Can Anyone Help with a Yiddish Rhyme that Starts, with "Salz Schmalz"?

Debra wrote asking for help with a Yiddish rhyme:

The following has been passed down through the ages (at least 150 years) by my mothers family, though we can only guess what the words mean now or the correct spelling of the words. I am hoping you may recognize it or be able to decipher it at least. The words were recited and accompanied by hand movements from infancy and on. I will use parenthesis to detail the hand motions that accompany the words.  The spelling of the words are my best estimate based on phonetics only:
Salz           (Take baby’s hand, palm open/up and gently run your palm across it, from heel to fingertip)
Schmalz     (Same motion but use the back of your hand this time)
Glievula    (With finger tips, tickle palm of child’s hand)
Glovula     (Same thing- Tickle-tickle?)
Nosgasauger       (Gently pinch/tug on tip of child’s nose -still holding child’s hand)
Augasauga          (Same to the ear)
Haudagasauga    (Same with the hair)
Elabauga            (Put your elbow in child’s palm and wiggle it around)
Glienabach         (Gently clap your palm to the child’s open palm)
Glosabach!         (Same thing but a little sharper/harder)
We as kids tried to interpret it and came up with: Front, Back, tickle-tickle. Nose, Ear, Hair, Elbow. Soft clap, Hard clap!  But Salz means Salt, and Schmalz seems to mean Lard so, I wonder if it in fact had an entirely different meaning?
Good luck, and please feel free to email me whatever you may find out!
If anyone can help with this rhyme, please let us know in the comments below.
Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Friday, May 10th, 2013 at 2:03 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Finger Plays, Handplays, Israel, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, Readers Questions, USA, Yiddish. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

9 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with a Yiddish Rhyme that Starts, with "Salz Schmalz"?”

  1. Uly Says:

    Schmaltz doesn’t mean lard, being pig fat, it means chicken fat and, metaphorically, excessive and maudlin sentimentality (which is the common meaning in American English).

  2. Bruce Klemens Says:

    I know this rhyme! I’m 65 years old and my mother recited a version of it all the time when I was a toddler. I loved it because after she would poke various bodyparts, e.g. elbow, ear, nose, she would say tickle, tickle, tickle, and of course tickle me all over. She learned it from her mother, my beloved Grandma Huber (nee Schweighardt.) Grandma was a Catholic from an ethnic German village in Hungary named Balinka. So I don’t believe it is just Yiddish, but more widespread than that. Are your ancestors from Hungary? I came across your site because I decided to Google the version I know, which starts with Soitz, Schmoitz, clearly a corruption of Salz, Schmaltz. The first place I found on the Internet was a Hungarian newsletter, with both variations and then I found yours. Here’s the link, see page 7.

    The newsletter is from Visegrad, Hungary which is not that far from Balinka. By the way, the version I knew has words from several of the versions in the newsletter and also has words not in any version such as Kiki Finger and what I think was Erbfunkel? These could simply be words in my grandmother’s funky German dialect. My mother told me that had a real German neighbor in Garfield, NJ who used to laugh at some of Grandma’s rustic German words and pronunciations. All of this of course is in my distant memory and I can make no guarantees that I’ve got everything right. Mom and Grandma are long gone. I would love to hear from you about this.

  3. Deb Says:

    Hi Bruce,
    Yes, my Grandmother (last name Schaudenecker) was Hungarian and came from Glogowatz which is I guess, a community of Arad. She Immigrated to College Point, Queens, NY about 1909 and was married to Josef Schikula (Sikula). They had 11 children together.

  4. Bruce Klemens Says:


    This further confirms my suspicions that the rhyme originated in German (and by extension, Yiddish) speaking Hungary and is known nowhere else in Europe. Are you aware there is a Village of Glogowatz website and the name Schaudenecker is indeed listed there?

    You probably know that for the most part German speakers settled in Hungary in the mid-1750’s to fill voids where villages had been abandoned due to the Turkish invasion. By the 1700’s the Habsburg rulers had driven the Turks out and wanted to recolonize these abandoned villages with Germans from the Ulm/Black Forest/Swabia region. They offered them land and exemption from taxes if they would settle in Hungary. Since many of them traveled down the Danube by boat they were called Danube Swabians.

    I’m awaiting an email back from my daughter. My mother used to recite the rhyme to her as a toddler, and I want to hear what she recalls. Then I’ll try to put together a full version as I know it, complete with translation and compare it to yours. Did you read the various versions in the Hungarian newsletter I mentioned?

  5. Bruce Klemens Says:

    OK, Deb, here is the version I remember from my mother. Unfortunately, my daughter’s recollection is nil. I can barely remember it myself.

    Soitz, Schmoitz (Swabian dialect for Salt, Chicken Fat): run your fingers over child’s palm
    Kiki-finger (unknown): pull finger
    Erbfunkel? (unknown): ? I forgot
    Elenbogen (elbow): put your elbow in palm of child’s hand and wiggle it
    Nase zupfe: (nose pull): self-explanatory
    Ohr vasl zupfe (ear lobe pull): self-explanatory
    And a tickle, tickle, tickle! (in English): tickle child all over

    I think your translation of your version pretty correct. I don’t know Yiddish but I have some knowledge of German. I think Saltz, Schmaltz (or Soitz, Schmoitz as I knew it) is just a nonsense rhyme. Nothing should be read into it other than it sounds funny to a child. The biggest difference between your version and mind is that in mine, the tickling came at the end. And maybe the word tickle was spoken in English for the benefit of little Brucie. It was my favorite part.

    I did a little Googling and I see that Glogowatz, originally in Old Hungary, but now in Western Romania, was a German speaking village. To me the most interesting part is that apparently the rhyme is only know to German or Yiddish speakers from Hungary. I put some of the Visegrad Hungarian newletter I mentioned through an on-line Hungarian translator and apparently Visegrad is another village in Hungary mostly descended from Germans. The author of the article on page 7, Anna Schmidt (a German name of course) says they are trying to save the old-time German culture for the children. They interviewed many old people from the area and that’s where the rhyme came from.

    Well, that’s as much as I could figure out. Hope this helps you.


  6. Lisa Says:

    Here’s a version Ron shared on another post:

    The second one may be an old German/Yiddish child’s rhyme my family used, also with the child’s fingers, palm and tickling arm up to armpit/neck. Here it is line by line with English translation:

    Saltz: salt (using child’s palm)
    Schamltz: chicken or goose fat used for frying foods (using child’s palm)
    Zeigefinger: index finger (pull finger)
    Haar [a-pulla?]: pull the hair
    Nase ziehen: pull the nose
    Ellenbogen: Elbow (in the palm)
    Lia, lia, bach: [nonsense words as you rub and then gently slap palm]
    Gehen das mausel en sein hausel: ‘the mouse goes into his house’ (as you tickle child up the arm.)

  7. B Says:

    Hi Deb, hi Lisa,

    came across this randomly and then further found these:

    Some parts are featured on the site, but others are not. Most likely because it behaves like any nursery rhyme and gets adapted, changed and extended with whatever family and regional version one encounters.

    The entire rhyme seems to consist of different parts and would probably be accompanied by hand actions like already described by others.

    Here is my take on the words:

    Salz, the diminutive Sälzchen or (potentially) regional dialect Soitz (sounds a bit like Bavarian, could be Swabian or a Yiddish twist) means salt. Here I could imagine that you would lightly tap the palm to symbolize salt falling into it.

    Schmalz, Schmälzchen or Schmoitz in its original German form does not only mean duck or chicken fat, it refers to any rendered fat from pigs, ducks, geese, chickens with a low melting point and even butter (butter schmalz). Jews would naturally not consider schmalz from pigs or butter, so that meaning would get lost over time and then taken overseas.
    Schmalz being fat could be a gliding motion similar to putting lotion on.
    Another thing could be that these are merely used for rhyming like in:

    “Salz Schmalz
    Reis Mais (rice, corn)
    Butterhörnchen (butter crescent roll)
    Kribbelkörnchen” (tickle grain)

    Glievula, Glovula seem be related to “Griwele Grawele” or “kriwele kriwele”. “Kribbeln” and “Krabbeln” are forms of tickling. So tickling the baby/toddler.

    Nosgasauger, Augasauga, Haudagasauga, Elabauga: Sauger (sauga) is from “saugen” which means “to suck”. Nos(ga), Auga, Haud(aga), Elabauga sound like Nase (nose), Augen (eyes), Haut (skin, probably cheeks?), Ellenbogen (elbow). Potentially changed slightly to rhyme. A possible action would be to pull the mentioned body part. It’s one of those games to teach the child the different parts of the body.

    Glienabach, Glosabach! – No idea what these could be from. “Bach” is a small stream and towns are sometimes named “something”-bach. So they might refer to some regional differences? Like a soft town and a harsh town? I do faintly remember there being a nursery rhyme where you would softly stroke the palm or hand and then lightly slap it.

  8. Barry Keleher Says:

    My maternal grandmother (of German/Hungarian decent) used to recite it to us this way:

    Soitz (rubs child’s palm of hand with fingertips)
    Schmoitz (continues rubbing)
    Figgeniggle (pokes index fingertip into palm of hand)
    Erpbone (places elbow into palm)
    Nosydicey (tugs at child’s nose)
    Sheepydicey (tugs at child’s hair)
    Oodadle-oodadle (rubs palm again)
    GROSSEMBOSCH! (gently slaps palm)

    My grandmother was first generation American (being born shortly after her parents arrived here) and told me that the words were just made up nonsense. To me, her version seems to be a mélange of some of the Yiddish/German/Hungarian words mixed with English and some truly nonsense words thrown in at the end. This is the first time I’ve seen or heard anything resembling this cherished childhood memory for me.

  9. Eddy Jones Says:

    Barry Keleher, that is exactly what my paternal grandmother would play with me! She was German/Hungarian from Czolnok, Hungary

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