We’ve all heard that English is hard to learn; what with all the grammatical exceptions, multiple meanings, silent letters, and crazy spellings.
One of the reasons Yiddish has been adapted by non-native speakers is … the word usually sounds like what it is, not only the way it’s spelled, but in tone. “Happy” words often “feel”, well, happy. Yiddish words for “angry, not so nice, or bright” are often well, ugly. Even if you’ve never heard of Yiddish in, say Whitefish (Montana), chances are, you’ll get the meaning.
So today, I present you with two little quizzes: English vs. Yiddish, and for those of you who aren’t Yiddish speakers. I promise you, you’ll get at least an 80 per cent on Yiddish! On the English quiz … if you get four right, Funk and Wagnall is looking for you.
1-YUTZ: “Darling, you know daddy and I think your intended is a yutz.”
A) “It may take a while, but his idea for a fleet of mobile matzo trucks to teach rednecks about our food could be genius.”
B) OK, you wanted to marry a dreamer. Encourage him, mamala … and you’ll come here to eat. “
C) “Mr. Wonderful on The Shark Tank ate him.”
ANSWER: C: His ideas are interesting to only the Village Idiot and Nachum the beggar. Better your daughter should go with a goat herd. Then again … better the yutzem find each other and keep their DNA from spreading to other families who aren’t idiots.
2. GONIF: “Everyone knows he’s a gonif, so should we buy one of his co-ops in Kielce?”
A) “Meanwhile, the man’s a real estate King in Eastern Europe.”
B) “Oy, this thief will be ‘gone if’ you buy.”
C) “Listen, he’s your uncle, we can trust him.”
ANSWER: B: Better you should buy a 1971 Pinto from him. His wife did and she’s still in rehab – and court.
3.SHLOCK: “I’d go to Sloman’s, but he only carries shlock.”
A)“His stuff are cheap knock-offs. I saw a mattress in there with the tag, ‘Serto.’”
B) “His furniture is nice, but he overcharges.”
C) “He has lovely Bavarian antiques, but I don’t ‘buy’ German.”
ANSWER: A: But more, his “Sertos” are so used a Jewish Princess could feel a pea lying on five of them. In fact Sloman is known for selling shlock items, which are so shoddy, even the Salvation Army turned them down.
4. KLUTZ: “Your son Herschel is such a klutz, his teachers were always calling about ‘what he did lately” in school.”
A) “What an adventurous son you have. You must be so proud.”
B) “If, God forbid, I should fall on the linoleum, I know I can count on Herschel to pick me up.”
C) “Herschel broke his foot playing ping pong?”
ANSWER: C: Herschel is so clumsy that if he were Moses, we’d have only five Commandments. (Coveting would be so-so.)
5. SHLEP: “OK! You’re moving. My Morty will help you shlep.”
A) “After work, Morty will come by. He loves exercising-by-shlepping.”
B) By the time my Morty shleps your vase, you can burn your mortgage.”
C) Maybe throw a shlep party. After all who doesn’t love a good shlep, especially when food’s involved?”
ANSWER: B: The “lovely-sounding shlep” is what every Jew avoids … dragging either themselves or stuff without the thrill of accomplishment. Trust me. Should you get a shlepper to shlep you’ll never see him or it again, at least in your lifetime.
Give yourself five points for every correct answer, and I’ll bet my Frizz-Ease, you got at least four right, whether you’re from Brooklyn or Borneo. We Jews have a history of saying what we mean and finding just the right word sound to embellish it.
Just as “Shalom,” “Shayna” and “Bubbala” are nice-sounding words, tell me, would you trust your will to a shlimazl?
1- PULCHRITUDE: “Her pulchritude was so great, people stared!”
A) “With that body, that hair, those eyes, you could drop dead from her beauty.”
B) “It’s not nice to say, but good-looking she isn’t.”
C) “A few more pounds, and she’ll need that Reality Show. ‘The 650 Pound Woman.’ But I exaggerate.”
ANSWER: A: I ask you, does this word sound gorgeous or does it make you think of arms that flap like bat wings?
2- SUCCULENT: “That buffet was so succulent, I need Maalox.”
A) “I’m telling you I got such phlegm from that food, I can hardly talk.”
B) “That roast, that fruit was so juicy, I stuffed myself like a pig.”
C) “Talk about dry meat, did you see Uncle Leo sucking on that piece of brisket for five minutes?”
ANSWER: B: Face it. In this ugly English word with two hard ‘c’s yet, you think “not good.” You would be wrong. You don’t need a stomach pump to digest “juicy,” which is the real meaning of succulent – unless you’re at my house.
3- IRREGARDLESS: ”Irregardless of what you think, I can prove I’m right, as usual.”
A) Irregardless of what YOU think, I’m right as always.”
B) “Irregardless of the fact that you’re usually wrong, in this case, you may have a point.”
C) “Hey, idiot, there’s no such word, so who cares what you think?”
ANSWER: C: Forget the “ir.” "Regardless" already means something that isn't worth regarding (which is why the "less" is there) so adding the "ir" to it means what? We should we not regard it again? Note: It’s often used by big-shots who think they know what they’re talking about. Regardless, tell them!
4- IRONIC: “How ironic that you and I should wind up at the same butcher.”
A) “I never expected you to buy an expensive brisket instead of a skinny chicken.”
B) “Who knew you and I would show up at the same time at Gourmet Kosher when you live in Brooklyn and I live on Long Island?”
C) “I can’t believe we both bought a whole brisket when you used to snatch up the ends.”
ANSWER: A: “Ironic” means the opposite of what you would expect, not “What a coincidence!” Mrs. Fancy Alrightnik would never expect her old neighbor to buy a brisket. (Although I’m not sure chicken is the opposite of brisket … or she expected the opposite … or … you know, do what you want.
5- UNIQUE: “I’ve never seen such a designer bag!”
A) “Your bag is so unique I’m plotzing.”
B) “Those stones and pearls make it totally unique.”
C) “Your cousin the designer made only one – for you? Now that’s a unique gift.”
ANSWER: C: How “unique” can something be? Are there grades of “unique?” If something exists like no other, can it be “very, too, a little” unique? Of course not. Shame on newscasters who modify this perfectly good English word.
Give yourself five points for every correct answer and call me. With a grammatical genius like you, together, we can probably sell a unique e-book. And I promise to buy you a succulent bagel that will add to your pulchritude, regardless of the fact that even though you’re gorgeous, I did all the creative thinking. Is that ironic, or what?
(The correct answer is no).