#1
Old 10-08-2010, 07:02 PM
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Teach Me Some Yiddish!

[In keeping with SDMB tradition, I ask a Judaism-related question on Friday night, when the chances that it will be answered are significantly reduced ]

My workplace has just hired a Hasidic Jew. Swell guy- a real mensch, if I do say so myself.

Can someone please teach me some common Yiddish phrases that I can use in everyday workplace banter with this fellow? I'm looking for things like "Good morning," "See you Monday," etc.

Pronunciation tips would be helpful as well.

Dank
#2
Old 10-08-2010, 07:32 PM
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I'm no Yiddish maven (hehe) but here's some words that I've collected over the years from my more knowledgeable relatives:

Schtick, a routine or repetitive act or speech.
Schpiel, ("shpeel") a speech
Schlep, to carry something a long distance ("I gotta schlep this laser printer down the hall") or the journey itself ("that was a real schlep.")
Schmutz, (rhymes with puts) dirt, grime, goop
Schmaltz, sentimentality (that Meg Ryan movie was really schmaltzy)
Goyim (GOY-em), gentiles
Tuckus, (TOOK-is) a person's butt
Nosh, to eat snacks or finger-food
Gelt, literally gold, money
Schmuck, literally a penis, but used to refer to an idiot or jerk
Bupkes, (BUP-kiss) nothing, zero
Chutzpah, gall, audacity
Kvetch, complain, whine
Schlemiel, a fool

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Some spellings are probably wrong.
#3
Old 10-08-2010, 07:34 PM
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Oh, and of course my personal favorite: "Oy, vey!" A generic exclamation of frustration or annoyance.
#4
Old 10-08-2010, 09:45 PM
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Most Yiddish terms in common use are either insulting or an exclamation of dismay. Yiddish has lots of words for different kinds of annoyances. (spellings are phonetic)

Aggravations
Oy gevalt - somewhat more emphatic version of "oy vey" (literally Oh Help me!) Kind of resembles "Oh lord have mercy!" in tone.
Schlep - an annoying lengthy or tiring trip. Can be a noun or verb.
"My mom wants to meet for dim sum, so now I have to schlep out to Flushing"
"That trip to Flushing... what a schlep!"
Tsirrus - minor troubles
"My mom keeps giving me tsirrus about when we're going to meet for dim sum"
Gehakteh tsirrus -a real big deal -- often minor troubles that somehow become a big mess (literally, "chopped trouble")
"This thing with my mom is becoming some kind of gehakten tsirrus"
Kvetch, is what you do about your tsirrus - fruitlessly bitch about it. Complaints must be trivial in nature.
"are you tired of hearing me kvetch about my mom?"
as distinguished from
hocken a chai-nik - to complain for the purpose of garnering sympathy or attention (literally "banging your teakettle")
"Hello Again is really hocken a chainik over this subway ride to Flushing"
Meshugge/Meshugganah/mechugais - Crazy; a crazy person; craziness
"My mom thinks I'm meshuganah for taking the subway - she thinks I should get a cab. Can you believe that meshugais? its got to be $50!?"

Food words
schtickel - a chunk, a small piece
"I'll just have a schtickel herring"
Bissle - a bit, a small amount, some.
"Sour cream with my herring... ok, just a bisle"
Civillizations have risen and fallen yet no group of Yiddish-speaking Jews has come to a complete consensus on which foods call for the term "bisle" vs. which "schtickel," however, bisle is more appropriate for liquids. (this is a topic on which my family can happily ruminate for hours!)
Ess-eh - Eat! (essen - ate)
"Esse, boychik! I got this herring from Russ & Daughters."

More insults
Schlemiel - a hapless idiot
Schlamozzle - a luckless fool
What's the difference? A schlemiel knocks over his soup. A schlamozzle gets the soup knocked in his lap.
drek - a thing of low quality; crap (literally: shit)
"Don't worry about the soup - it was drek anyway"
Chazzerai - same meaning as drek, just more mild and thus more polite

Other
Vas ist dis? or vast ist? - what is this (object/situation)? Can have shades of "What's happening here?"
"I saw the fire trucks outside - vast ist?"
Mechiah - something that's so nice, its a blessing. Can be trivial or significant, or even refer to really good food.
"Even though we were locked out for 4 hours, nothing in my apartment was damaged in the fire - what a mechiah!"
The Whole Megillah -- The whole song & dance. Can also refer to a lengthy, rambling story (the Megillah is the somewhat lengthy story read at the festival of Purim)
"I talked to the landlord and he gave me the whole megillah as to why the hallway hasn't been painted since the fire"
shpiel story, speech, often of dubious veracity.
"I talked to the landlord and he gave me this whole shpiel [alternatively: shpieled me] about the cost of painting the hallway"

Not so nice words
faygele - gay (adj, or noun to be extra offensive)
schvarze - black (adj, or noun to be extra offensive)
Shiksa - a non-jewish woman, in a disparaging and offensive way. Most often heard in reference to the dating habits of certain ungrateful sons.
Shaygetz (rarely heard) - same as shiksa, but male.

Last edited by Hello Again; 10-08-2010 at 09:49 PM.
#5
Old 10-09-2010, 02:09 AM
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About schlemiel and schlemozzle; supposedly a schlemiel is the guy who trips going down the stairs and spills a bowl of hot chicken soup. A schlemozzle is the one he spills it on.

Others I can recall:

Yenta or yentl- a woman noted for sticking her nose into the affairs of others and giving unasked-for advice. And the plural of yenta is Hadassah (an Israeli women's organization, actually).
Pishter- an insignificant person. A nobody.
Tummel- to act so loudly and boisterously as to cause people to stare. Chewing up the scenery. In any Jerry Lewis film you will see him give fine examples of tummeling.
Momser- a bastard, literally, figuratively or both.
Ganef-a thief, or other dishonest person
Goy (plural goyim)-a non-Jew, a gentile. I was a goy at a 98 percent Jewish high school way back when.
Putz- same as schmuck, only a bit more socially acceptable.
Davening- you have seen pictures of the wall of Solomon's temple in Jerusalem, with men in black reading aloud from some book and nodding repeatedly at the wall. This nodding is called davening, and as far as I can tell, it is an orthodox Jewish display of thanking and praising God. I know many non-orthodox Jews find it irritating and consider it a display of "look at me!" piety.
Shtupp- have sex with. Yiddish seems to have hundtreds of words for this. Like Eskimo words for snow, or Australian words for vomit.
Shvance-one of many words for the utensil you shtupp with.

More later if I think of any.
#6
Old 10-09-2010, 05:53 AM
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Read Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish. It will answer all your questions and more. It's the funniest dictionary ev-ah!
#7
Old 10-09-2010, 08:23 AM
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HelloAgain, shouldn't "Tsirrus - minor troubles " be "tsuris"?
#8
Old 10-09-2010, 08:39 AM
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Thanks everybody. How about some simple stuff, like "Good morning" and "See you soon" and such?
#9
Old 10-09-2010, 09:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post
Thanks everybody. How about some simple stuff, like "Good morning" and "See you soon" and such?
gee, after all these colorful examples....you're no fun!
When you leave work on Friday, tell the guy "Good shabbes" (="have a good sabbath")
#10
Old 10-09-2010, 11:51 AM
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If you vaugely know there's a holiday, but you're not exactly sure which one
Good Yuntif is the generic "happy holidays"

I believe the greeting is "Shalom alecham" (peace be upon you) and the response is "Alecham shalom."

In case its not obvious, the "ch" sound isn't like English as in chair. It's a sound like making the "ch" in "architecture" while clearing your throat. The same sound as in the German word "Achtung!"

Oh, and as to the spelling of Tsurris -- I tried to make the spellings more phonetic. It's transliteration anyway.

Last edited by Hello Again; 10-09-2010 at 11:52 AM.
#11
Old 10-09-2010, 11:59 AM
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A very useful Yiddish word is tchotchke. Wikipedia does a good job capturing its uses:

Tchotchke (Typically pronounced as "Chach-Kah") are small toys, gewgaws, knickknacks, baubles, lagniappes, trinkets, or kitsch. The term has a connotation of worthlessness or disposability, as well as tackiness[1][2], and has long been used in the Jewish-American community and in the regional speech of New York City.

The word may also refer to swag, in the sense of the logo pens, key fobs, and other promotional freebies dispensed at trade shows, conventions, and similar large events. Also, stores that sell cheap souvenirs in tourist areas like Times Square, Venice Beach, and the ABC Stores in Hawaii are sometimes called "tchotchke shops."
#12
Old 10-09-2010, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Typo Knig View Post
Read Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish. It will answer all your questions and more. It's the funniest dictionary ev-ah!
I second this. It's one of the books I keep in the bathroom, for casual perusal.
#13
Old 10-09-2010, 09:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by movingfinger View Post
About schlemiel and schlemozzle; supposedly a schlemiel is the guy who trips going down the stairs and spills a bowl of hot chicken soup. A schlemozzle is the one he spills it on.

Others I can recall:

Yenta or yentl- a woman noted for sticking her nose into the affairs of others and giving unasked-for advice. And the plural of yenta is Hadassah (an Israeli women's organization, actually).
Pishter- an insignificant person. A nobody.
Tummel- to act so loudly and boisterously as to cause people to stare. Chewing up the scenery. In any Jerry Lewis film you will see him give fine examples of tummeling.
Momser- a bastard, literally, figuratively or both.
Ganef-a thief, or other dishonest person
Goy (plural goyim)-a non-Jew, a gentile. I was a goy at a 98 percent Jewish high school way back when.
Putz- same as schmuck, only a bit more socially acceptable.
Davening- you have seen pictures of the wall of Solomon's temple in Jerusalem, with men in black reading aloud from some book and nodding repeatedly at the wall. This nodding is called davening, and as far as I can tell, it is an orthodox Jewish display of thanking and praising God. I know many non-orthodox Jews find it irritating and consider it a display of "look at me!" piety.
Shtupp- have sex with. Yiddish seems to have hundtreds of words for this. Like Eskimo words for snow, or Australian words for vomit.
Shvance-one of many words for the utensil you shtupp with.

More later if I think of any.
Davening is just praying, i.e. "He went to daven shacharis [the morning service]." Shuckling is the swaying back and forth.

Some other terms you might hear (some of these are Hebrew, but chassidim may interchange them):

Baruch Hashem (often written as B"H): Blessed is G-d, often used as we would use "fine." Ex. "How are you?" "Baruch Hashem."
chas v'sholom: G-d forbid
lo aleinu: we should not know it, ex. "His child has yene machla ("that disease," cancer), lo aleinu."
zichrono livrocho (often written as Z"L): of blessed memory, used to refer to deceased Jewish scholars, like Rav Moshe Feinstein Z"L or the Lubavitcher Rebbe Z"L
im yirtzeh Hashem: G-d willing
b'ezras Hashem: with G-d's help
b'li neder: without a vow/obligation, ex. "I'll get that done tomorrow, b'li neder." Making a promise and then not fulfilling it is a very serious issue in Judaism.
b'li ayin hara: without the Evil Eye ex. "Your child is beautiful, b'li ayin hara." It's kind of a superstitious thing, like if you don't say it after whatever good thing you're announcing then it will attract the Evil Eye and that thing will be damaged/destroyed. Also heard as kineahora ("kinnahurra")

"How are you?" might be "Vi gait es eich?"
#14
Old 10-10-2010, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friedo View Post

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Some spellings are probably wrong.
As far as I know, while some Yiddish words have more common spellings, there is no such thing as a correct way to spell in Yiddish.
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#15
Old 10-10-2010, 12:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friedo View Post
Oh, and of course my personal favorite: "Oy, vey!" A generic exclamation of frustration or annoyance.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Typo Knig View Post
Read Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish. It will answer all your questions and more. It's the funniest dictionary ev-ah!
I came in to recommend Rosten's book. It has one of my favorite observations in it: Oy is not a word. Oy is a vocabulary.
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