F is for farpotshket (ABC W)

Can you think of a word that sounds more complicated, muddled and frustrated than farpotshket?

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. Continue reading “F is for farpotshket (ABC W)”

July Rambling: Weird Al, and the moon walk

I REALLY want to see the movie Life Itself, about Roger Ebert.

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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; the 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.

These next several feel of a piece, about understanding life and each other:
Amy B says This is not a bucket list.
It’s Not as Simple as it Seems: Neal Hagberg at TEDx Gustavus Adolphus College.
Technology has taken much away much.
I Dare You To Watch This Entire Video.
*She Sent All Her Text Messages in Calligraphy for a Week.

Our church, First Presbyterian Albany, hosted a work camp in the city the week leading to the 4th of July. Homes were repaired/painted throughout the city; 400+ youth and adults, from several states, including Hawaii, plus folks from Ontario, Canada, were hosted at Myers Middle School; 75+ First Pres folks volunteered to make it all happen. We received some media coverage, including one of the radio stations, WFLY present on opening day. Here’s the web link to the Times Union article. Plus nice coverage from a local public radio station.

The Importance of Eating Together.

Sinful, Scandalous C.S. Lewis, Joy, and the Incarnation.

Interview with Marion Meade, Dorothy Parker biographer.

Jaquandor, via George RR Martin, on writing. While he writes just one word at a time, I write five or six, accidentally leaving one out.

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With.

Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless.

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Melanie plays with toys. So does Chuck Miller.

GayProf’s life continues at 40.

Is Dustbury, “prolific” as the inevitable consequence of a desire to maximize his output before the time comes when he cannot put out anything? And, I wondered, am I?

I realize that the 45th anniversary of the moon landing depressed me. Here’s part of the reason. Another part is that, despite disliking violence, I understand why Buzz Aldrin punched Bart Sibrel after being harassed by him suggesting that the July 1969 moonwalk was faked.

Cat Islands.

Louis Zamperini Was More Than A Hero.

Paul Mazursky wrote and directed Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), An Unmarried Woman (1978). But I saw (or heard) him in a number of TV shows and movies.

James Garner’s legacy: A commitment to civil rights and political activism.

Why I want to see the movie Life Itself, about Roger Ebert.

Check out this interview Rebecca Jade, my first niece, did recently through Voices of La Jolla. Click on the microphone/link on the upper right-hand corner to listen to the podcast.

Watching the new Weird Al Yankovic videos, especially Word Crimes. Weird Al is a marketing machine.

Did I mention that Paul McCartney came to Albany, NY? And Omaha, Nebraska? Who performed the mysterious ‘train song’ from the Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’? The George Harrison Memorial Tree killed … by beetles.

Some of SamuraiFrog’s favorite Marvel stories; nice reveal in Fantastic Four #21. Also, for round 15 of ABC Wednesday – YOU can still join! – Mr. Frog will “highlight a different Muppet for each letter, hopefully, some of the lesser-known Muppets and milestones in Muppet history.” So far, A is for Arnold, who you WILL recognize; B is for Bobo the bear.

Superman and the Bible.

For the rest of the summer, absolutely everything new that’s published in the New Yorker will be unlocked. “Then, in the fall… an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall.”

Renting Liechtenstein.

Could “The Big Bang Theory” get canceled? I’ve watched the show maybe thrice, but I find TV machinations interesting.

Mark Evanier wrote about The Battle of the Network Stars, some cheesy TV competition c. 1977. What struck me is that I knew every actor and the associated show from CBS, all but one from ABC, but had serious trouble with the NBC stars. Even I knew of the actor, say, Jane Seymour, I had no idea what show she was representing.

GOOGLE ALERTS (me)

Arthur responds to my TWO posts on Hobby Lobby.

Dustbury cites my Instant Runoff Voting post and my TMI post.

Mr. Frog tackles #1 Songs on My Birthday, which some of the rest of you regular bloggers – you know who you are – might consider.

(not me)
Alison Green, M.D. will join Green Family Practice Clinic on August 1st as the newest family practice doctor in Newport. “Alison joins the practice established by her father, Dr. Roger Green, continuing a rich family heritage of healthcare providers.”

(image from http://teachr.co/1oik2Qr )

Getting the Schmuck Out of “West Side Story”

Sondheim wanted “F@#$ YOU”; interesting how the F-word rhymes with the SCHM-word, and means about the same.

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 told him that the word schmuck would have to be changed. “I confessed that I had no idea the word was obscene. I thought it was simply a vulgarity…, not an obscenity that could prevent the recording from being distributed.”

An hour later, he came up with:

Dear kindly social worker,
They say go make some dough.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means I’ll be a schmo!

Now, schmo is derived from the same root as schmuck but evidently not as charged.

For the movie, he changed it again:

Dear kindly social worker
They tell me get a job
Like be a soda jerker
Which means I’d be a slob

Another lyric change involved the last two words of the song. Sondheim wanted “F@#$ YOU”; interesting how the F-word rhymes with the SCHM-word, and apparently mean about the same. But for the same commercial reasons, this as scrapped in favor of the Leonard Bernstein suggestion of “KRUP YOU!” It conveyed the same message without actually saying it, and Sondheim believes that it “may be the best lyric line in the show.”

Y is for Yiddish

Leo Rosten also defined chutzpah as ‘that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.’


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: ALTER KOCKER, OY VAY (or just OY), MISHEGOSS, MESHUGGE, PUTZ, NU, and BUBKES. Three of these I find that I use quite a bit: oy (which is a versatile word), putz (meaning a fool), and bubkes: “If you want to make a living as a poet, be prepared to earn bubkes.” These terms do not come to me as an affectation; rather, they are words I heard from my great aunt Charlotte, and especially from her family.

But the word, not on the list, that IMMEDIATELY leapt to mind was chutzpah: “to express admiration for nonconformist but gutsy audacity.”

“Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as ‘gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible guts, presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to.’ In this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and grudging admiration. In the same work, Rosten also defined the term as ‘that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.'”

“Yiddish is a Germanic language originally spoken by the Jews of Central and later Eastern Europe, written in the Hebrew alphabet, and containing a substantial substratum of words from Hebrew as well as numerous loans from Slavic languages.” But the same word in Hebrew may have a different nuance in Yiddish; chutzpah in Hebrew is much more negative, for example.

There are a lot of words on the list beginning with SC, usually combined with other consonants, that are just fun to say. “Schlemiel, schlimazel” show up in the lyrics for the theme song to the TV show Laverne and Shirley, meaning “an inept clumsy person” and “a chronically unlucky person,” respectively. In fact, I’ll write at length about another one of those words…tomorrow.

Among the words of Yiddish origin I’ve been known to use include kvetch (complain habitually), schlep (drag or haul), and zaftig (pleasingly plump, buxom, full-figured, as a woman). I suppose a synonym for the latter would be Rubenesque, but zaftig suggests a more positive attitude, I’m told.

ABC Wednesday – Round 8