BWC Contemplates the Nezboym (Maple Tree)

Photo of seven community members standing and smiling in front of a blooming lilac tree on a sunny day.On the first sunny Sunday of May, our community members congregated together in the Arnold Arboretum for some shmuesn un shpatzirn (shmoozing and strolling), hosted by the Yiddish Committee.

Armed with Dr. Mordkhe Shaecter's plant dictionary, provided by Lilye Weitzman, BWCniks with every level of Yiddish learning celebrated the first bloom of spring by admiring the plants and trees budding around them, and identifying them in both English and Yiddish.  

Many of the Yiddish terms were self-evident: ferd-kashtn, which literally translates to "horse chestnut", for the buckeye tree; luftl, the diminutive form of "air", for the dandelion. The lilac is simply named may, for the month in which it blossoms. But one Yiddish name really bemused our intrepid Yiddishists: Nezboym, or "nose tree", for the maple.

A slideshow of two people in profile with maple seeds stuck onto their noses.How did maple trees come to be known as "nose trees" in Yiddish? Is it to do with their pollen count? Is it because the leaves somehow resemble noses?
Some Arboretum attendees speculated it must come from the "Pinocchio Nose" tradition among children, where kids stick maple seeds to the side of their noses to make them look like they've grown.
Pictured, left, are Judy Bressler and Uri Schreter giving us a live demonstration of just why nezboym seeds might be called nezboym seeds! [Photos taken by Linda Gritz.]
Thank you, Uri and Judy! Here's to flowering trees, and to curiosity. To engaging our inner child across generations, in traditions our ancestors may or - just as likely - may not have engaged in, when they were celebrating new life blossoming in the spring.