I’m reading The Fox and the Flies:The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath by Charles van Onselen at present, and I came across this passage:
Whereas almost all law-abiding Jews used Yiddish for everyday interactions and restricted the use of Hebrew largely to prayers and the synagogue, some Jewish criminals resorted to a ‘secret tongue’ for professional communication. Mauscheln, in both written and oral form, drew on Hebrew and other terminology to develop a distinctive syntax supplemented by codes, gestures and oaths. .............. The argot found a home in the Jewish underworld and industrial cities of nineteenth-century Poland in places like Bialystok, Lodz and Warsaw, as well as in some small towns and shtetlekh.
No further details are given. Intrigued, I turned to Google, without much joy.
This is from an article on Joyce:
In this part of the book Reizbaum also introduces two other German terms, “mauscheln” and “Mischling,” which are central to her discussion and highly intriguing but deployed with some abandon (including grammatical abandon, since “mauscheln” is an infinitive and cannot therefore be used as a noun, as in “a mauscheln of English” or “Bloom speaks mauscheln"). “Mauscheln,” referred to by Gilman as “the hidden language of the Jews,” is a derogatory word, dating back to the seventeenth century. It refers to a version of German spoken at that time by certain German Jews and suggests a mangling of the German language and an unsavory mode of business and dealmaking talk. Reizbaum seems to imply that Joyce’s own text enacts a version of “mauscheln"--that is, an unorthodox use of language and a subversion of fixed concepts such as gender, religion and nationality. It is a clever, even a useful suggestion--but Reizbaum fails to indicate whether Joyce himself was familiar with the term or the concept.
And this is from the blurb on a German book, Mauscheln Ein Wort als Waffe:
The German word mauscheln is derived from the Yiddish language. It’s original meaning is ‘to talk like a Jewish trader’ (Mausche = Yiddish word for Mose). Today the verb has a negative connotation and means ‘to use dishonest tricks to reach an aim’, ‘to cheat’. Althaus examines the history of the word and asks how this negative connotation has developed and how the word was (and is!) applied as a weapon and defamation among artists, politicians and scientists. In this way the author depicts a fascinating picture of cultural history, - focussed in the colourful history of a single manysided word.
Interesting etymology. I’ve never heard of this fascinating argot before. Does anybody have anything else on it, maybe some of the vocabulary?