Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The language of much of New York and Miami: Yiddish

nyc-boroughs-map by trudeau
nyc-boroughs-map, a photo by trudeau on Flickr.

Yiddish is a Germanic language originally spoken by the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, written in the Hebrew alphabet, and containing a substantial substratum of words from Hebrew as well as numerous loans from Slavic languages.

Nerve, extreme arrogance, brazen presumption. In English, chutzpah often connotes courage or confidence, but among Yiddish speakers, it is not a compliment.

An expression of disgust or disapproval, representative of the sound of spitting.

Or glitsh. Literally “slip,” “skate,” or “nosedive,” which was the origin of the common American usage as “a minor problem or error.”

A non-Jew, a Gentile.

Or better yet, klots. Literally means “a block of wood,” so it’s often used for a dense, clumsy or awkward person. See schlemiel.

Something that’s acceptable to Orthodox Jews, especially food. Other Jews may also “eat kosher” on some level but are not required to. Food that Orthodox Jews don’t eat – pork, shellfish, etc.

In popular English, kvetch means “complain, whine or fret,” but in Yiddish, kvetsh literally means “to press or squeeze."

Pronounced meyven. An expert, often used sarcastically.

Mazel Tov
Or mazltof. Literally “good luck,”

An honorable, decent person, an authentic person, a person who helps you when you need help. Can be a man, woman or child.