Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sitting on Pins and Needles

I'm going to guess that anyone who would label themselves even a casual reader of NYT obituaries would not be fooled by Sam Roberts's referring to "shpilkes" as being the clinical term for "ants in your pants." Mr. Roberts does this in the close for his obituary for Fred Weintraub, who has passed away at 88 and who gave the world of entertainment many things, notably The Bitter End coffee house and Bruce Lee movies.

Mr. Roberts was quoting Mr. Weintraub, who said he was amazed at his wildly varied lifetime accomplishments coming from a kid born with "incurable shpilkes."

NOTE: By the placement of the quotation marks, it is possible Mr. Weintraub is actually telling us "shpilkes" is "the clinical term for ants in your pants," However, I don't buy it. I rather suspect Mr. Roberts is pulling Yiddish wool over the reader's eyes.  I don't think I'm wrong.

Once while waiting for my doctor to come in and exam me, I became aware that I had been staring at a "restless leg syndrome" poster that of course claimed the symptoms could be alleviated by the intake of a certain prescription drug. My guess is the ailment never caught fire, because I've never heard of the drug, or the syndrome, being advertised at any time on television. And now the poster is gone.

Three spelling variations for "ants in your pants" were found: schpilkes, shpielkes, and shpilkes. They all pointed to Yiddish, and not the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition, (ICD-10).

Further, a web page offered that the person most likely using the word would be a "Jewish person, middle-aged, or older." I've seen Mr. Robert's photo on a dust jacket, and "middle-aged or older" is a shoe that fits.

Reading of Mr. Weintraub's life I would wager he would approve of the closing quote at the end of his obituary. In fact, my guess is he would even surprised he got 6 columns, with photos.

As for Mr. Roberts, he once again posts an obituary double on the page. Lucky for us, he has restless writing syndrome.


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