Zagare-where we are from

Probaly the only place that Yiddish has remained in some form is in New York. The New Yorkers speak Yiddish Words as its part of their culture and you do not have to be Jewish to use these words as everyone pretty much knows them anyway.

I found these excellent pages on the A. E. Gusoff  website to whom this material is copyrighted. As this is not a commercial site but a purely internal family site please do not copy and use any of this material other than for your your own enjoyment. Her website is at the bottom of this section.

Yiddish is a wonderful, rich, descriptive, often onomatopoetic language. It has words for nearly every personality type known to humankind. Yiddish offers more ways of identifying various kinds of "idiots" (with all their subtle variations) than Eskimos have for different kinds of snow. It has a bountiful tradition of literature, film, theater and poetry, which reflect the collective Jewish experience in Europe, over centuries.

Yiddish arose around one thousand years ago from Middle High German, and spread throughout the ghettos of central and eastern Europe, borrowing words from the countries in which the Jews lived. Thus, it incorporates words from Hebrew, Russian, Polish and other Slavic languages, Romance languages, and later, English. Before WWII, Yiddish was spoken by more than 11 million people. Today, it is spoken by perhaps one tenth that many. Many assimilated Ashkenazi American Jews, whose grandparents or great grandparents only spoke Yiddish, or who spoke it as a first language, barely know any words at all. This is a shonda! (a shame, a pity.) Many Yiddish words have entered the American-English lexicon. You will find maven (expert) and gonif (thief) in most dictionaries. Words such as shlep, shmata, nosh are regularly used in film, on TV and in books and magazines, without translation. The addition of a rhyme beginning with "shm" to denote something of little consequence ("Hospital, shmospital...So long as you're healthy!") is a purely "Yinglish" construct.

Inflection, too, is an important aspect to Yiddish. This from Leo Rosten's wonderful book "The Joys of Yiddish": (The questioner as asking whether he/she should attend a concert being given by a niece. The meaning of the same sentence changes completely, depending on where the speaker places the emphasis:)

I should buy two tickets for her concert?--meaning:, "After what she did to me?"
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--meaning: "What, you're giving me a lesson in ethics?"
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--meaning: I wouldn't go even if she were giving out free passes!
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--meaning: I'm having enough trouble deciding whether it's worth one.
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--She should be giving out free passes, or the hall will be empty.
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--Did she buy tickets to our daughter's recital?
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--You mean, they call what she does a "concert"?

According to Rosten, there are other linguistic devices in English, derived from Yiddish syntax, which subtly "convey nuances of affection, compassion, displeasure, emphasis, disbelief, skepticism, ridicule, sarcasm, and scorn."

Mordant syntax: "Smart, he isn't."
Sarcasm through innocuous diction: "He only tried to shoot himself."
Scorn through reversed word order: "Already you're discouraged?"
Contempt through affirmation: "My partner, he wants to be."
Fearful curses sanctioned by nominal cancellation: "May all your teeth fall out except one, so that you can have a toothache, God forbid."
Derisive dismissal disguised an innocent interrogation: "I should pay him for such devoted service?"

It's a pity to let such a rich language die. Help keep Yiddish alive by learning new words and making them a part of your everyday conversation. This list is by no means complete, but it's enough to get you started sounding like a Member of the Tribe.

"ch" is pronounced like the "ch" in the Scottish "loch," as if you're cleaning a phlegm from your throat, unless otherwise specified..
"r" is gently rolled, as the single "r" in Spanish or French.

(pronunciation guide added only to words whose pronunciation might be questionable from the spelling. If no guide is given, it's pronounced as it looks.)

Note, too, that Yiddish is actually written with Hebrew letters, therefore, when used in English, words are transliterated, or spelled as they sound (as we write Chinese or Arabic words in English.) Since Yiddish was spoken by Jews all over Europe, accents and inflexions varied greatly. This leads to variations in spellings. For example, "ferdrayed" is the same as "fardrayed" is the same as "tsedrayd" etc. "Sh" words are often spelled with an "sch" and words which end in "er" might also be spelled with an "eh" "ah" etc. When there might be a question of a slight change of spelling giving a totally different meaning (i.e. "kibbitz" vs. "kibbutz") it has been noted.

NOTE: some of the words herein are linked to Bubby's Zen Jewish Humor page. Once on the new page, use your back button to return to the glossary.

This material was created by this website: http://www.bubbygram.com/yiddishglossary.htm

Bubba Meisah: (bubba meye-seh) literally, a "grandmother's story," or old wives' tale, such as "You'd better stop making that face! I knew a girl whose face froze like that!" Basically, a story of dubious truth, often based on rumor, gossip or stemming from a desire to impress others or keep the kids in line. Real B.S.. The original urban legend.

Bubbellah: (the "u" is pronounced like the "oo" in book) an affectionate way of refering to someone, much like "darling" or "sweetheart." Bubbies call their grandchildren "bubbellah." Close friends and long-time business partners might call each other "bubbellah," or boubbie, for short. (pronounced like "bookie" vs. the shorter "u" in Bubby, below.) Also, the nickname of a kosher-for-Passover pancake made with matzoh meal and eggs.

Bubby: (rhymes with cubby) (also spelled Bubbe, Bubbeh) Grandmother (you needed me to tell you this, after spending time on my website!?)

Chuppah: (khup-ah, rhymes with "cuppa") Wedding canopy, under which the bride and groom and rabbi (and close family members) stand, during the ceremony. See shtup

Chutzpah - Unmitigated gall, brazeness beyond imagination. The classic example is the boy who killed both his parents, then threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.


Frum: religious, observant

Gay shlog dein kup en vant! - Go bang your head against the wall!

Gebrenteh tsoores - abject misery; grief like you wouldn't believe! Tsooris squared.

Gedaingst: (guh-dayngst) remember. "I told you he was no good! Gedaingst?!"

Gehockteh leber: (ge-hock-teh lay-beh) Chopped liver, bhat favorite goyishe holiday carol, "Walking in Our Winter Underwear.")

Goyim: (goy-im) Gentiles, in general. One gentile is a goy. See also, shiksa

Kreplach (krep-lakh) Jewish ravioli filled with chopped meat, onions and a bissell shmaltz (a little chicken fat) served in chicken soup. (visit the link for the recipe.)


Shmaltz: literally, chicken fat or rendered cooking fat. Also, thick, insincere praise; over-the-top, overdone, glitzy theatrics; gross sentimentality. Something shmaltzy is kitschy, overblown, overdone, rather tasteless, unctuous. "Madame X" with Lana Turner, is the classic shmaltzy movie. Cher's costumes are rather shmaltzy.

Shmata: (shmah-tah) a rag, either literally or in reference to clothing. The garment industry is known as the "shmata business." "This old shmata? I picked it up on sale at Loehmann's two years ago, half price!" "Marvin shlepped around his shmata until he was 7." (In this case, it would mean a tattered security blanket, in which baby talk is often abbreviated to "motti.")

Shmuck: literally, "jewel" Another of the many Yiddish words for "penis." (as in "family jewel?) Although it has the same basic meaning as putz, a shmuck often refers to someone with greater power or social/emotional status; someone who's intentionally nasty or uses their power for ill, whereas a putz is more ineffectual, easier to dismiss because he's beneath consideration or has no real effect on your life. (It's the difference between "jerk" and "total a$$hole." -- It's a very subtle difference, I grant you, and the line is often blurry.) Note: I recently had an almost Talmudic discussion with my brother-in-law about this subtle difference between a putz and a shmuck, and he summed it up perfectly: "One is erect, the other is limp."

Shnook: a gullible fool, a patsy, someone easy to take advantage of, a con man's mark. (Yinglish)

Shnorror: (shnor-ror) A begger; someone who always looking for a handout or a free ride; the guy who's always in the bathroom when the check comes; the person who's constantly borrowing but never returning; someone who's continually sponging off others.

Shpatzir: (shpotz-ear) to walk, to stroll, to hike. Much like "shmie."

SZug gornisht: say nothing. "Keep in under your hat" or "Shhhh, I think others are listening." As children, we'd often walk into a room and suddenly, our parents' conversation would stop cold, and one of them would say: "Zug gornisht....der kinder!" ("Shhh! The kids [can hear us]!") We knew, whatever they'd been talking about, it had to be juicy! Some kind of forbidden adult talk. Casually, we'd leave the room, feigning innocence, then try to eavesdrop once their conversation resumed.

 This material was created by this website: http://www.bubbygram.com/yiddishglossary.htm

On thsi site you can find an entire glossary. The pwner of the site has gioven us permission tpo extyract a few refernmces as long as you refer backl to her main website which is full of Yiddish words, slang and of course humour.

zayda (zeyda) grandfather


Extracted from: http://asinine.com/essays/yiddish.html 1998

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