A Yiddish guide for teens! Oy vey iz meir?

A timeless language that can enrich any conversation in a totally Kosher way!

Levi Gettleman, A&E Editor

Born in the 10th century as an innovation of European Jewry attempting to create a unifying language, Yiddish (a combination of German and Hebrew) is still a relevant language in that many of its words and phrases can enrich any conversation.

Yiddish grew in popularity after the invention of the printing press and became the everyday language of the Jews of  Eastern Europe within 100 years. As time went by and Jews left their Shtetls (Yiddish for villages) for America, they brought many words with them that have earned their place in our American vernacular. Today, many Yiddish words appear in many conversations and written works.

Here are some Yiddish expressions that may be helpful to you:

Alter Kacker- (Noun) An old fart

Bupkes- (Noun) Nothing

Chutzpah- (Noun) Courage, Nerve

Gei Gesund- (Expression) Go in health

Klutz- (Noun) Literally, a block of wood. Someone who is clumsy. Interchangeable with Schlemiel

Kosher- (Adjective) something acceptable in a given situation

Kvetch- (Verb) To complain, to whine

Kvell- (Verb) To express pride

Maven- (Noun) Expert

Mensch- (Noun) An honorable, moral person

Mishegas- (Noun) Craziness, Insanity

Nudnik- (Noun) Pain in the neck

Oy vey- (Exclamation) My Goodness! Woe is me!

Schlep- (Verb)To drag, to carry a long distance

Schmooze- (Verb) To make small talk, to chat

Schmaltz- (Noun) Literally chicken fat, excessive sentimentality

Schmutz- (Noun) A little bit of dirt

Schtick- (Noun) One’s signature routine, attention drawing action.

Shayna Punim- (Noun) Pretty face, a complement

Shanda- (Noun) A disgrace, a scandal

Shpiel- (Noun) A long, drawn out pitch or presentation

So, take these words and try to use them to enrich your day to day language. In the words of Mr. Joe Baillargeon, a frequent Yiddish user, “Yiddish words have permeated American culture, so it’s important to know where they come from and what they mean. It represents the diverse groups that make up America.”