Archive for February 8th, 2011

February 8, 2011

Yiddish words

Yiddish is a language that is used by Ashkenazi Jews that is related to German (it  also has Slavic, Hebrew, and Aramaic loan words). .  There is a good number of words that have made their way into everyday language.   Not surprisingly, many of them sound familiar to me from German and other I find onomatopoeic and keenly describing a thing or concept.

Here are a few examples and explanations:

Apparently animals can be klutzy, too. Pic: evrd.net

Chutzpah – nerve, brazenness, arrogance; in English it has a connotation of courage and confidence – actually somewhat too much of it.  A real good description I found is the following: that quality of a man who, having murdered his parents pleads with the court to show him mercy because he is an orphan.

Klutz – definitely of German origin, a Klotz is a largish piece of wood – klutz refers to clumsy, awkward people who constantly knock things down, stumble over stuff, run into corners, walls, tables, etc.  The adjective is klutzy.  “Joey fell of the play structure again – is a really klutzy little guy.”

Kvetch- this is an interesting one, I had to read it out loud a few times before I got it.  Quetschen in German means to squeeze or pinch and kvetch in Yiddish originally means the same but it is used to mean complain, whine, fret, grip.  “Stop sitting around kvetching all day – do something useful!”

February 8, 2011

Reading the riot act

Here is an interesting one: reading somebody the riot act.

This idiom requires some explanation, but first its meaning: to complain loudly, to speak to somebody and tell them angrily in no uncertain terms that they will be punished if they continue with their behavior.

Literal reading of the riot act, pic: aviscogitations.wordpress.com

Not unexpectedly the idiom is quite old, it dates back to the 18th century Britain when – to curb popular unrest and upraisings the government decreed that any gathering of more than 12 people has to disperse within an hour of being read an Act (the Riot Act) out aloud.  Failing to follow this ordered was punished very severely.

Today, the idiom is used with recalcitrant teenagers, unacceptable behavior by the neighbors and similar nuisances rather than with actual street riots.

Here is an example:

“The college kids across the street had yet another party.  I really had enough of their loud music untile late so I went over and read them the riot act.”