There is a common Yiddish phrase used to describe an arbitrary reasoning that is not based on the sources: "Boich sevarah" -- literally, "stomach reasoning." What is the exact meaning of this phrase, and for how long has it been used? [This question was inspired by two pieces in Teshuvos Chasam Sofer (YD 129 and 353) that reject someone's "סברת הכרס".]

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    Sounds quite like the American English "gut feeling". – Ernest Friedman-Hill Aug 3 '11 at 0:46
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    Now we have Boich Shaalos! – Gershon Gold Aug 3 '11 at 1:25
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    @Ernest - except that gut feelings are often correct, but "boich sevaros" are universally scorned. – Dave Aug 3 '11 at 2:26
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    still the same meaning. Some people like gut feelings, some people don't. Boich sevaros might often be correct as well, they just aren't appreciated in halachic literature. Similarly, 'gut feelings' would be laughed at in an scientific journal. – avi Aug 3 '11 at 8:05

A search on Hebrewbooks yields the following earlier (16th-century) uses of the Hebrew סברת הכרס:

Radvaz, teshuvah 1463: זו סברת הכרס היא

Yam Shel Shlomo, Gittin 4:28: וכל אחד עושה לו סברת הכרס כמו שיחפוץ

...and I'm sure there are others too.

Considering that Radvaz lived nowhere near any Yiddish speakers, I doubt that the Hebrew is a calque of the Yiddish; I'd guess it's the other way around. But I don't know who originated it.

The meaning seems pretty straightforward: like Ernest said, it's something like "a gut feeling" rather than an idea developed through proper cerebral thinking.

  • Wow, I had no idea it went that far back. – Dave Aug 3 '11 at 5:15

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