I know some Yiddish, just not enough to form a sentence. But it's not in its subjects and predicates that the language flourishes today. Rather, it's in its daily shmear. In the well-placed shpilkes, kvell, and futzing. It's the exclamation point with which we pepper our daily repartee ("Stop calling me. You are such a nudnik."). It is the salve with which our mothers soothe our troubled souls ("What, better you never see this meeskeit again anyway. Stop with the pity party and eat your kugel."). It is the code with which lovers, fused by a veneration only they understand, exchange endearments ("You want Harold should eat lactose, what with his stomach tsores?"). It's woven into the fabric of our lives.
Though my own command of the language is limited to a handful of words, I have taken it upon myself to pen what is, as of this date, the highly theoretical New English-Yiddish Dictionary for the Well-Intentioned. Here's what I have so far:
shmutz (shmoots) n. any undesirable substance; squalor. Normally associated with anything that may stain a shirt.The last time I went to Crystal Palace, I got egg foo yung shmutz all over me. Also shmutzy.
schmaltzy (shmawltsee) adj. ostentatious; full of bravado; pretentious. Often associated with show business or Chinese restaurants. Morris, let's go to the smorgasbord place down the street; it isn't as shmaltzy.
shmear (shmir) n. a lump; a shapeless mass. Normally though not strictly edible, generally used as a condiment or relish. Forget Chinese tonight, Morris; let's stay home, watch "Dancing With the Stars," and have a bagel with a shmear. Also v. Just shmear it on there, Barbara.
shpiel (shpeel) n. wordy explanation; direction; collection or accumulation of any kind. Often used in conjunction with the word "whole." You don't have to give him your whole shpiel, Morris; just order the General Tsao's without water chestnuts. Also: Order the pu-pu platter and the egg drop soup with a wonton in it -- the whole shpiel, Morris.
shmatte (shma•ta) n. fragment of cloth; a scrap; an article of clothing of low quality. Morris, you're not going to Crystal Palace wearing that shmatte.
shmegeggie (shma•ge•gee) n. Not Yiddish, but adopted as such. A derogatory term; a clumsy or uncouth person. Morris, don't be such a shmegeggie and just take the water chestnuts OFF. Generally interchangeable with shlemiel.
shtick (shtik) n. routine; eccentricity; a person's "specialty." What, I'm going to pay $40 at a Japanese restaurant when half the money is to watch the knife guy, what with his chopping shtick? Then I'm supposed to tip him on top of that? Also shticky. If you want shticky, go already. I'll be at Crystal Palace.