29 February 2004 - Sunday

The Yiddish Project

I have added a new area to my sidebar: the Yiddish Word of the Week.

This idea came out of a conversation with Wheeler today, in which we decided that this feature would be a good way to reinvigorate the "Yiddish Project" we began last semester. Inasmuch as Yiddish is perhaps the most colorful language on earth, we decided to learn as many choice expressions as possible. The new feature seemed a helpful learning tool.


One source of information in particular has been very helpful:
Leo Rosten, The Joys of Yiddish. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968.

Please also see the Ariga Glossary of Yiddish Expressions provided by Michael Fein.


Archive of Entries:

paskudne ("poss-KOOD-nyeh") Filthy, unkind, disgusting, contemptible (e.g., The dining hall served a paskudne meal this evening) (29 February 2004)

mechaieh ("m'-KHY-eh")
Pleasure, satisfaction, bliss, joy (e.g., Ah, a good book on a rainy night is such a mechaieh!) (7 March 2004)

meshugana ("meh-SHOOG-eh-nah")
A crazy person (e.g., He's a complete meshugana; He's completely meshugana) (15 March 2004)

shmatte ("SHMOT-ta")
A rag, piece of junk, dishonored person, slattern, or sycophant (e.g., I wouldn't be seen wearing a shmatte like that; They treat him like a shmatte; The little shmatte stole my husband; Is there anyone he doesn't agree with, the shmatte?) (22 March 2004)

shtuss ("shtuss")
Nonsense or commotion (e.g., Why do you believe that sort of shtuss?; They made such a shtuss in the street) (28 March 2004)

gevalt! ("ge-VOLLT!")
An intense expression of amazement, fear, or protest -- from German, "powers" (e.g., Gevalt! I saw a ghost!; She gave out a gevalt loud enough to wake the neighbors) (5 April 2004)

oysgematert ("oyss-geh-MOT-tert")
Exhausted (e.g., After working all day, he's oysgematert) (11 April 2004)

L'chayim ("le-KHY-im" -- the kh being quite guttural)
To life! (used as a toast, as in "to your health") (20 April 2004)

yentz (rhymes with "rents")
To copulate; to cheat, to swindle, to defraud. Very coarse, an obscenity -- think of the English "screw" (e.g., Yentz you, and your little dog too!) (2 May 2004)

loch in kop ("LAWKH enn kawp," guttural sound for "kh")
Hole in the head; part of the larger phrase "Ich darf es vi a loch in kop," which means, "I need it like a hole in the head" (e.g., I need to hear more of Scholl's euphemisms like I need a loch in kop.) (9 May 2004)

shlemiel ("Shluh-MEEL")
A fumbler, a clumsy person, someone who is all thumbs (e.g., That shlemiel spilled hot coffee all over me! I was nearly scalded to death!) (16 May 2004)

m'shigas ("meh-SHIG-es")
Insanity, craziness, locura (e.g., No, I will not join the French Foreign Legion! That's m'shigas!) (24 May 2004)

hulien ("huh-LEIN")
To revel, frolic, carouse (e.g., The happy couple huliened all through the night) (31 May 2004)

bissel ("BIH-sill")
A very little bit, a smidgen (e.g., Some teachers treat their students as though they had only a bissel of knowledge and intelligence to call their own) (6 June 2004)

hok a tchynik ("HAWK uh chai-NIK")
Literally translated, this means "to strike a kettle." Most commonly used to signify yammering, excessive talking, nonsense talk, etc. (e.g., Stop hokking a tchynik! I quit listening to your ignorant prattle five minutes ago!) (20 June 2004)

nudnik ("NUD-nick" rhymes with "mud slick")
A pest, a nag, a monumental bore (e.g., He never stops talking about animal husbandry, the nudnik!) (27 June 2004)

tsetummelt ("tse-TU-m'lt")
Confused, bewildered, scatterbrained (e.g., He was so tsetummelt last night, it's a wonder he didn't forget his own name) (7 July 2004)

kvell (Ummm . . . well . . . "KVELL")
To beam with immense pride and pleasure over an accomplishment (someone else's or your own) (e.g., His parents kvelled as he climbed the platform to receive his doctorate) (11 July 2004)

pisher ("PIH-sher")
A bed-wetter. A young, inexperienced person ("young squirt") (e.g., One day of kindergarten, and suddenly he thinks he knows everything, the pisher!) (26 July 2004)

halevai ("hole-iff-EYE")
I hope . . . I wish . . . If only I had . . . etc. (e.g., Let's go to a movie Sunday if, halevai, we are alive. And if not we'll go Tuesday) (1 August 2004)

behayme ("b'HAY-muh")
Animal - particularly used for "cow." Used to describe a dumbbell or ignoramus, or a stolid, hardworking, uncomplaining unimaginative sort (e.g., He slaves like a behayme, and for what?! No hopes, no dreams, no lofty aspirations . . . His only mechaieh seems to involve coming home oysgematert after a long day and yentzing around, if you know what I mean!) (10 August 2004)

Moishe Kapoyr ("MOY-sheh ka-POYR")
A contrary, contradictory person (e.g., He's so backward, he's a regular Moishe Kapoyr!) (14 September 2004)

shlepper ("SHLEP-per")
A nincompoop, an untidy person, or a beggar (e.g., I wouldn't count on a shlepper like that to be on time) (26 September 2004)

kibitz ("KIB-its")
To comment idly, tease, second-guess (e.g., Are you going to help me with this, or are you just going to stand there kibitzing?) (7 November 2004)

plotz (rhymes with "watts")
To split, burst, or explode with strong negative emotion; to be aggravated beyond bearing (e.g., When my parents see my report card they're gonna plotz!) (22 November 2004)

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