Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Thu Jul 4 02:44:56 UTC 2002

Barbara Need wrote:
> >David Bergdahl wrote:
> >>I swear I've heard "Is he a landsman?" but whoever said it has been dead a
> >>long time--ancient in the 1950s.
> >
> >
> >It's certainly what my parents (born in 1919 and 1924) would say. But I've
> >also heard it from people who are currently in their 30s, albeit with a
> >kind of self-reflexive irony.
> >
> >
>That's interesting, because I am familiar with the term "landsman", but it
>does not mean to me that the person referred to is Jewish. My parents were
>in Sofia, Bulgaria visiting the American ambassador and his wife (she was a
>college friend of my mother's). While they were there, there went to some
>embassy function and were introduced to the Ambassador from China, Now my
>father was born in Tsingdao (oh dear, I'm not sure how to spell that! The
>one with the beer!)--his father was in the US Navy--and mention was made of
>this to the Chinese ambassador. My mother described his reaction as
>"Landsman!" (Apparently what he said was "You're Chinese!") I thought the
>word was German (or, given my mother's linguistic background, Norwegian).

I've always assumed that "landsman" is Yiddish. In any case, in the heyday
of Jewish immigration to New York, there were various social clubs and
mutual aid societies for immigrants from particular areas, called
"landsmanshaften" (or some such). So, in the immigrant usage, a "landsman"
was someone from the same home town as you in the old country. I'm not sure
at what point the term was extended to mean a fellow Jew. Your mother's use
sounds more like a mutatis mutandis of the original meaning.

Alice Faber                                             faber at
Haskins Laboratories                                  tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                                     fax (203) 865-8963

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