We’ve all heard that Yiddish is quickly and quietly dying off, which is just such “a shandeh un a charpeh” (a shame and a disgrace) and I for one am not ready to give this colorful descriptive language any sort of burial. That’s right, I think we should all band together and make one large, collaborative attempt to work more of this unique terminology into our everyday language until it becomes as commonplace to say “Nu?” as it is to say, “S’up?”
My problem is every single time I’ve tried to casually (but confidently!) weave a colorful vocabulary word from my grandparent’s native tongue into conversations, something goes strangely awry. It even happens with the Yiddish names of food, like Kugel.
At the gynecologist’s office, the doctor asked if I managed daily kegels? Taken aback by her inquiry about my Jewish cooking, I awkwardly responded it was too rich to do them more than once a month. I shyly added that last time I dropped one and everything spattered all over my nice, shiny floor. She threw me an odd sideways glance, remarking, “Nothing’s worse than a dirty pelvic floor.”
The other problem besetting me when experimenting with Yiddish is mixing up the numerous words that begin with “Sch.” Ever notice that nearly every one of these words has a negative connotation? I can’t keep them straight; all I know is that when I want to insult someone, I’ll use something that starts with this specific consonant blend; i.e. Schlemiel, Schlub, Schmo, Schlump, Schnook, Schnorrer, Schlimazel, Schmendrik, and of course Schmuk. Oh c’mon, do you think I can call everyone a scholar?!
And now may I present my recent journal documenting what happened when I tried to use more Yiddish.
Jan. 30: At the snack stand in Target, I asked the lady behind the counter if I could have a “bissel” butter on my popcorn and before I knew it, a clerk brought me a vacuum cleaner from the housewares department. Yep, this trial language thing is going to turn out great!
Feb. 2: I mentioned to my neighbor that I would “plotz” if my son were to get engaged. She advised me that picking out a burial plot at a young age could bring bad luck. Seriously?
Feb. 4: After joking around with the cashier in the pet store, I said, “I’d love to “kibbitz” with you, but it’s time to “schlep” this heavy bag of dry food home to my dog.” He said “What a coincidence, I also have a dog named Shep who loves Kibble.” Hmmm.
Feb. 5: I took this same dog (a spaniel) to the veterinarian clinic and because he’s 12 years old, I asked if he would be considered an “Alter Kocker?” The doctor admonished me that they don’t alter cockers (or any type of spaniels) at this advanced age and that he should’ve been neutered years ago. Oy!
Feb. 6: In the theater, I asked the person next to me to please stop “schmoozing” because I couldn’t concentrate on the movie. He looked startled and asked if he’d been snoring? That’s right; “you schmooze, you lose, buddy!”
Feb. 7: When my girlfriend introduced me to the man she is dating, I asked if that was her “beshert?” She shook her head and scoffed, “That old blue striped thing is something he bought himself. But I picked out the tie.”
Well? I may be ready for more Yiddish in the world, but clearly the world is not yet ready for mine.
Stephanie D. Lewis is a regular writer for The Huffington Post and pens a humor blog at OnceUponYourPrime.com. Follow her on Twitter @MissMenopause.
This was really funny! Love the colorful language of Yiddish. Great play with words and stories to go with them!
This was so funny! I actually know what all those words mean and hope they get passed on to future generations!
Great article about our loss of Yiddish expression…..I LOVED IT! A machiah!😊
I really enjoyed your column! Thanks!
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Mazel tov! Great article. But we can always depend on a mensch like you, Stephanie, for exactly that.
Great writing,kiddo! Love it…..but you REALLY need to spend a little more time around Jews, dah-ling! LOL…….hugs 2 You and your Yiddishe Kop!