Well, I love nothing more than a good history dork out occasioned by a haphazard, random, half-joking comment. (Surely it irritates some other Wordizens, but can I help myself? No.)
I purposely crafted my comment in that way as each of those individuals set in motion or was responsible for genocidal conflict. As it happens, according to Wikipedia, most of the people I mentioned were/are alleged to have or are suspected of having had syphilis, while the ones Pro mentioned are confirmed. (Other confirmed sufferers include Franz Schubert, Manet, Guy de Maupassant, Scott Joplin, Gaugin, Toulouse-Lautrec... etc. etc.) It was just a far, far more common disease before there were any effective treatments for it. Considering its very long-term and wide-ranging effects on the body and mind of its sufferers, it is not outside the realm of possibility that a far larger number of significant historical personages suffered from it than has been recorded.
Medical history is a fascination of mine but sadly there are not many historians actually doing it. Sources are also difficult to decipher, when one word can apply to so many ailments, or describe different symptoms entirely.
Also, yarb, that sounds fascinating. I'd love to see Shakespeare in Yiddish!
Sits back with Cheshire-cat grin. My work here is done.
Seriously, I would like to thanks everyone for their comments, and especially c_b for the references. Once again the power of Wordie is made manifest - another very interesting conversation triggered by a random, slightly tongue-in-cheek, remark about Yiddish.
I love my fellow Wordizens!
(But my rhyme still lacks a satisfactory ending)
By the way, I wasn't entirely clear if c_b's later remark was meant to imply that the historical personages in question should be considered as syphilitic boils on the complexion of history, or whether each, in fact, suffered at some point from the affliction in question. In other words, I couldn't tell if it was meant literally or metaphorically.
I saw a Shakespeare play in Yiddish once - Othello or Lear or one of the tragedies - and sound-wise I was very taken with the language. Yes it's guttural (to an English ear) but it has a lot of astonishing sloopy, loopy, kazoo-like sounds in it too, quite rollercoasterish.
re: syphilitic boils with historical significance: Hernando Cortes, Napoleon, Hitler, and Ivan the Terrible.
(Making the comparison to Yiddish rather ironic... eesh!)
Glad I read those articles again, actually. I suspected that Yiddish had a "late-blooming" literature but didn't realize it's generally dated to 1864 (Way late! That explains a lot in terms of non-standard spelling) or that that was when the Enlightenment reached Eastern Europe. Oy vey! Also I missed when the digitization project was announced. Coolio.
Well, they probably don't like your language much either. No Germanic language (including English) is all that musical-sounding, but a language spoken for a thousand years by millions of people in a dozen or more cultures is important, linguistically and historically. Comparing it to a syphilitic boil is a bit harsh.
I can't imagine an uglier language has been or ever will be. To my tender ears, the sounds and words of Yiddish are but a concoction by gargling self-flagellators hell-bent on affecting a language to burst from the lips of mankind like a lanced pustule of syphilis.
Aaah!! Aaah!!! Yiddish is awesome! I suspect the incredible variety of spellings stems from the fact that most Yiddish-speakers, over the centuries, lived in a wide variety of cultures that had different dominant languages (not just German), and also the fact that it's mostly a spoken language (though it did develop, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a fine written literature as well).
I read an article recently (last couple of years) that was staggeringly sad, about how many old Yiddish books were being destroyed simply because nobody wants to save them. I think it was in the New York Times....
Edit: this was not the one I was thinking of, but it sends a shiver up my spine. Awful.
I'm going to decline seanahan's invitation to enter the morass of debate about assorted Yiddish spellings. Yiddish has never seemed to me to be anything much more than an accumulation of assorted variant spellings of some of the more gutturally unattractive words occurring in German. While it may be of historic interest, it has never interested me from a linguistic point of view.
I realise that this may seem like prejudice born of ignorance, and it may well be just that, in which case I hope that someone will enlighten me. But, as far as spelling goes, my preference is to stick with the conventions of German, from which most yiddish words apear to be borrowed, and which have a certain underlying logic that I can understand. So "meschuggene", as in "das meschuggene Jahr", is good enough for me.
My good friend Joaquin in Bilbao His artistic taste is lowbrao Living next to the Guggenheim Is making him meschuggene, I'm Completely open to suggestion on hao to finish this particular rhyme with grace and economy.