The words I have learned from Dad supplement the new foods his Jewish heritage brought to my life. Some, I was surprised to learn, I knew and used often. One word in particular is because I have always been one—a klutz, which is defined as a clumsy person. I am always bumping into things, and this may be why I never mastered the graceful act of performing a cartwheel. My interpretation is extremely klutzy.
With the online version of The Yiddish Handbook: 40 Words You Should Know and The First Words You Learn: Selected Words and Phrases, I decided to see how many I know. I tried, in each case, to correctly use them in a sentence. I hope I did okay.
- Ay-Yay-Yay- A joyous or sometimes sarcastic expression
If you asked Dad’s grandma how she felt, she would answer, “Oh, not so ay-yay-yay!
- Boychick- An affectionate term for a young boy.
Dad always refers to Bryce as “boychick,” and until this moment, I thought he invented this word.
- Bupkes- Trivial, useless, or a small amount.
I got paid bupkes when I babysat as a teenager—only 50 cents/hour.
- Chutzpah-Nerve, extreme arrogance
In my opinion, Donald Trump shows a lot of chutzpah with many of his obnoxious comments.
- Dreck- Garbage, junk, shit.
Who is responsible for this dreck all over the floor of my new car?”
- Ess- Eat.
The 5 of us sat down to the dinner Dad’s grandma Esther made for us—a single Cornish hen—and she said to us, “Ess, ess.”
- Fershtay- Understand?
After Dad finished his “how to load the dishwasher seminar,” he turned to us and asked, “Fershtay?”
- Glitch- Slip, minor problem or error
Volkswagen’s emissions glitch has turned into more of a tsunami.
- Kvetch- Complain or whine
You girls call me more to kvetch about your lives than your father because you know I don’t kvetch as much as he does.
- Mazel Tov- Congratulations or good luck
Our friends called to say Mazel Tov when they heard we were expecting a new grandchild.
- Mensch- An honorable, decent person.
Some may not like Joe Biden’s politics, but many would agree that he is a real mensch.
- Mishuga/meshugge- Insane, crazy
Nobody can argue that Dabo Swinney sometimes goes mishuga with his rants.
- Nosh- To nibble or a light snack (verb or noun)
Dad likes to nosh while watching television in the evenings.
- Oy vey- Expression of dismay or exasperation
When Kelly had to drive to a wedding a distance away the weekend of the SC floods, Dad and I said,“Oy vey!”
- Oy vey iz mir- Oh woe is me!
When Dad’s father died, his distraught grandmother said, “Oy vey iz mir!”
- Plotz- To explode in aggravation.
When Dad hangs up the phone after speaking to the insurance company he wants to plotz.
- Schlep- To drag, to carry unwillingly
My house is filled with the belongings you girls wouldn’t schlep to your new homes.
- Schmeer- To spread or a spread
I prefer to get my cream cheese on the side, because the store owners usually schmeers on more schmeer than I like.
- Shlemiel/ schlemiel- Clumsy person; a klutz (Learned that from the show “Laverne and Shirley”)
When Bryce runs through the house while looking to the side rather than where he is going, he crashed into things, so I could call him a real schlemiel.
- Shmendrik- A stupid person; a jerk
The woman who hit Casey’s car when she drove from the parking lot was a real schmendrik!
- Shmatta- A rag. (Note: not in the dictionary, but Dad said I had to add.)
Some of Dad’s old shirts are real shmattas. I would like them to disappear!
- Schmooze-To chat; make small talk
Jamie tries to schmooze with the celebrities she meets at the book signings.
- Schlock- Cheap; inferior
Dad got tired of me buying schlocky pocketbooks, so he bought me a Coach purse ten years ago, and it is still in good condition.
- Shlimazel- Someone with constant bad luck (Also from “Laverne & Shirley”)
For a long time, Jamie had a cloud over her head and was a real shlimazel, but her life is now great—a new job and a great husband.
- Spiel- Long involved talk or sales pitch
I only wanted to know if it was going to rain tomorrow, but I had to listen to the weatherman’s whole spiel about the weather across the rest of the country first.
- Shikse- A non-Jewish woman.
One of Dad’s uncles canceled our wedding when he learned I was a shikse.
- Shmutz/schmutz- A little dirt or smudge
I used to wipe the schmutz off your faces with your spit rather than mine. I was a great mom!
- Shtick- Something you are known for doing.
Anyone who knows me is aware than my shtick is researching dead people, and I don’t care if my hobby is annoying to some of you.
- Tchotchkas, tchotchkes- Knick-knacks
Dad always brought you home tchotchkas from his trips: postcards for Jamie, key chains for Kelly, and magnets for Casey.
- Tuches/tukhis- Rear end, butt
I was always happy when you were potty trained and could wipe your own little!
There you go. Not bad for a shikse! How many have you heard in random conversations, or how many from the mouth of Dad?