Yiddish

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    Yiddish definition

    Yiddishadjective Yiddish Much of English is made up of words from other languages, and Yiddish is an important contributor in this respect, making English all the more richly textured and colorful. Words migrating into English directly from Yiddish alone are, for example, mazuma, shlemiel, and tush. Many others came into English via Yiddish but have other ancestral roots, for example, bagel (from Old High German), chutzpah (from Aramaic), nudge (from Polish), and yenta (from Latin). And the word Yiddish itself is an émigré from Middle High German and Latin. Yiddish words derived from Hebrew include, for example, matzo, maven, and schmooze. Yiddish has also given English two colorful affixes. The first is the suffix -nik, “”somebody associated with or characterized by,”” for example, peacenik and refusenik, along with creative forms such as “”real-estatenik,”” “”noshnik,”” “”Freudnik,”” “”nogoodnik,”” and “”allrightnik.”” Yiddish acquired this form from Russian, and some early words containing it may be directly from that language, but its creativity stems from Yiddish use. The second is schm- or shm-, “”somebody or something purported or purporting to be genuine, real, or of the expected high quality but really not.”” This prefix creates hyphenated rhyming compounds by replacing the initial consonants or consonant clusters in English words, yielding, for example, “”doctor-schmoctor,”” “”fancy-schmancy,”” or by preceding initial vowels (“”Elvis-Schmelvis,”” “”opera-shmopera””).

    In some instances Yiddish has fused with English to yield familiar compounds like gefilte fish and matzo balls. What is more, certain English grammatical constructions and idioms are traceable to Yiddish constructions, for example, “”Be well,”” a loose translation of Yiddish zay gezunt. Other English expressions originally associated with Yiddish speakers are these verb commands, a good many opening with so: “”So stop it already!”” “”So sit.”” “”Enjoy.”” “”Go know.”” “”Get lost!”” “”Eat your heart out.”” Others are inversions, for example, “”He is a boy is all.”” “”A fashion model she is not.”” Still others are rhetorical questions opening with “”What’s to”” followed by a verb, for example, “”What’s to like?”” “”What’s not to like?”” “”What’s to forgive?”” See also Hebrew.

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