Oct 5, 2013 by




Yiddish, the language of Eastern European Jews, is a hybrid of German, Polish, Russian, Romanian, Ukranian, and other Slovene dialects. Yiddish became known as mama-loshen, “mothers’ language,” as Jewish women spoke it to their children.   With assimilation, Yiddish-speakers have been declining, yet there are those interested in its revival.  It is doubtful there is another language that is quite so brave, hilarious,  irreverent, expressive, filled with majesty — and most of all, sentiment.


A few facts:


*About 100 books are printed in Yiddish annually.


*Only 0.5 % of Yiddish literature has been translated into English.


*Apart from the Andrews Sisters record of “Bei Mir Bist Du Shein” (1938) the only Yiddish song that mainstreamed was Joan Baez’s 1960’s version of “Dona, Dona.”


*The Oxford English Dictionary contained 144 words of Yiddish origin.


The legendary writer, Leo Rosten, gave us the joys of Yiddish in his works, and a new word came into being: Yinglish, which are words created by Yiddish speakers to describe things that were uncommon in the old country and have now become a part of the American lexicon used by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Examples:  alrightnik,  blintz (Yinglish because the true Yiddish is blintzeh),

boychick from boychikel and cockamamie.




THE ABBREVIATED DICTIONARY OF “OY!” Only two letters, but countless usages

Marnie Macauley


Three bubbes are sitting on a park bench.

The first one lets out a heartfelt, “Oy!”

The second sighing, says, “Oy vey!”

A few minutes later, the third brushes away a tear and moans, “Oy vey iz mir!” to which the first bubbe replies: “I thought we agreed we weren’t going to talk about the children!”


In this joke, older than Moses, we also have the reason why Yiddish stands alone – every expression a magnificent, linguistic cholent among canned beans. Deceptively simply, yet deliciously rich, one word can fill a thesaurus the way one dish can feed the entire mishpacha.


Of all of Yiddish’s words, perhaps none is as useful, as ambitious, as busy as “Oy.”


Of all its words, perhaps none is as useful, as ambitious, as busy as “Oy.” Never out of place, suited to almost every occasion, these two tiny letters comprise an emotional encyclopedia. Bigger than “too bad,” “aw shucks,” or even “Sacrebleu!” it comes from the kishkes of Jewish trials – from anguish to zeal.


Either of German (Ach weh) or Biblical origin, it was first noted as an English interjection in the 1890s. In fact, it’s so useful, non-Jews have “adopted” it. Soto expand your ability to express … the inexpressible, I give you:





Anguish: “Two years you’ve been seeing him. Oy, enough already!”


Boredom: “Pssst, Harvey, they’re taking out another video. Oyyyy. If this is more about their vacation in Venice, I’m throwing myself in a canal!”


Confused: “Did I take a right by the statue or a left by the Starbucks? Oy.”


Dismay: “I’ve got to go bathing suit shopping. Oy! Not loving it.”


Empathy: “Thirty-six hours of labor? Oy, tell me! I went through 41!”


Fear: “You want to learn to drive?! Oy! There are lunatics on the road just waiting to kill you!”


Glad: “Your daughter decided to give up the idea of being a juggler? Oy, it’s about time.”


Horror: “You saw a serial killer who looked exactly like your neighbor’s babysitter’s hairdresser’s on America’s Most Wanted? Oyyyy!!!


Irony: “Is this the Santa’s hotline? Oy, do you have the wrong number!”


Joy: “Would you believe I got the very last chocolate bobka in the bakery! Oy, I’m thrilled!”


Kindly: “Oy mamala … come to bubbe for a big hug – and also a sour ball.”


Lamentation: “Oy, darling, we sobbed our hearts out when he left you at the altar.”


Mortification: “Oy, how was a person to know she’s zaftig – and not in her ninth month?”


Nervous: “It’s my granddaughter’s first dance recital! An Anna Pavlova she isn’t. Oy, I hope she doesn’t fall off the stage.”


Outrage: “Oy! What a shyster! May his eyeballs drop from his head!”


Pain: “Oy, a herd of antelopes are charging in my head!”


Queasy: “After her brisket … oy, I’ll be up all night!”


Regret: “Oy. Daddy and I think maybe we’ve been too hard on you. A Junior College is nice, too.”


Shock: “You found a what in her bedroom!? Oy!!”


Tense: “You’re taking your SATs tomorrow – and you don’t remember if the word “Nadir” is up or down?! Oyyy.”


Uneasy: “Oy … see those boys. Quick! In the car. They’re wearing red – a gang color.”


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Vanity: “In my day I was some beauty! The young men lined up to date me. Oyyy…you should’ve seen.”


Wonder: “Wait. A TiVo knows to record my show even when they replace it with college football?! Oy, now this I can’t believe!”


Zeal: “You two decided to get married in the Rabbi’s study this Sunday night?! For you, darling, I’ll call 50 family and friends and e-mail the out-of-towners. Hmmm. I’ll make 10 briskets, 10 turkeys, and order six sides from the Kosher Konnection plus dessert and the wedding cake. A band we can get from cousin David who once did an opening act for Gene Simmons … then … A problem? OY, I’m so excited I could plotz!?”



Marnie Macauley


We Jews have historically used our pisks instead of fists in dealing with others. If the old saw “words can kill” is accurate, we’ve refined the mission to: “maybe torture until your opponent, until his brain is farmisht and his tongue is hanging trying to best us.”


The Yiddish curse isn’t a simple *)(&%%$! No, it’s a prophecy (“May you …). As a child I heard my parents say: “Er zol vaksen vi a tsibeleh, mit dem kop in drerd.” I had no idea what it meant. All I knew was, when uttered, grown ups would gishrei (scream) or faint. Finally, when I was of legal age, my parents told me solemnly, “It means … ‘He should grow like an onion with his head in the ground.’”


The Yiddish curse has a baroque splendour in its intricate ability to prophesize.


Wha …?! Now that’s raw Yiddish power! While Anglo-Saxon curses often deal with body parts, Catholic curses go for blasphemy, and the Middle and Far East do their version of “Yo Mama,” insulting ancestors, the Yiddish curse has a baroque splendour in its intricate ability to prophesize. The most spectacular lull the “victim” with a positive opening, which then turns into a juicy, literate, malediction that no mere obscene word could possibly convey. According to the Proverb: “A curse is not a telegram: it doesn’t arrive so fast.” Like Jewish caviar, the Jewish curse must be savored.


But alas, as with far too much of our glorious heritage, JYAs (Jewish Young Adults) have lost the art. And why not? How many young Jews know from Czars, bedbugs, Mazurkas, Ukrainian regiments, tapeworms, trolley cars, delirium, outhouses, and “navel” onions?? So for you, my dear readers, I’m presenting the best Jewish Curses: old and new. I’ve written the New Jewish Curses that better “resonate” in the New Millenium. May you use them in good health, mein kind, and with noble purpose!


Favorite Old Yiddish Curses


May you be a person of leisure, take a daily nap – and may the lice in your shirt marry the bedbugs in your mattress and may their offspring set up residence in your underwear.


May you enjoy a good time with plenty of good Vodka – and may your blood turn to whiskey, so that 100 bedbugs get drunk on it and dance the mazurka in your belly button.


May you get passage out of the old village safely, and when you settle, may you fall into the outhouse just as a regiment of Ukrainians is finishing a prune stew and twelve barrels of beer.


May you be so enamored of good food that you turn into a blintz, and may your enemy turn into a cat, and may he eat you up and choke on you, so we can be rid of you both.


May you have a hundred houses, and in every house a hundred rooms and in every room 20 beds, and may you come down with a delirious fever that drives you from bed to bed.


May you turn into a centipede with ingrown toenails, may onions grow in your navel and may you lie in the earth and bake bagels.


May your tapeworm develop constipation while trolley cars run through your intestine as thieves camp out in your belly and steal your guts one by one.


May you eat chopped liver with onion, pickled herring, chicken soup with matzo balls,


carp with horse radish, boiled beef with tsimmis, potato pancakes with applesauce — and may you choke on every bite. ALT or may your wife eat matzoh in bed and may you roll in the crumbs.


May your two sons grow up happy and strong. And may they become a doctor and a lawyer. And may each marry a wonderful women and have wealth. And may they each have many children and may they all name someone after you already!


NEW Yiddish Curses For JYA’S in the New Millennium


May your mother get you a fun new app that allows her to reach you more easily, and may you learn it also has a tracking device and “just knows” what you’re up to, then repeats in her voice: “You’re breaking my heart!”


May the men in your family be blessed with luxurious hair that remains thick and curly well into their eighties, and may you be the only one to inherent great-zayde Yossel’s recessive gene for male pattern baldness which kicks in the day after your Bar Mitzvah!


May you be approaching your 16th Birthday, and may you have been promised, your own car, and may you have your heart set on that red 2012 MazdaSpeed Protege that revs to 170 mph on Craig’s List, and may your parents proudly hand you the keys to a 2002 beige Chrysler station wagon!


May you be texting on a Jewish social networking site and get the following message from Shaloma2: “DYHM” thinking it means “Do You ‘Heart’ Me” – and may you then learn Shaloma2 is your mother and “DYHM” stands for “Do Your Homework, Mamala!


May you be a hot new Glatt Kosher chef, and may The Food Network challenge you to a televised Throwdown showdown, and may Irishman Bobby Flay beat you, in front of millions, with his gribenes!


May it be Christmas Day, and while your gentile friends are eating ham, surrounded by red and green lights and holly boughs, sitting around a gezunta tree, opening presents, may the only Glatt Kosher Chinese restaurant within 50 miles be “closed for renovations!”


May you write a series of brilliant proposals on your computer which will make you a young millionaire, and may your computer crash, but fortunately may you have backed-up with a fancy system your brother, the computer geek, installed — and may you learn his brilliant system stopped functioning in 2010, as he was eager to get to his chess match!


May you be a hard-working Jewish writer, and may you be studious, conscientious, and passionate in your work, and may you have wonderful readers who appreciate your humor, your research, and your dedication – and may every ethnic humor book publisher say, “too Jewish!”








Marnie Macauley


Mama-loshen, or Yiddish is making a small but mighty comeback. Alevai! Is there a language that’s more expressive, passionate, hilarious, and bawdy, with words that are so spot-on, you “feel” both the sting and the love.


A test: Find one English substitute for “Chutzpah!” Ok, true, there’s “gall,” “nerve,” “courage,” but none deliver the same punch as our “chutzpah.”


Listen: “ Yankel took home the leftover wine! Now that’s gall.”

“ Yankel took home the  leftover wine?!  He has some nerve.”


Are they snoozers or what?


Now, We Jews:

“Yankel took home the leftover wine?!  Oy, what chutzpah!” This. my friends, is a true character evaluation (or assassination). And more, like many Yiddish words, it’s versatile.


“It turns out Yankel took the wine back to the store to complain of rotten corkage! He not only got the gelt back, but a free bottle of Manischewitz! Now that’s chutzpah! (Good for Yankel!)


Other words, from mensch to yutz also deliver levels of meaning for which there is no direct English translation. A “mensch” isn’t merely a “person,” but a person. He or she is a human with a heart, a soul, a generosity, a righteousness whose empathy will not only get him to heaven, but put him first on the heavenly lox and bagel buffet.


Our Ashkenazic language is so rich, many words have become part of our Yinglish lexicon thanks in part to media. Even in Monkey Run, Missouri, a fair number will know “meshugge” means you’re one letter short of an M&M.


Since Boomer days, JYAs (Jewish Young Adults) have “heard” the words, but some are a little farshimmelt about usage. For example, the other day I heard a young Jewish college student say: “Oy, this physics paper has got me so fapitzed!” He dresses up for confusion? A neighbor recently spouted: “I was so verklempt, I finally told my boss to drop dead.” No Mike Myers ( Linda Richman on SNL’s “Coffee Tawk”) is farmisht, and out dear Leo Rosten is rising from the grave and yelling “Shmegegges, go buy my book already!”


Fortunately, some secular schools are giving courses in Yiddish now, and there a burst of new Yiddish theatre offerings, all of which does my soul good.


But it’s a new world filled with digital thingamabobs aimed at making sure no GenY-er has to say an entire word, or Oy! a whole phrase. As Judaism has always insured our customs are adaptable, I’ve come up with new Yiddish words that our JYAs can say, text, raspberry quickly – and make their point … or some point.




“Blogshert”: You met him on JewLove.ca, texted, e-mailed, and share a love for  lokshen. But, he lives on Prince Edward Island, and you’re from Petawawa. What’s the next step? To discover your true prospect potential, share a personal blog! With daily entries you’ll know the ganza: what he eats, what bus he rides, his pals, and how he argued with the meter maid and bought socks on EBay.

Text: “BShrt.” Usage: “Sorry Ruchel, I can’t go to the movies because I have to share with my blogshert that Kraft polly-o string cheese is now Kosher … and maybe we should finally meet for pizza!


“Challahveid”: You overdid last Shabbos on the so-good challah, then the challah French toast the next morning and the challah bread pudding mit the raisins. Oy the agony, oh, the ecstasy!

Text: “CVed.” Usage: “Darling, I’m so challahveid, I’ll text you … Thursday, before Shabbos. By then the swelling should go down.”


“Chaloshinations”: A combo of the Yiddish “chaloshes” (“disgusting”) and “hallucinations.” Describes people who think their underwear is out to get them.

Text: “Loshing.” Usage: “Marvin, stop with the loshing already. In the monsoon, trust me. No one noticed that zit.”


“Chutzpahooding”: The ability to “hide” chutzpah by saying it comes from love. This is a major league art and should not be practiced by amateurs.

Text: “Z-hood.” Usage: “When I returned to my apartment, my sofa was gone,  with a note from my mother, the chutzpahooder: ‘Mamala, I know on your farshtinkener salary all you can afford is vinyl, which you I think is a leading cause of cancer. So, for you daddy and I ordered the best futon from Target – in rainbow. Enjoy, darling.”


“Farpitztanista”: A Jewish trendsetter for who fashion is her life.

Text: “Pitzta.”  Usage: “Those farpitztanistas on Princesses: Long Island with their expensive shmattes are so shallow they put lip-gloss on their heads to impress a God.


“Krenkenstein”: You’ve got a headache, they think they’ve got a brain tumor. For the  krenkenstein, every pimple, every rash or itch is an early warning sign of a disease only old men in Yekaterinburg get from a constant diet of herring.

Text: “Krenkies.”  Usage: “That meshugge krenkie asked if anyone on Facebook died from herring after itching! I texted that my Russian family are in Stage Two – protective gloves.’”


“Kveitchers”: Part “k’vitch,” “part kvetch,” you need these “friends” whose latte is always too cold, too hot, too milky, too coffee, like a loch in kop (hole in the head).

Text: “Veitchers.” Usage: “Don’t do deli with those veitchers! Again they complained the pastrami was too lunghy, and worse, screamed to the owner: “May all your teeth fall out except one to make you suffer!”


“Mieschatanem”: Ok, so the in-laws resemble Brezhnev with the one eyebrow. Do JYAs have the patience to say or text: “Oy, are my mechutenem fuggly mieskeits?” That’s six whole words!

Text: “Mieschuts.” Usage: “True they’re my Mieschuts, but I bought a tweezer the size of a hedge clipper, should God forbid it’s hereditary.”


NOTE: the prefix “Mies” may be added freely, for example:


“Mieshugge”: He’s not only nuts, but not too good-looking.

Text: “Meishug.”  Usage: “He’s working on an APP for the blob fish because he ‘feels a connection.’”


“Tweepkops”: The creep tweeps you never met, don’t want to meet, who hock you with invites on Twitter.

Text: “TKs.” Usage: “Oy, I got tweetkupped from a guy named Ugmat who sent: “My dear friend Moonie. Write from home for 50 cents (U.S.) an article! Knowledge of Tagalog helpful.”


“Yentering”: Originally from the Yiddish word “yenta” which means she’s into her business, your business, her plumber’s business … and spreading the news. This new word makes it a “condition.”

Text: “QY.” Usage: “Do I care if Chava made a dry brisket?! Quit Yentering me already!”


“Yentertaining”: OK, you heard the news that your vilda chaya cousin was Unfriended on FB for “yentering.” Now this is “yentertaining.”



If you, my dear readers, by all means send more and add to this mitvahfying Mitvahfication.



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