Saturday, April 27, 2013


Yiddish is a language that got started between 900 and 1100 C.E.  It is pretty much a mix of medieval German and Hebrew, and it is written with the characters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Yiddish was spoken by the Jews who lived in central and eastern Europe.  At one time, about 100 years ago, 11 million of the 18 million Jews in the world understood the language.  A lot of these people spoke Yiddish as their main language.  But then Jewish people stopped living so much in isolated little communities.  And also, during World War II a lot of Jews got killed.  Which meant there weren't as many people speaking Yiddish anymore.

Nowadays, fewer than 250,000 people in the U.S. speak Yiddish.  About half of these people live in New York.  But even if they can't really speak the language, most Jews know a bunch of Yiddish words.  And quite a few of those words got adopted into English, and we all use them.  Most people probably know more Yiddish words than they think they do.

Here are some of the most familiar words:

OY VEY -- People say this when they feel pain or sadness or horror.  Or sometimes just when they are annoyed or exasperated.

SCHMOOZE -- To hang out with somebody while you do some friendly chatting and gossiping.

NOODGE -- To pester, nag, or whine, especially if you're trying to get somebody to do something.

TUCHES, TUSH (TUSHY) -- This is your butt, bottom, or rear end.  In a basenji, the tushy can be very cute!

CHUTZPAH -- Nerve or gall.

KLUTZ -- Somebody who is awkward and uncoordinated.

KOSHER -- Originally, it meant food that is prepared according to Jewish law.  But now it also means something that is legitimate and okay to do.

YENTA -- A talkative, busybody woman who gossips about everybody's business.

SHLEP -- To carry something around.  A variation is shlepper, which means somebody who doesn't have any ambition.

Okay, well, here are some Yiddish words you might not know, but they could be really useful for you to learn and use.  Mom wouldn't let me put any "naughty" Yiddish words in my list, even though there are quite a few of them.  Mom says I have to keep my blog G-Rated because kids read it sometimes.

SCHNORRER -- A beggar, somebody who whines until he gets what he wants.

TCHATCHE -- Little knick-knacks and toys that you might find at a garage sale or thrift shop.  Also, it can mean a trophy wife or pretty young thing.

NUDNIK -- A pest , a bore, a pain in the neck.

SHMATTA -- A rag.  Also used to describe somebody's unfashionable clothing.

GONIF-- A thief or tricky person.  Somebody that you can't really trust.

KVETCH -- To gripe or annoy.  To be an annoying person.

MESHUGGE or MESHUGGINA -- Crazy (in a long-term way).

MISHEGOSS -- Crazy, bizarre actions or beliefs.

NEBBISH or SHLEMIEL -- Someone who is crazy or inadequate.  A dummy, a loser.

MENSCH -- A person with a lot of character.  Someone who is recognized for how noble and good he is.

Anyway, my advice to you is to always try to be a mensch, even if it might be more fun to be a nudnik!

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