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My 5 Favorite Yiddish Words Are…

I realize there are more than five words depicted in my word cloud, because I want you to understand how difficult it is for me to whittle down these gems from the best language ever created. Last time, I wrote about British slang, and today I kvell (fuss) over Yiddish, a most endearing vernacular that fuses German with Hebrew that many Jews and non-Jews alike have come to embrace.   

1. Chazer

Literally translating to "pig", but when used in Yiddish context, “chazer” refers to a greedy person. 

Some of our favorite characters in literature who fit this mold are: Ebenezer Scrooge, Veruca Salt, Macbeth, and the deforesting ingrate from The Giving Tree.  

2. Farkakte

This is a word we all need in our lives. 

For the rated G readers, “farkakte” means “crappy.” If you've ever woken up late, spilled coffee on your favorite shirt, and then realized you're out of toothpaste, you've experienced a truly farkakte morning.

When your internet cuts in and out, you can blame it on Comcast’s farkakte service.

3. Farshtunkener

This beautiful term describes something or someone unpleasant or foul-smelling. 

On Sunday, I opened our perpetually bursting garage freezer, and out launched a salmon filet that slid under the car. To open the garage door, back the car out, retrieve the fish, and MacGyver it back in the freezer felt like too much work, so I decided I would “get back to it” in five minutes. By Tuesday the garage, laundry room, and kitchen smelled funky, and I couldn’t figure out why until my son said, “Dad, you know there’s a piece of very defrosted salmon on the garage floor?” 

I created quite the “farshtunkener” scenario.

4. Plotz

Yiddish is as onomatopoeiatic as language gets, and “plotz” is the greatest example of a word that sounds like its meaning. 

To plotz is to burst or explode with emotion or fullness. If something is so funny that you’re guffawing, then you’re actively plotzing. Had I eaten that entire salmon filet myself, I’d have been so full that I would have plotzed, and then I would have plotzed again from food poisoning. 

5. Ungapatchka

Ever walked into a room where the decor is just too much? Neon flamingo wallpaper, a bear skin rug, disco ball hanging from the ceiling? What about NASCAR or Formula 1 drivers who have more sponsors stitched on their person than Friday’s employees do flair?

That's what you call “ungapatchka”, a gaudily ornate, busy, ridiculously over-decorated, and hilariously tacky appearance.

It’s basically the Yiddish embodiment of “less is more.”

Honorable Mention: Gay Kaken Ofn Yahm

And a bonus: “Gay Kaken Ofn Yahm.”

This phrase, which translates into "go shit in the ocean" (for the non-G-rated readers), is perfect for those moments when you just want to tell someone to, well, go away. It's a slightly more polite way of saying, "Buzz off!" with an additional hint of scatological humor.

There you have it—my top five (okay, six) favorite Yiddish words. They're expressive, they're funny, and they give our daily frustrations a much-needed touch of comic relief.

So go out there, throw in a "chazer" here, a "farkakte" there, and sprinkle your conversations with a little Yiddish charm.

About the Author, David Telisman

I am a Writer and Content Creator, and I work with businesses to inspire their customers to buy from them. I believe that my clients deserve to feel proud of how their content marketing looks and what it says, and I deliver by providing expert copywriting and marketing solutions.

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