Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Male vos men redt af dem stoop (You never know what they'll be saying on the stoop)

(Click for an enlargement)

The music you see here was published in 1917 as Malle vus men redt auf dem stoop and it was recorded by Anna Hoffman in 1918. Words and music by Louis Friedsell.

I have long confused the word male with meyle. Male, used before an interrogative word, means "who cares, go figure, there’s no telling." Male vos er zogt means "pay no attention to what he says!" So this song title could also be translated, "Pay no attention to what they say on the stoop." What a song of the Lower East Side this is!

My aunt lived in a studio apartment in Manhattan for decades and she often talked about life lived out on the front stoop (even into the 1980s she didn't have an air conditioner). She spoke approvingly of "stoop babies" - infants who were so used to being passed from hand to hand among neighbors sitting out on the stoops together that they didn't care whose arms they were in. It makes me nostalgic just thinking about it.

So here is Anna Hoffman:

Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

Malle vus men redt auf dem stoop

Vilt ir hern zakhn tsum veynen un tsum lakhn
Vos nor in undzer veltl tut zikh op?
Yo men redt, yo men redt af dem stoop.

Redt eyner nor shtusim
Dertseylt men shoyn bald nisim
Fun gornit vert bashafn a loop-di-loop
Yo men redt, yo men redt af dem stoop

Plutsim zogt aykh a yid, un shvert heylik git
Fun der rebetsin a sod er aykh dertseylt
Az gezen hot er grod, durkh a shpeltl in bod (slot)
Az eyn milkhedike zayt ir felt

Male vos men redt af dem stoop
Male vos es tut zikh dort op
Men hert dort a vits, a shpas un a lakh,
Men redt dortn on a sakh un a sakh.
Male vos men redt af dem stoop
Male vos es tut zikh dort op. Hey!
Men redt af ir on a shir
Men redt af mir, me ret af dir
Men redt af aykh, men redt af dem stoop

In Coney Island kimen - tsu bodn zikh un shvimen
Fil boyes, meydlekh, es tut zikh dortn op
Yo men redt, yo men redt af dem stoop
Men halt zikh dort in vitslen
Un eyns dem tsveytn kitslen
Es tut zikh ven men bodt zikh bay dem sloop
Yo men redt yo men redt af dem stoop

Oftmol treft zikh a shpas, a madam vi a fas,
Vert freylekh un bakumt fil mut.
Varft mit hent un mit fis,
Shpringt un tantst zo lang biz
Trakh! Es platst der gantser beyding suit.

Want to hear things happening in our little world
that'll make you cry and laugh?
People are talking on the stoop.
One's talking nonsense, they're talking about miracles.
From nothing, they create a loop-de-loop!
Yes, they're talking on the stoop.

Suddenly somebody tells you, he makes a holy vow,
he tells a secret about the rebetsin...
That through a crack in the bathhouse wall he saw
She was missing [? a breast???]

There's no telling what they'll say on the stoop.
Who knows what happens there?
You'll hear a wisecrack, a joke and a laugh
People talk an awful lot there.

There's no telling what they'll say on the stoop.
Who knows what happens there?
They talk about her on and on,
They talk about me, they talk about you,
They talk about everyone on the stoop.

Lots of boys and girls come to Coney Island
to bath and swim and fool around.
Yes, they talk on the stoop.
People are always joking,
Tickling each other,
It happens when they're bathing by the sloop.
Yes, they talk on the stoop.

There's often something to laugh about.
A lady built like a barrel gets happy and exuberant.
She throws her hands and feet around,
she jumps around and dances until
Sploof! Her whole bathing suit explodes.

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