Hebonics 101

The New York City school board has officially declared
Jewish English - now dubbed Hebonics - as a second
language. Backers of the move say the city's School
District is the first in the state to recognize
Hebonics as a valid language and significant attribute
of New York culture. According to Howard Schollman,
linguistics professor at New York University and
renowned Hebonics scholar, the sentence structure of
Hebonics derives from middle and eastern European
language patterns, as well as Yiddish.

Prof. Schollman explains, "In Hebonics, the response to
any question is usually another question -- plus a
complaint that is implied or stated. Thus 'How are
you?' may be answered, 'How should I be, with my
feet?'" Schollman says that Hebonics is a superb
linguistic vehicle for expressing sarcasm or
skepticism. An example is the repetition of a word with
"sh" or "shm" at the beginning:

"Mountains, shmountains. Stay away. You want a

Another Hebonics pattern is moving the subject of a
sentence to the end, with its pronoun at the beginning:

"It's beautiful, that dress."

Schollman says one also sees the Hebonics verb moved to
the end of the sentence. Thus the response to a remark
such as

'He's slow as a turtle,' could be: "Turtle, shmurtle!
Like a fly in Vaseline he walks."

Schollman provided the following examples from his
textbook, Switched-On Hebonics.

Question: "What time is it?"

English answer: "Sorry, I don't know."
Hebonic answer: "What am I, a clock?"

Remark: "I hope things turn out okay."
English response: "Thanks."
Hebonic response: "I should BE so lucky!"

Remark: "Hurry up. Dinner's ready."
English response: "Be right there."
Hebonic response: "Alright already, I'm coming. What's
with the 'hurry' business? Is there a fire?"

Remark: "I like the tie you gave me; wear it all the
English response: "Glad you like it."
Hebonic response: "So what's the matter; you don't like
the other ties I gave you?

Remark: "Sarah and I are engaged."
English response: "Congratulations!"
Hebonic response: "She could stand to gain a few

Question: "Would you like to go riding with us?"
English answer: "Just say when."
Hebonic answer: "Riding, shmiding! Do I look like a

To guest of honor at his birthday party:
English remark: "Happy birthday."
Hebonic remark: "A year smarter you should become."

Remark: "A beautiful day."
English response: "Sure is."
Hebonic response: "So the sun is out; what else is

Answering a phone call from son:
English remark: "It's been a long time since you
Hebonic remark: "You didn't wonder if I'm dead yet?"