Tevye the Dairyman
Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
It was around Shevuos, or maybe, I don't want you to think I'm lying, even a week or two before Shevuos and…wait a minute, perhaps a few weeks after Shevuos…Hold on a bit, it was, let me think a minute…It was exactly nine or ten years ago and maybe a little bit more. (2.2)
You have to love how the more he tries to narrow down the exact timeframe, the less and less exact it gets. Seriously, "exactly" nine or ten years? That's a pretty big chunk of time to be calling exact, no?
"[…] put a price on it? As much as you want to give, that's what you should pay. How do they say, 'One coin more or less won't make me much poorer than I already am.'"
"No," they said, "we want to hear what you want, Reb Tevye! Don't be afraid. No one will chop your head off, heaven forbid." (2.74-75)
This is a good example of the two main rhetorical tics this book uses. So, you know how a tic is a small uncontrollable movement? Well, a rhetorical tic is the same thing, only with a word or style that gets constantly repeated and thus marks the person's speech as being unique to them. (It's basically how people who do impressions capture the speech of their… um… victims?) First, there's Tevye's constant use of proverbs or Torah catchphrases—it's like he can't express himself without finding some appropriate reference first. And second, there's the hyperbole—constant, wildly exaggerated description—for example, "no one will cut your head off" instead of "don't be shy."
I don't know if you believe my story—you're the first one I've told it to, how and what and when, but now I think I've gone on too long. Don't be offended, but one must tend to one's business. Or as they say, "Each to his own"—you to your books, I to my pots and my jugs. I would like to ask one think of you, Pani. Don't write about me in any of your books, and if you do, don't mention my name. (2.116)
Is Tevye for real with this request? Or is he pretty pointedly trying to get his listener (Sholem Aleichem) to go "to his books" and write already?