Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yiddish: German plus Hebrew script produces a rich addition to the English vocabulary

Hassidic Gathering 3
Originally uploaded by Sol Lang.
Yiddish (Yid. ייִדיש, yidish, = n. & adj. "Jewish") is a nonterritorial Germanic language spoken throughout the world and written with the Hebrew alphabet. It originated in the Ashkenazi culture that developed from about the 10th century in central and eastern Europe, and spread via emigration to other continents, says Wikipedia.

Yiddish-English words (What's not to enjoy?):

bagel : a ring-shaped bread roll made by boiling then baking the dough (from בײגל beygl)
blintz : a sweet cheese-filled crepe (from Yiddish בלינצע blintse)

chutzpah : ballsiness, guts, daring, audacity, effrontery (Yiddish חוצפּה khutspe, from Hebrew)
dybbuk : the malevolent spirit of a dead person which enters and controls a living body until exorcised (from Hebrew דיבוק dibbuk, that which clings)
dreck : (vulgar) worthless material, especially merchandise; "crap" (cf. German Dreck 'dirt')
glitch : a minor malfunction (possibly from Yiddish glitsh)
goy : a gentile, someone not of the Jewish faith or people (Yiddish גוי, plural גוים goyim; from Hebrew גוים goyim meaning 'nations [usually other than Israel]', plural of גוי goy 'nation')

kibitz : to offer unwanted advice, e.g. to someone playing cards; to converse idly, gossip (Yiddish קיבעצן kibetsn)
klutz : clumsy person (from Yiddish קלאָץ klots 'wooden beam')
kosher : conforming to Jewish dietary laws; (slang) appropriate, legitimate (originally from Hebrew כּשר kašer)
kvetch : to complain habitually, gripe; as a noun, a person who always complains (from Yiddish קװעטשן kvetshn 'press, squeeze')
latke : potato pancake, especially during Hanukkah (from Yiddish, from either Ukrainian or Russian)
lox : smoked salmon (from Yiddish לאַקס laks 'salmon'; cf. German Lachs 'salmon')

maven : expert (from Yiddish מבֿין meyvn, from Hebrew meveen 'one who understands')
Mazel tov : congratulations! (Yiddish מזל־טובֿ‏ mazl-tov, from Hebrew mazzãl ṭõv: mazzãl 'luck' + ṭõv 'good')

mensch : an upright man; a decent human being (from Yiddish מענטש mentsh 'person', cf. German Mensch)
meshuga, also meshugge, meshugah, meshuggah : crazy (Yiddish משוגע meshuge, from Hebrew məšugga‘)
meshugas : madness, nonsense, irrational idiosyncrasy (Yiddish משוגעת meshugas, from Hebrew məšugga‘ath, a form of the above)

nebbish : an insignificant, pitiful person; a nonentity (from Yiddish nebekh 'poor thing!' [interjection])
nosh : snack (noun or verb) (Yiddish נאַשן nashn)

oy : interjection of surprise, dismay, or grief (Yiddish אױ oy)
oy vey : interjection of grief, pain, or horror (Yiddish אױ װײ oy vey 'oh, pain!')
putz : an idiot, a jerk; a penis (from Yiddish פּאָץ pots)
schlemiel : an inept clumsy person; a bungler; a dolt (Yiddish shlemil)
schlep : to drag or haul (an object); to make a tedious journey (from Yiddish שלעפּן shlepn; cf. German schleppen)

schlock : something cheap, shoddy, or inferior (perhaps from Yiddish shlak 'a stroke')
schmaltz : melted chicken fat; excessive sentimentality (from Yiddish שמאַלץ shmalts 'fat'; cf. German Schmalz)

schmeer also schmear : noun or verb: spread (e.g., cream cheese on a bagel); bribe (from Yiddish שמיר shmir 'smear'; cf. German schmieren)

schmo : a stupid person. (an alteration of schmuck; see below)
schmooze : to converse informally, make small talk or chat (from Yiddish שמועסן shmuesn 'converse'; cf. German schmusen).
The word has been somewhat popularised by Sir Alan Sugar (a Jew himself) on the BBC TV series The Apprentice.

schmuck : a contemptible or foolish person; a jerk; literally means 'penis' (from Yiddish שמאָק shmok 'penis')
schnook : an easily imposed-upon or cheated person, a pitifully meek person, a particularly gullible person (perhaps from Yiddish שנוק shnuk 'snout')
schnoz or schnozz also schnozzle : a nose, especially a large nose (perhaps from Yiddish שנויץ shnoits 'snout', cf. German Schnauze)

shiksa : (often derogatory) a young non-Jewish woman (Yiddish שיקסע shikse, a derivative of the above שײגעץ sheygets)
shtetl : a small town with a large Jewish population in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe (Yiddish שטעטל shtetl 'town', diminutive of שטאָט shtot 'city')
shtick : comic theme; a defining habit or distinguishing feature (from Yiddish שטיק 'piece'; cf. German Stück)
spiel : a sales pitch or speech intended to persuade (from Yiddish שפּיל shpil 'play' or German Spiel 'play').

tchotchke or tsatske : knickknack, trinket, curio (from Yiddish טשאַטשקע tshatshke)

tush : butt, rear end (from tuchus)
Yekke : (mildly derogatory) a German Jew (Yiddish יעקע Yeke)
yenta : a talkative woman; a gossip; a scold (from Yiddish יענטע, from a given name)
zaftig : plump, chubby, full-figured (from Yiddish zaftik 'juicy'; cf. German saftig)

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