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Words from Yiddish

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July 29, 2002, 07:47
wordcrafter
Words from Yiddish
This week's theme is Words from Yiddish. All credit here to Leo Rosten, our primary source.

We'll also introduce the concept of the $20 word and the $50 word. big grin A $20 word adds zest to ordinary conversation: it's perhaps one not often spoken in conversation, but the hearer will understand it or pick it up from context. A $50 word is for writing-vocabulary, but might sound overly-erudite in conversation. The test, though arbitrary and subjective, will be informed by asking, "Does it generate more than 50,000 google-hits, or fewer?" (excluding names, foreign-language, etc

[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Mon Jul 29th, 2002 at 8:01.]
July 29, 2002, 07:58
wordcrafter
golum or goylum: a $50 word from Hebrew "matter without shape", or "a yet unformed thing". [Psalm 139.16] 1. a robot 2. a simpleton; fool 3. a clumsy person; a clod; someone who is all thumbs 4. a gracceless, tactless type 5. someone who is subnormal.
Examples: "He looks like a golem." "He is as slow-witted as a golum."

Mary Shelly, in authoring Frankenstein, may have gotten the idea from the golem legends.

When the scientists at the great Weizmann Institute in Israel built their first large electronic computer, they dubbed it Golem I.
July 29, 2002, 14:58
RodW
quote:
Originally posted by wordcrafter:

Mary Shell[e]y, in authoring _Frankenstein,_ may have gotten the idea from the _golem_ legends.


I've often wondered if J. R. R. Tolkien named his Gollum after the same legends.
July 29, 2002, 19:30
shufitz
Welcome, RJ smile Good to meet you. Pull up a chair and make yourself at home.

It is one of the shames of my life that I've not read Tolkien. But I do vaguely recall a character named Sholem the Golem, yet cannot for the life of me remember where he comes from. Can anyone help?
July 29, 2002, 22:28
arnie
quote:
I've often wondered if J. R. R. Tolkien named his Gollum after the same legends.


The author of this site thinks so.
July 29, 2002, 22:56
arnie
The word golem originally meant lump and derived from the word glam meaning to wrap up. The term, golem, was used in the Bible (Psalms 139:16) to mean a developing or unfinished substance.

The most famous legend is that Rabbi Judah Loew (1525-1609), one of the great Kabbalistic philosphers, created a giant clay figure called Golem, and put the word "ameth" (truth) on it. To kill the golem the tablet had to be removed, and the first letter of "ameth" had to be erased to spell "meth," meaning death. The intention was to protect the Jewish people of Prague from the dangers of religious prosecution and the bloodshed of pogroms, which were carried out because many people believed that Jews made their Passover bread from flour, water and the blood of Christian children.

The Golem, who had a child-like innocence despite his size and ugly appearance, speechlessly warned the Jews not to eat poisoned matzoh on the eve of Passover and dragged wrongdoers to the police station. Eventually, his actions helped force the royal decree that made the blood libel against the Jews illegal.

Mary Shelley appropriated the legend, and reworked it to produce Frankenstein.

[This message was edited by arnie on Mon Jul 29th, 2002 at 23:11.]
August 01, 2002, 07:09
wordcrafter
Miss MacKenzie: a female who will "do it"; a young lady who is loved by all.

An obscure one here. This bit of Yiddish-American slang has long since fallen out of usage, but you'll enjoy the derivation.

Yiddish has a heavy component of German, and in German "machen sie", means do it or make it. The pronunciation is much like "MacKenzie". Hence young gentlemen (and I use the term loosely) had a code to privately discuss the interesting subject of whether a lady was of also "loose terms". To discuss the "lay of the land", if you will

PS: I'm no german-scholar. Any corrections would be cheerfully appreciated
August 01, 2002, 12:50
wordcrafter
chacham:a clever, wise or learned man or woman; but (sarcastically) a fool, a wise guy; one who tries to be clever but suffers a downfall. Similarly chachma: a wise or profound saying or action; but (derisively) a foolish move or performance. The negative meanings are by far the more common, and (says Rosten) "No word will more swiftly establish you as one who knows Yiddish." The ch sounds are the aggressive, reverberating Scottish kh.

Examples:
--A proud young chachem told his grandmother that he was going to become a doctor of philosophy. The bubbe smiled proudly: "Wonderful. But what kind of disease is 'philosophy'?"

--Wife to husband at night: "Get up, Max. I'm freezing. Close the window; it's cold outside!" Sighed Max, "Chachem! And if I close the window, will it be warm outside?"

--Amid a frightful storm at sea, the captain asked one of the passengers, a professional magician, to distract the frightened passengers. The magician gave a dazzling performance, making cards disappear, turning scarves into flags, and for his gand finale presented a parrot who, he announced, "will now perform the greatest feet of magic in the history of prestidigitation."
-------All eyes turned to the parrot; drums rolled; trumpets blew -- and suddenly a tremendous wave smashed the ship in two. The passengers found themselves thrashing in the water, clinging to bits of flotsam. As the parrot floated by, one man fixed a cold stare on him and said bitterly, "Nu? Was this chachma?"
August 01, 2002, 23:13
Myrrhine
Oy! Vay! big grin
August 02, 2002, 08:10
Kalleh
Shikse (Non-Jewish woman--"I love to date them, but never want to marry them")
Even though I am Jewish, I am still called a "Shikse" because of my blonde hair and blue eyes.

Shmate Old rag
My son carried around a blanket everywhere he went. Naturally, it became old, torn, and dirty. We called it his shmate--quite a perfect name for it.
August 03, 2002, 10:06
wordnerd
re schmatte:
The scene: a fancy boutique in Paris.

Tourista: Combien francs pour cette chemise?
Clerk: Cette chemise est soixante francs.
Tourista: Soixante francs? Pour cette schmatte???
Clerke: Une schmatte, madame????!!! Quelle chutzpah!!!!!
August 03, 2002, 10:28
Hic et ubique
>> "Miss MacKenzie: a female who will "do it"; a young lady who is loved by all."

Very interesting! There's a humorous poet I love who wrote in the first decade of the 1900's -- very obscure, because he made the great career-mistake of dying very young. I wonder whether, when he choose the name "MacKenzie" for a female in one of his poems (initial stanzas below), he had this bit of yiddish in mind. Probably so, judging by the line I highlighted.
quote:
Matilda Maud Mackenzie / frankly hadn't any chin,
Her hands were rough, her feet she / turned invariably in;
Her general form was Geman,
By which I mean that you
Her waist could not determine
To within a foot or two:
And not only did she stammer,
But she used the kind of grammar
That is called, for sake of euphony, askew.

From what I say about her, / don't imagine I desire
A prejudice against this / worthy creature to inspire.
She was willing, she was active,
She was sober, she was kind,
But she never looked attractive
And she hadn't any mind!
I knew her more than slightly,
And I treated her politely
When I met her, but of course I wan't blind!

August 03, 2002, 13:14
Morgan
Welcome wordnerd! But, can we have that in English please? confused
August 03, 2002, 13:53
wildflowerchild
last night on Jeopardy! a college guy, for his anecdote, said he still has his baby blanket. and that it is intact. not just a square of cloth safety pinned inside his jacket. and he keeps it for a good luck charm. it is yellow. no doubt it is.

ladies, if i never was glad i'm not a college age girl anymore, i am now. you know where this kind of pablum comes from. this generation with their "time out", etc. if a guy had had a blankie in his dorm room when i was in college, he would have been....i want to say killed, but, really, everybody was so busy getting stoned, they probably would have just laughed themselves to death over blankie. then used it to wipe up spilt bong water.
August 03, 2002, 14:00
Morgan
quote:
Shmate Old rag
My son carried around a blanket everywhere he went. Naturally, it became old, torn, and dirty. We called it his shmate--quite a perfect name for it.


My son, now 23, still has a baby blanket that was a gift from his aunt when she was in Korea. I had it at my house while he spent three years in the army, and after he would be home for a visit, I would find it neatly folded on the end of the guest bed. When he got out of the service, and got his own apartment, it was the first thing I boxed up! I haven't seen it since! razz
August 03, 2002, 14:27
wordnerd
>> "Can we have that in English, please?" Sorry, here it is. But it works better with the contrast between snooty effete boutique-french and earthy yiddish. smile
quote:
Tourista: Combien francs pour cette chemise?
Clerk: Cette chemise est soixante francs.
Tourista: Soixante francs? Pour cette schmatte???
Clerke: Une schmatte, madame????!!! Quelle chutzpah!!!!!

Tourista: How many francs for this shirt?
Clerk: [answers]
Tourista: 60 francs? For this schmatte???
Clerke: A schmatte, madame????!!! What chutzpah!!!!!

August 03, 2002, 17:53
wordcrafter
tsatske: a delicious word, pronounced to rhyme with "pots the". Diminutive form tsatskeleh. If you can't do the "ts" sound at the start, then change each of the ts's to a ch and say "chotchke".

1. A cheap plaything, trinket or geegaw, as "Give the baby a tsatske to keep it quiet." But the more important use, by extension: 2. A cute but inconsequential female; a sexy but brainless broad; a dumb blonde; the female equivalent of a "boy toy".

As the fur salesman was wrapping up the mink coat for a gentleman and his pretty young lady friend, the tsatske suddenly asked if the mink would be damaged if she were caught in the rain. "Lady", he replied, "did you ever see a mink carrying an umbrella?"
August 03, 2002, 19:07
wildflowerchild
now i have a picture of the mink with the umbrella in my mind. thank you! i will have such funny and pretty dreams tonight. and maybe write a story about him in the morning.. big grin¿
August 04, 2002, 13:45
wordcrafter
After yiddish words of negative connotation, it's time for the highest compliment yiddish has to offer.

mensh (rhymes with "bench"): 1. An upright, honorable, decent person. "Come on, act like a mensh!" 2. Someone of consequence; someone to admire and emulate; someone of noble character. "Now, there is a real mensh!"

The finest thing you can say about a man is that he is a mensh. Jewish children often hear the admonition: "Behave like a mensh!" The most withering comment one might make on on someone's character or conduct is, "He is not (or did not act like) a mensh!"

It has nothing to do with success, wealth, status. A judge can be a zhlob; a millionaire can be a momzer; a professor can be a shlemiel, a doctor a klutz, a lawyer a bulvon. The key to being "a real mensh" is nothing less than character: rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous. Many a poor man, many an ignorant man, is a mensh.
August 19, 2002, 13:33
shufitz
Today's MSN home-page advertises:
quote:
Low on office supplies? Don't schlep to the store.

August 19, 2002, 16:01
<Asa Lovejoy>
Even though I am Jewish, I am still called a "Shikse" because of my blonde hair and
blue eyes.
________________________________________

You think YOU'VE got Jewish identity problems? My girlfriend is Jewish, but red-haired and freckled! Irish milkman, perhaps? red face

Asa the goy boy
August 19, 2002, 21:01
Hic et ubique
>> Jewish, but red-haired and freckled! Irish milkman, perhaps?
_______________________________________________________________

Asa, your kidding may be close to the mark here. I recall hearing long ago that the the arab langauges of the middle east, the word for a "red-head" literally means throwback, one presuming that some crusader from the 1200's was one of the redhead's ancestors.
September 04, 2002, 13:42
ThunderChicken
Lenny Bruce, when asked why he used so much Yiddish in his comedy, replied : "Yiddish is intrinsically hip. It's the only language in history never used by anyone in a position of power."
What a hoot.
Personally, I've always preferred Yiddish because all the words are onomatopoeic . After all, "schtupping" sounds like exactly what it IS...*ahem*
TC.
P.S. - Wonderful site. I've succeeded in wiling away most of an afternoon here.
September 04, 2002, 19:50
Hic et ubique
Welcome to the mad-house, ThunderChicken. smile In addition to your other talents, I'm betting that a Texan will be invaluable when we're discussing US regionalisms.

BTW, I happen to have a recipe for a great sweet-and-hot BBQ sauce (for pork, not for chicken). cool
September 02, 2003, 20:46
shufitz
quote:
Originally posted by wordcrafter:
tsatske: ... 1. A cheap plaything, trinket or geegaw, as "Give the baby a tsatske to keep it quiet." But the more important use, by extension: 2. A cute but inconsequential female; a sexy but brainless broad; a dumb blonde; the female equivalent of a "boy toy"."
World Wide Words (Quinion) gives a more extended discussion and a somewhat different meaning. Mr. Quinion denies the 2nd meaning given above. I recently exchanged e-mail with Mr. Quinion, and we concluded that that usage may be characteristic of an older generation only. I've heard it; his copy-editor, who is younger than I (sigh), had not.

Quinion, noting the first meaning of "a trinket, ornament, or souvenir," adds, "To non-Jews in America it has most commonly come to mean those promotional items that are handed out at trade shows."
September 04, 2003, 20:39
WinterBranch
I'm rereading a book that I quite enjoyed, Dreamland, by Kevin Baker. It's set in the twenties in New York, and it's mostly about the underworld.

One character is trying to poison the horse of a peddler (of clothing, hopefully not schmatte Wink ). He does succeed and the peddler screams at him "You're a shande!...A shande for the goyim!"

Because of 'goyim', I assumed that shande was Yiddish and tried some online dictionaries.

The closest I thing that I could find that made any sense was the German word Schande.

But even then, it doesn't make much sense. Anyone familiar with the word?
September 05, 2003, 02:00
BobHale
quote:
Originally posted by WinterBranch:
He does succeed and the peddler screams at him "You're a _shande_!...A _shande_ for the goyim!"

Because of 'goyim', I assumed that shande was Yiddish and tried some online dictionaries.

The closest I thing that I could find that made any sense was the German word Schande
But even then, it doesn't make much sense. Anyone familiar with the word?


It does sort of make sense if it's German. Schande means "shame", "dishonour" or "disgrace". So it would be "you're a disgrace to the goyim"

Du bist eine Schande, means "you are a disgrace".

Schande über dich ! means "Shame on you!".

Glaubt es mir - das Geheimnis, um die größte Fruchtbarkeit und den größten Genuß vom Dasein einzuernten, heisst: gefährlich leben.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Read all about my travels around the world here.
Read even more of my travel writing and poems on my weblog.
September 05, 2003, 07:53
haberdasher
Pretty much the same thing in Yiddish, too.
September 08, 2003, 18:36
WinterBranch
Thanks! I guess I was confused, because the poisoner is Jewish, and in fact replies something like "The goyim work for me!"

Kinda confused me.
September 09, 2003, 22:14
palefox
quote:
Originally posted by Asa Lovejoy:
Even though I am Jewish, I am still called a "Shikse" because of my blonde hair and blue eyes.
Not to be a k'nocker here, Asa, but who's calling you a shikse, because here in Chicago, and elsewhere, it's a term used for a gentile woman. BTW, "shiksa", if my memory serves, literally means "undesirable".

On another note "tsatske" can also be pronounced with a long e sound at the end: sounds like "pots key" (with due respect to Mr. Roston) Wink

On even another note I highly reccommend (read: kvell) "The Joys of Yiddish" by Leo Roston. I found it at a garage sale about 2 summers ago. I've read through it a few times and find it a great "library" read. If you catch my drift. Eek

peace.

palefox
September 10, 2003, 00:29
BobHale
quote:
Originally posted by palefox:
quote:
Originally posted by Asa Lovejoy:
Even though I am Jewish, I am still called a "Shikse" because of my blonde hair and blue eyes.
N

who's calling you a _shikse_, because here in Chicago, and elsewhere, it's a term used for a gentile _woman._ BTW, "shiksa", if my memory serves, literally means "undesirable".

palefox


Asa had just messed up his quoting, it was Kalleh who originally said that she was still called a shiksa because of her appearance.

Just posted in the interestes of removing any gender confusion your post might have caused in Asa. Smile

Glaubt es mir - das Geheimnis, um die größte Fruchtbarkeit und den größten Genuß vom Dasein einzuernten, heisst: gefährlich leben.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Read all about my travels around the world here.
Read even more of my travel writing and poems on my weblog.
September 10, 2003, 14:05
palefox
Bob Hale wrote:
quote:
Asa had just messed up his quoting, it was Kalleh who originally said that she was still called a shiksa because of her appearance.

Just posted in the interestes of removing any gender confusion your post might have caused in Asa. Smile
Kineahora, Asa, sorry about the bubbeh-myseh. Big Grin

peace.

palefox
September 10, 2003, 14:06
shufitz
Hi, palefox! Looks like you and I are neighbors -- and anyone who loves yiddish is a friend of mine. Cool Welcome aboard.
September 11, 2003, 12:39
palefox
Thanks Shufitz, glad to be here.
I'm in Ravenswood Manor - you? And where's Kalleh from?

peace.

palefox
September 11, 2003, 14:43
jerry thomas
Ravenswood Manor? Is that near LeRoy's neighborhood?
September 11, 2003, 22:58
palefox
quote:
Originally posted by jerry thomas:
http://ravenswood.free.fr/ph_ext.htm Is that near [URL=http://users.cis.net/sammy/badleroy.htm
more like here (aerial photo) and here (map quest)

Chicago is made up of many diverse neighborhoods. For a better look at the names, click here.

I hope this clears up the confusion. Wink

so sorry to bring us off topic

peace.

palefox

[This message was edited by palefox on Sat Sep 13th, 2003 at 13:00.]
September 13, 2003, 02:24
tinman
Posting a map from MapQuest was a good idea. Unfortunately, it didn't work.

Tinman
September 13, 2003, 13:00
palefox
The link was valid from my computer, but the address was wrong so I corrected that.

peace.

palefox
September 13, 2003, 18:33
shufitz
I'm up in the north burbs, palefox, and since kalleh (in a moment of bad judgment) consented to marry me, she tolerates me hanging around the same house.

And a glance at the "Brittany Spears" thread should show you that no apology is ever needed for rolling away from the original subject. Smile That particularly tends to happen when CJ is around. Wink
September 13, 2003, 19:22
jerry thomas
If posting off-topic stuff is bad behavior, I confess that in my attempt to learn something about Chicago neighborhoods I diverged from the "Yiddish Words" topic.

So I'll now tell my Yiddish Words story. When I lived in Buenos Aires I frequently bought cigarettes and other things from the old woman who ran the kiosko near where I worked. She and I always spoke in Spanish. One day I noticed that the newspaper she was reading was printed in Hebrew script. I said, "I used to know how to say thank you in Hebrew (to-dah ra-bah) but I've forgotten it. How is it said?" She said what sounded like "Danke schane." Then from another friend I learned that that newspaper was "Die Jiddische Tageblat," so for a while I spoke to that lady with my limited German. And then one day she said, "Usted habla muy bien el yidich," and I said, "Danke shane."
September 13, 2003, 22:44
tinman
quote:
Originally posted by palefox:
The link was valid from my computer, but the address was wrong so I corrected that.


It worked that time. Thanks, palefox. My suggestion is for those so inclined to post maps of their neighborhoods. There's no need to post your address unless you wish to. Here's mine. And here's the aerial photo. Shoreline is north of 145th St.; Seattle is south.

Tinman
September 14, 2003, 12:49
palefox
Thanks for your concern, Tinman. I'm right with you. That address is about 1.5 blocks from my apartment.

peace.

palefox

Is Shoreline a suburb or a neighborhood of Seattle?
September 15, 2003, 02:32
tinman
Shoreline is a separate city, incorporated in 1995.

Tinman
September 15, 2003, 09:43
Kalleh
quote:
I'm up in the north burbs, palefox, and since kalleh (in a moment of bad judgment) consented to marry me
Since we just celebrated a 20-something anniversary (time flies when you're having fun!), I guess my judgement wasn't too bad!
September 15, 2003, 20:26
shufitz
quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
quote:
I'm up in the north burbs, palefox, and since kalleh (in a moment of bad judgment) consented to marry me.
Since we just celebrated a 20-something anniversary (time flies when you're having fun!), I guess my judgement wasn't too bad!

Or hasn't improved over those decades. Wink
March 23, 2008, 21:09
Kalleh
Reviving a very early thread...

Chutzpah - Most know this word, right? Today a columnist in the Chicago Tribune spelled it hutzpah. It really isn't pronounced with just the "h." You need the "ch" for correct pronunciation.

I was surprised. Has the spelling of this word "evolved?"
March 23, 2008, 22:36
zmježd
The confusion over how to transliterate Hebrew letter ח cheth, so as not to confuse it with ה he or כ kaph, sans dagesh, or even ק qoph is a thorny problem. Even the צ tsdik is problematic. Some like tz and others tz. The Wikipedia article on the romanization of Hebrew gives a good overview (link).

The problem with using a ch in the transliteration for the word khutspah (how I'd transliterate it) is that many Anglophones think it's the same as the /tʃ/ in church.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
March 24, 2008, 01:43
Richard English
A Jewish friend of mine suggested it was very nearly the same as the Spanish "J" sound - a rather throaty "H".


Richard English
March 24, 2008, 05:38
arnie
It's similar to the spelling Hanukkah which also often spelled Chanukkah, and probably other ways.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
March 24, 2008, 06:45
zmježd
The pronunciation of Hebrew cheth varies by region (and historically). It can be realized as a voiceless velar fricative [x] (similar to a Spanish j or g in certain environments link) or farther back in the vocal tract as a pharyngeal fricative [ħ] as with the Sephardi and Yemenite speech communities (link).


Ceci n'est pas un seing.