“Un Ven Di Bobe Volt Gehat Reder…”
One of the primary objectives of this lesson is to teach the helping verb “װאָלט” — which is used to express hypothetical situations. “װען די זון װאָלט כאָטש געשײַנט, װאָלט געװען װאַרעמער” sighs Nomi: “If the sun were at least shining, it would be warmer.” Nomi launches into similar thoughts, imagining that she and Moby spend a day and night on a warm, tropical island, swimming with all kinds of fish and building a fire on the beach. Back to their cold and snowy reality, Nomi shares one last conditional statement, signaling that she realizes her daydream won’t come true:
„און װען די באָבע װאָלט געהאַט רעדער, װאָלט זי געװען אַ שנײשאַרער.“
“And if my grandma had wheels, she’d be a snowplow.”
A grandma with wheels? A grandma as a snowplow?! The absurdity of Nomi’s line is actually the point — she is adapting a popular Yiddish saying implying that there’s no point in contemplating something that could never happen, like imagining her grandmother having wheels instead of feet.
The Yiddish saying that Nomi is adapting to her snowy situation is:
„און װען די באָבע װאָלט געהאַט רעדער װאָלט זי געװען אַ טראָלייבוס.“
“And if my grandma had wheels, she’d be a trolleybus.”
The whimsy of this saying is a part of its charm, and similar variations are also humorous:
|If my grandma had a beard she would be my grandpa.
|װען די באָבע װאָלט געהאַט אַ באָרד װאָלט זי געװען אַ זײדע.
|If the cat were to lay eggs she would be a hen.
|װען די קאַץ זאָל לײגן אײער װאָלט זי געװען אַ הון.
|If my grandma had wheels she would be a samovar. [This version is even more absurd because a samovar (a Russian tea urn) doesn’t have wheels! The use here of סאַמאָוואַר could be a humorous twist on סאַמאָכאָד, from the Polish word for “automobile”, which was used by some Yiddish speakers as well.]
|װען די באָבע װאָלט געהאַט רעדער װאָלט זי געװען אַ סאַמאָוואַר.
Of course, Nomi turns the very premise of these kinds of jokes upside down — because when she rhetorically imagines her grandmother having wheels, Nomi realizes Moby can literally transform his feet into wheels! Then with the help of his supercharged robot shoveling skills, Moby becomes a snowplow, turning at least one whimsical, hypothetical statement into reality.