).” Gertz uses the artifact to trace the role of Jews in the history of liquor distribution, noting that “Jim Beam bourbon became, for all intents and purposes, Judah Beam.” But we’re more interested in the pamphlet itself. In the three introductory pages reproduced on the blog, the only word offered is “fargnigen” (pleasure), which is relatively obscure. Could there have been a time when gentile booze merchants knew more Yiddish words than your average Jew does today? Do business people now even realizes they’re using a “Jewish word” when they talk about “schmoozing”?
“It’s hands across the Old and New Testaments, brotherhood with a dollar sign,” writes Gertz. And from what we’ve seen so far, there doesn’t seem to be any trace of the condescending assumption that Jewish customers are shnooks ripe for yentzing; in fact, the booklet offers its advice as “a way of making real friends out of your Jewish customers!” We’d hate to see the follow-up for failed business relationships: “Shove it Up Your Tuches and See if I Care.”
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