Nisht geshtoygn un nisht gefloygn

Climbing, flying ...

For the time being, I have a new favorite phrase:

Nisht geshtoygn un nisht gefloygn

It’s Yiddish and means “didn’t climb up and didn’t fly.” (The German spelling would be nicht gestiegen und nicht geflogen.)

OK, but so what?

Well, it’s a very witty and slyly subversive way of saying


and I feel that we all could use new and innovative ways to express this necessary reaction to so much in life.

You can read about the historical and linguistic context of the phrase here. Basically, it’s what Jews, living in an overwhelmingly Christian society, said to each other to mean Bullshit. It was implicitly understood among them that the individual who neither climbed nor flew was, well, you know…

Let everybody make a fuss, the phrase seems to imply, but we don’t necessarily have to buy into it.

And yet, the phrase is also obscure enough to give its user deniability should he need it. The mainstream Christians were not likely to be offended about somebody saying that something neither climbed nor flew. It’s really an inside joke, nudge nudge.

PS: This post is not about you, or him

Usually, when the subject of religion comes up, I get a spike in traffic and everybody blows a fuse. This post is not even tagged religion. Instead, it is once again about intellectual conformity.

As you know, I value non-conformity but simultaneously appreciate how difficult it is to be non-conformist constructively, as Socrates illustrated.

So this great phrase might suggest the solution: to be non-conformist and simultaneously non-confrontational, and to have a bit of fun all the while.

Next time you hear that talking head on cable TV going on about, oh, death panels and what not, next time you feel overwhelmed by the truthiness and non sequiturs all around us, join me in a cavalier smirk and mutter

nisht geshtoygn un nisht gefloygn.

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