‘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.”
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.