Posts Tagged ‘Yiddish’

Better Than English: Untranslatable Words defines the Yiddish word farpotshket as “Something that is all fouled up, especially as the result of attempts to fix it–repeatedly making something worse while trying to fix it.” It is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable.

This term rather well described me when I took wood shop in 7th and 8th grade. Read the rest of this entry »

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Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – George Orwell. To that end, Bible Stories for Newly Formed and Young Corporations and Congratulations: It’s a corporation.

An answer to the child immigrant problem at the US-Mexican border? I note that the Biblical Jesus was a refugee, his parents fleeing Herod’s wrath. Yet so many people who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ “are so uncaring and hateful about hungry children trying to get to a better, safer place to live.”

In the non-surprise category: Stand Your Ground Laws Lead To More Homicides, Don’t Deter Crime.

Misleading on Marriage: how gay marriage opponents twist history to suit their agenda.

Yiddish Professor Miriam Isaacs has dug in a previously unknown treasure of over a thousand unknowns Yiddish songs recorded of Holocaust survivors; text is in Swedish, but can be translated. Miriam was my old racquetball buddy decades ago.

The Creation Myth of 20th Century Fundamentalism by Jeff Sharlet, who I also knew long ago.

Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe came out as gay. Arthur explains why it STILL matters. Also: I Can Be Christian, and Gay, and Live in Alabama.

Portraits of people in 7 days’ worth of their own garbage.
Read the rest of this entry »

One Yiddish word I liked to use quite a bit when I was in my twenties was schmuck, meaning “an obnoxious, contemptible person; one who is stupid, foolish, or detestable.” I did not know until recently that, in some Jewish homes, the word had been “regarded as so vulgar as to be taboo”. The non-religious Jews I knew certainly used it often enough. The word’s derivation comes from the word representing that which beleaguered Congressman Anthony Weiner tweeted recently.

In his book Finishing the Hat, lyricist Stephen Sondheim talks about the evolution of the words to the song GEE, OFFICER KRUPKE from West Side Story.

Initially, they were:

Dear kindly social worker,
They say go earn a buck.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means like be a schumck.

But the producer of the Broadway cast album Read the rest of this entry »


My wife, who teaches English as a Second Language, sent me this article about how “certain words from other languages express meanings that no English words can.”

The author, Connie Tuttle, notes: “Part of the richness of English comes from the thousands of words derived from other languages. Nevertheless, there are occasions when no English word expresses the nuance of a situation. A friend who is a linguist once commented that English was the language of commerce, but was lacking in vocabulary expressive of complex social relations. Maybe so. If she is right, that could explain why over the years I’ve found myself resorting to an increasing number of words from languages other than English, not only in conversation, but also while writing.”

Unsurprising to me, six out of the ten examples comes from Yiddish Read the rest of this entry »

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