Tuesday, June 14, 2022

'SpongeBob' Theme Song Now Available in Yiddish

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? ShvomBob Kvadrat-hoyzn, of course!

And now the Jewish world knows how to say SpongeBob SquarePants in Yiddish, thanks to a translation of the animated kid show’s theme song by Eddy Portnoy, the academic advisor and director of exhibitions at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Manhattan.

Last week, Portnoy’s college-aged daughter put SpongeBob on TV, and Portnoy was inspired. He typed up the lyrics on his Notes app and posted the translation to Twitter, and let the algorithm do the rest.

“I can choose anything to translate,” Portnoy told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “but this is sort of extra funny, because it’s not something that you expect to hear in Yiddish.”

The lyrics alone were well-received, and then they were vocalized by Yiddish TikToker Cameron Bernstein, a communications fellow at the Yiddish Book Center, who recorded herself singing the translation.

@c.o.bernstein I got to meet the translator, Eddy Portnoy, when I visited YIVO in May (in NYC)! He just curated a great exhibit there called Am Yisrael High (on Jews and the 😈🥬) #spongebob #translation ♬ original sound - Cameron Bernstein

The beloved animated Nickelodeon comedy series features a melange of undersea characters including the titular SpongeBob (an eternally optimistic sponge); his best friend Patrick, a dim but loyal starfish; and SpongeBob’s dyspeptic coworker and nemesis, Squidward (a squid).

After 21 years and 276 episodes, the show is the fifth-longest running animated series of all time, and its tongue-in-cheek theme song, loosely based on the sea chanty “Blow the Man Down” and sung by a pirate, is familiar to at least two generations of viewers.

In the original, the pirate sings, “If nautical nonsense, be something you wish,/Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish!” In Yiddish that becomes, “Oyb yam-narishkaytn iz epes ir vintsht,/Falt arop af der erd vi a meshugenem fish!”

Eddy Portnoy, a researcher and curator at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Studies, translated the theme song from SpongeBob SquarePants into Yiddish. (Photo courtesy of Eddy Portnoy/Design courtesy of Jackie Hajdenberg)

“People can take this stuff and run with it,” Portnoy said. “For me, it’s just sort of a fun exercise; to see if I can do it, to get it to rhyme, to see if it works.”

The study of Yiddish outside of haredi Orthodox communities, where it is often spoken as a first language, has undergone a revival in recent years. YIVO’s online summer learning program saw the largest enrollment in its 54-year history in 2020 and 2021, and just last week, the institute hosted a webinar asking that very question: Are we in the midst of a Yiddish renaissance? The Workers Circle also saw record enrollment for its Yiddish classes.

Portnoy isn’t the first to couple Yiddish with American pop culture. On his 1998 album, “Mamaloshen,” Mandy Patinkin sings a Yiddish version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Last year, Rokhl Kafrissen, another Yiddishist, translated the lyrics of Jimmy Buffet’s “Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” which was subsequently performed by a trio of klezmer musicians commissioned by the Congress for Jewish Culture. Kafrissen’s version is not a word-for-word translation of the original because her goal was to create a “cultural translation,” she wrote on her blog.

Yiddish is “sort of associated with older generations and Eastern Europe and whatnot,” said Portnoy. “But obviously, there is this very American Yiddish and obviously ultra-Orthodox communities still use it. But they’re definitely not watching ‘SpongeBob.’ Or if they are, they’re doing it in secret. I don’t know if there’s a huge SpongeBob underground in Williamsburg or Borough Park.”

Will Portnoy be doing this again anytime soon, though?

“If it becomes a regular thing, it’s a lot less interesting to people,” he said. “You can’t make lightning strike twice.”

Watch SpongeBob SquarePantsKamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years and The Patrick Star Show on Nickelodeon, and 200 episodes of SpongeBobThe SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run and The SpongeBob Musical on Paramount+! Try it FREE at ParamountPlus.com.

Listen to The SpongeBob Musical here!

CALLING ALL GOOFY GOOBERS! (ROCK!) Are ya ready for a deep dive into the world of SpongeBob SquarePants? The SpongeBob YouTube channel is THE PLACE for all fan-favorite SpongeBob moments! We’re serving up everything from legendary scenes to remixes of classic songs to deep dives into Bikini Bottom lore. Be sure to check back every week for Music Mondays, Wumbo Wednesdays, and Flashback Fridays! Subscribe now at https://www.youtube.com/SpongeBobOfficial!

Shop SpongeBob!: https://www.spongebobshop.com - SpongeBob face masks now available, with ALL proceeds going to charity!

Original source: License Global.

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