Posts tagged ‘Yiddish’

April 11, 2011

Shm-anything

Joe Schmo/Shmo is the average guy but the suffix” shm” is also used in other contexts.  Adding the syllable shm to the beginning of a word make it take on a negative connotation.  YThe word gets diminished, made fun off  or negated.

It took me a while to grasp the idea when I first moved here and kept wondering what schmancy meant, I only knew schmaltzy – and that wasn’t it.  Shmancy, of course, is the shm-form of fancy and it is one of the more a frequently used shm-forms you’ll hear.  Most always the correct word is said first and then the derogatory form right afterward.  For shmancy this would look like this:

Feeling fancy shmancy, pic: handshelpingrobyn.net

“We went to this fancy shmancy restaurant.  The food was totally over the top and super expensive.  Next time I am going to Tony’s Tavern again for a good old-fashioned burger.”

Shm can be used in front of pretty much any word – it might get a bit difficult to pronounce at times.  Here are a couple more examples:

“I hear it is going to rain tomorrow.” – “Rain, shmain, we are planning to go hiking.”

“I am so hungry.” – “Have an apple.” – “Apple, shmapple, I want a big steak with potatoes and an ice cream Sunday for dessert.

The shm-form appears to have its origin in Yiddish.

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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!”