Posted by: episystechpubs | December 8, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Yiddish and Face with Tears of Joy (Part 2)

Today I welcome you to the other half of my list of Yiddish words you should know, compiled from a larger list at Daily Writing Tips. Enjoy the selection here or see the website for the full forty.

oy vey
Exclamation of dismay, grief, or exasperation. The phrase “oy vey iz mir” means “Oh, woe is me.” “Oy gevalt!” is like oy vey, but expresses fear, shock or amazement. When you realize you’re about to be hit by a car, this expression would be appropriate.

shlep
To drag, traditionally something you don’t really need; to carry unwillingly. When people “shlep around,” they are dragging themselves, perhaps slouchingly. On vacation, when I’m the one who ends up carrying the heavy suitcase I begged my wife to leave at home, I shlep it.

shlemiel
A clumsy, inept person, similar to a klutz (also a Yiddish word). The kind of person who always spills his soup.

schlock
Cheap, shoddy, or inferior, as in, “I don’t know why I bought this schlocky souvenir.”

shlimazel
Someone with constant bad luck. When the shlemiel spills his soup, he probably spills it on the shlimazel. Fans of the TV sitcom “Laverne and Shirley” remember these two words from the Yiddish-American hopscotch chant that opened each show. [KC
– Apparently, the full words to the beginning of the show were
Schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated.
Hasenpfeffer, for those of you non-Bugs Bunny fans, is rabbit stew. What a weird opening to a show!]

shmaltzy
Excessively sentimental, gushing, flattering, over-the-top, corny. This word describes some of Hollywood’s most famous films. From shmaltz, which means chicken fat or grease.

shmooze
Chat, make small talk, converse about nothing in particular. But at Hollywood parties, guests often schmooze with people they want to impress.

spiel
A long, involved sales pitch, as in, “I had to listen to his whole spiel before I found out what he really wanted.” From the German word for play.

shtick
Something you’re known for doing, an entertainer’s routine, an actor’s bit, stage business; a gimmick often done to draw attention to yourself.

tchatchke
Or tshatshke. Knick-knack, little toy, collectible or giftware. It also appears in sentences such as, “My brother divorced his wife for some little tchatchke.” You can figure that one out.

A special “thank you” to Kristina and Bryan Bird for sending me the gift of the 2015 Word of the Year: Face with Tears of Joy.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


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