mayofes

Alternative Spellings

mayufes, mayofesnik, mayufesnik

Definitions

  • a servile person (see note below)

Example Sentences

  • "...they were timid and played a 'mayufes' piece and political schemes" (RIbak, "Gentile New York," p. 98).

Languages of Origin

Textual Hebrew, Yiddish

Etymology

מה יפית 'how beautiful,' the first words of the verse (Song of Songs 7:7)

Who Uses This

Older: Jews who are middle-aged and older
Ashkenazim: Jews with Ashkenazi heritage
Historians

Dictionaries

Yiddish and English: A Century of Yiddish in America, by Sol Steinmetz (Tuscaloosa, 1986).
Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, by Sol Steinmetz (Lanham, MD, 2005).

Notes

From Steinmetz ("Dictionary of Jewish Usage," p. 107): "According to legend, the Sabbath song ma yofis was sung with a special melody by Polish Jews, and the nobles they worked for would often request that the Jews sing ma yofis for their entertainment; hence 'to sing ma yofis' to a gentile came to mean to serve him obsequiously or slavishly." The Friday night melody was subsequently removed from the liturgy in many communities, because of its historical connotations. This is one of those words that are talked more *about* (in a meta-linguistic way, by people interested in Jewish language) than are actually used in conversation.

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