Tag Archives: word of the day

Mishpocha – Friday’s Word of the Day


Today’s word of the day at Dictionary.com is mishpocha [mish-pawkhuh, –poo khuh]. It is a Yiddish noun that means “an entire family network comprising relatives by blood and marriage and sometimes including close friends; clan” and originates from the Hebrew letter ‘heth’, meaning family, clan. It entered the English language in the mid 19th century.

Did you know the eight-day festival of lights, Hanukkah, started on December 12th this week? In honor of this holiday, a few fun facts:

From the website Chabad.org:

Why is Chanukah (Hanukkah) eight nights long? The Talmud asks and answers:

The sages taught: On the 25th of Kislev, the days of Chanukah are eight. One may not eulogize on them, and one may not fast on them. This is because when the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary. And when the Chashmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that remained with the seal of the High Priest. And there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred, and they lit the candelabrum from it for eight days. The next year, the sages instituted those days and made them holidays with the recitation of Hallel and prayers of thanksgiving.1

But there’s more. Seven represents all that is found within this world. There are seven days of the week, seven classical planets and seven musical notes. In fact, the world itself was created in seven days.

Then there is the number eight, which represents that which is above, that which does not fit into the neat slots that hold the bits and pieces of our lives. The number eight evokes the transcendent and the G‑dly. Eight is the number of miracles.

And since mishpocha is a Yiddish word, I thought it would be interesting to look at some other popular Yiddish words that have made it into our everyday English conversation from DailyWritingTips.com:

  1. baleboste
    A good homemaker, a woman who’s in charge of her home and will make sure you remember it.
  2. bissel
    bisl– a little bit.
  3. bubbe
    bobe. It means Grandmother, and bobeshiis the more affectionate form. Bubele is a similarly affectionate word, though it isn’t in Yiddish dictionaries.
  4. bupkes
    Not a word for polite company. 
    Bubkesor bobkes may be related to the Polish word for “beans”, but it really means “goat droppings” or “horse droppings.” It’s often used by American Jews for “trivial, worthless, useless, a ridiculously small amount” – less than nothing, so to speak. “After all the work I did, I got bupkes!”
  5. chutzpah
    khutspe. Nerve, extreme arrogance, brazen presumption. In English, chutzpahoften connotes courage or confidence, but among Yiddish speakers, it is not a compliment.
  6. feh!
    An expression of disgust or disapproval, representative of the sound of spitting.
  7. glitch
    glitsh. Literally “slip,” “skate,” or “nosedive,” which was the origin of the common American usage as “a minor problem or error.”
  8. gornisht
    More polite than 
    bupkes, and also implies a strong sense of nothing; used in phrases such as “gornisht helfn” (beyond help).
  9. goy
    A non-Jew, a Gentile. As in Hebrew, one Gentile is a goy, many Gentiles are goyim, the non-Jewish world in general is “the goyim.” 
    Goyishis the adjective form. Putting mayonnaise on a pastrami sandwich is goyish. Putting mayonnaise on a pastrami sandwich on white bread is even more goyish.
  10. kibbitz
    In Yiddish, it’s spelled 
    kibets, and it’s related to the Hebrew “kibbutz” or “collective.” But it can also mean verbal joking, which after all is a collective activity. It didn’t originally mean giving unwanted advice about someone else’s game – that’s an American innovation.
  11. klutz
    Or better yet, 
    klots. Literally means “a block of wood,” so it’s often used for a dense, clumsy or awkward person. See schlemiel.
  12. kosher
    Something that’s acceptable to Orthodox Jews, especially food. Other Jews may also “eat kosher” on some level but are not required to. Food that Orthodox Jews don’t eat – pork, shellfish, etc. – is called 
    traif. An observant Jew might add, “Both pork and shellfish are doubtlessly very tasty. I simply am restricted from eating it.” In English, when you hear something that seems suspicious or shady, you might say, “That doesn’t sound kosher.”
  13. kvetsh
    In popular English, 
    kvetchmeans “complain, whine or fret,” but in Yiddish, kvetshliterally means “to press or squeeze,” like a wrong-sized shoe. Reminds you of certain chronic complainers, doesn’t it? But it’s also used on Yiddish web pages for “click” (Click Here).
  14. maven
    meyven. An expert, often used sarcastically.
  15. Mazel Tov
    mazltof. Literally “good luck,” (well, literally, “good constellation”) but it’s a congratulation for what just happened, not a hopeful wish for what might happen in the future. When someone gets married or has a child or graduates from college, this is what you say to them. It can also be used sarcastically to mean “it’s about time,” as in “It’s about time you finished school and stopped sponging off your parents.”
  16. mentsh
    An honorable, decent person, an authentic person, a person who helps you when you need help. Can be a man, woman or child.
  17. mishegas
    Insanity or craziness. A 
    meshugeneris a crazy man. If you want to insult someone, you can ask them, ”Does it hurt to be crazy?”
  18. mishpocheh
    mishpokheor mishpucha. It means “family,” as in “Relax, you’re mishpocheh. I’ll sell it to you at wholesale.”
  19. nosh
    nash. To nibble; a light snack, but you won’t be light if you don’t stop noshing. Can also describe plagarism, though not always in a bad sense; you know, picking up little pieces for yourself.
  20. nu
    A general word that calls for a reply. It can mean, “So?” “Huh?” “Well?” “What’s up?” or “Hello?”
  21. oy vey
    Exclamation of dismay, grief, or exasperation. The phrase “oy vey iz mir” means “Oh, woe is me.” “Oy gevalt!” is like oy vey, but expresses fear, shock or amazement. When you realize you’re about to be hit by a car, this expression would be appropriate.
  22. plotz
    plats. Literally, to explode, as in aggravation. “Well, don’t plotz!” is similar to “Don’t have a stroke!” or “Don’t have a cow!” Also used in expressions such as, “Oy, am I tired; I just ran the four-minute mile. I could just plotz.” That is, collapse.
  23. shalom
    It means “deep peace,” and isn’t that a more meaningful greeting than “Hi, how are ya?”
  24. shlep
    To drag, traditionally something you don’t really need; to carry unwillingly. When people “shlep around,” they are dragging themselves, perhaps slouchingly. On vacation, when I’m the one who ends up carrying the heavy suitcase I begged my wife to leave at home, I shlep it.
  25. shlemiel
    A clumsy, inept person, similar to a klutz (also a Yiddish word). The kind of person who always spills his soup.
  26. schlock
    Cheap, shoddy, or inferior, as in, “I don’t know why I bought this schlocky souvenir.”
  27. shlimazel
    Someone with constant bad luck. When the shlemiel spills his soup, he probably spills it on the shlimazel. Fans of the TV sitcom “Laverne and Shirley” remember these two words from the Yiddish-American hopscotch chant that opened each show.
  28. shmendrik
    A jerk, a stupid person, popularized in 
    The Last Unicornand Welcome Back Kotter.
  29. shmaltzy
    Excessively sentimental, gushing, flattering, over-the-top, corny. This word describes some of Hollywood’s most famous films. From 
    shmaltz, which means chicken fat or grease.
  30. shmooze
    Chat, make small talk, converse about nothing in particular. But at Hollywood parties, guests often schmooze with people they want to impress.
  31. schmuck
    Often used as an insulting word for a self-made fool, but you shouldn’t use it in polite company at all, since it refers to male anatomy.
  32. spiel
    A long, involved sales pitch, as in, “I had to listen to his whole spiel before I found out what he really wanted.” From the German word for 
  33. shikse
    A non-Jewish woman, all too often used derogatorily. It has the connotation of “young and beautiful,” so referring to a man’s Gentile wife or girlfriend as a 
    shiksaimplies that his primary attraction was her good looks. She is possibly blonde. A shagetzor sheygets means a non-Jewish boy, and has the connotation of a someone who is unruly, even violent.
  34. shmutz
    shmuts. Dirt – a little dirt, not serious grime. If a little boy has shmutz on his face, and he likely will, his mother will quickly wipe it off. It can also mean dirty language. It’s not nice to talk shmutz about shmutz. A current derivation, “schmitzig,” means a “thigamabob” or a “doodad,” but has nothing to do with filth.
  35. shtick
    Something you’re known for doing, an entertainer’s routine, an actor’s bit, stage business; a gimmick often done to draw attention to yourself.
  36. tchatchke
    tshatshke. Knick-knack, little toy, collectible or giftware. It also appears in sentences such as, “My brother divorced his wife for some little tchatchke.” You can figure that one out.
  37. tsuris
    tsores. Serious troubles, not minor annoyances. Plagues of lice, gnats, flies, locusts, hail, death… now, those were tsuris.
  38. tuches
    Rear end, bottom, backside, buttocks. In proper Yiddish, it’s spelled 
    tuchisor tuches or tokhis, and was the origin of the American slang word tush.
  39. yente
    Female busybody or gossip. At one time, high-class parents gave this name to their girls (after all, it has the same root as “gentle”), but it gained the Yiddish meaning of “she-devil”. The matchmaker in “Fiddler on the Roof” was named Yente (and she certainly was a 
    yentethough maybe not very high-class), so many people mistakenly think that yente means matchmaker.
  40. yiddisher kop
    Smart person. Literally means “Jewish head.” I don’t want to know what 
    goyisher kop

I am not Jewish, so a good deal of this is new to me. It’s also the reason I am a fan of using the generic “Happy Holidays” greeting as opposed to “Merry Christmas”.  Actually, I tend to respond in like fashion if anyone wishes me a holiday greeting. This is, after all, a season of light, hope, peace and love. That is the most important thing. That is what matters.

Finally, to my Jewish friends from me…a humble goy, “Chag Urim Sameach!” …“Hanukkah Sameach!” …“Chag Sameach!” – I hope that covers all the bases, respectfully. Light, hope, peace and love all. ❤

it’s time to gather
mishpocha from everywhere
family matters


Dundrearies – Friday’s Word of the Day


Today’s dictionary.com word of the day is dundrearies. It originated around 1860-65, thanks to “Lord Dundreary, a character in the play, “Our American Cousin”. Officially, it is defined as “long, full sideburns or muttonchop whiskers”.

We create all sorts of words based on the quirks or memorable attributes of the certain people. There is a word for it.  They are called Eponyms, ‘words based on a person’s name’. The cool thing about Eponyms is the history behind the word. Some eponyms you might recognize are: boycott, guillotine, sandwich, hooligan, gerrymander, adonis, braille, dunce, jacuzzi, judas, casanova, paparazzi, ritz, and trumpster. Scientists, doctors and inventors are known to use eponyms regularly in ascribing ownership of their handiwork.

But back to our word today, dundrearies, and it’s most interesting history. As already established, the word is attributed to one ‘Lord Dundreary’ from the three-act play, “Our American Cousin”.  The play was written by English playwright, Tom Taylor in 1858 and premiered at the Laura Keene’s Theatre in New York City on October 15, 1858. It was fairly popular for several years, but it was its fateful run at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, and specifically its showing on April 14, 1865 that etched it into American history. “Our American Cousin”, you see, was the play that President Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.

According to Wikipedia, the cast modified a line of the play in honor of Abraham Lincoln: when the heroine asked for a seat protected from the draft, the reply – scripted as, “Well, you’re not the only one that wants to escape the draft” – was delivered instead as, “The draft has already been stopped by order of the President!”

Halfway through Act III, Scene 2, when the character of Asa Trenchard, played that night by Harry Hawk, uttered this line, considered one of the play’s funniest, to Mrs. Mountchessington: “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap.”

It was during the ensuing laughter that President Lincoln laughed his last and the play ended abruptly. While Wilkes Booth was not a cast member of the play, he used the chose this moment when the laughter was at its height to muffle the sound of his gun.


Edward Sothern as Lord Dundreary, sporting “Dundrearies”

I don’t believe that the word, dundrearies has anything to do with this interesting sidebar. It has more to do with the popularity of the play and the first actor Edward Sothern who brilliantly played the part of ‘Lord Dundreary’.  I do find it fascinating though, how history and words and our experiences are all seem to be an intricate and interconnected web. We are all interconnected for that matter, I believe, by 6 degrees or less.

Have a great weekend. Here’s a haiku.

sporting dundrearies
once touted as all the rage
are now thought unkempt





Cockcrow – Friday’s Word of the Day


Friday’s Word of the Day was Cockcrow. I know I am a bit behind, but I have had some technical difficulties of late (it’s a long story, but suffice to say the “apple” went dark yesterday). So back to the word cockcrow. It originated between 1350 and 1400 in Middle English and means “the time at which a cock characteristically crows; daybreak; dawn”.

Characteristically the definition says, but I happen to live nearby a very confused cock who crows at all times of the day. Poor fellow does not seem to know his sun from a street lamp or a full moon. By the time the sun actually does rise in the sky his lusty crow is reduces to a series of raspy, scratchy cackles. I feel sorry for the old bird. Be it dementia or just plain lunacy, I often wish he could find rest, while allowing the rest of us to do the same!

But I digress. What more is there to know about this fine word. Bible readers will be familiar with the story of Peter’s three denials by the cock’s crow, but did you know that there is a debate as to whether said cock truly existed at all, and if it did, some say it was most certainly not roosting just outside the temple to make its point but a symbolic reference to dawn. And then there are some scholars who believe cock crowing did not happen at all based on a close reference between the Hebrew words Gaver (which means rooster or cock) and Gawra (which means man) and their appearance in the ancient text. This theory goes on to explain that in 1st century Israel, there actually was a man who was charged with shouting, like a rooster, “All the priests prepare to sacrifice!”, “All the Levites to their stations!” and “All Israelites come to worship!” from the rooftop of the temple at dawn.

A continued search on google also reveals that there is The Great Cockcrow Railway near Chertsey, Surrey, UK. It is a 7-1/4 track that was built on the grounds of “Greywood: on the Burwood Park estate on Walton on Thames in 1946 by then resident, John Samual. Subsequent generations expanded on the layout and now offer excursions to visitors on Sundays May through October.

Cockcrow is also the name of a “medium bodied black beer that leads with an aroma of deep roastiness, dark chocolate and bright coffee.  Also with hints of roasted nuts and dark fruit” this American Stout is produced by Gunwhale Ales. The name, it seems, encourages some stout enthusiasts to have beer for breakfast!

At any rate, cockcrow is a fairly straightforward word. Simply, it means what it seems to mean. Here’s a haiku…Have a great weekend!

there is no sleeping
when a confused cock’s cockcrow
shrieks at 3 am


Pennyworth – Friday’s Word of the Day

So, today is Black Friday in the U.S. I try to avoid going out at the crack of dawn with thousands of crazed shoppers who have been known to fight over the ‘last one left’ of the latest, greatest widget of the day. I don’t need anything that dearly.

But that’s where Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day comes in. It is Pennyworth. And it means pretty much what it sounds like it does: ‘as much as can be bought for a penny’. It also a means: ‘a bargain, a small amount’, and my personal favorite, ‘a person’s contribution to a conversation, especially one that is unwelcome’. It originated ‘before the year 1000; Middle English penyworth, Old English penigweorth’.

It’s a pretty basic word. I couldn’t find much about it to write home about, but there was one thing that caught my eye. Did you know that Batman’s Butler, Alfred’s full name is, Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth? I did not. So now we can add this new information to our “Things Every Self-Respecting Nerd Needs to Know” Bucket.

Hope you have a great weekend! Here’s a Haiku.

pennyworth seekers
rise before dawn to mingle
with the early birds


Claque – Friday’s Word of the Day

Our word of the day from Dictionary.com is claque. It’s a noun that means: a group of persons hired to applaud an act or performer; a group of sycophants.

Here’s how this word came to be:
Hired groups or squads to applaud actors and performers are nothing new. The Roman author Suetonius (75 – 150 a.d.) in his “Life of Nero” (chapter 20, in “Lives of the Twelve Caesars) reports that Nero hired 5,000 young men and taught them three different kinds if applause to use in his performances. In Paris by the mid 19th century, claques were organized into “platoons” whose various squads were rehearsed to laugh, cry, comment on, and encourage the actors. The great conductor Arturo Toscani (1867-1957) impised discipline and decorum on audiences and was instrumental in suppressing claques. Claque entered the English language in the 19th Century.

Claque is a perfect word for our current alternate reality. The powers that be think we need coaching when we’re told an apple is a banana. And not just any banana, but the most amazing banana in history of bananas. We need a cadre of claqueurs to rally and extol the amazing virtues of bananas from the sidelines. Their job is to convince us that what we’re hearing with our ears but failing to see with our own eyes is not what we think it is. They tell us when to laugh at unfunny jokes. They applaud wildly, standing in ovation to encourage us to do the same. These shills are paid for their loyalty and I learned that the professionals of this shady craft might even resort to extortion should the entertainer fail to pay for their feigned accolades by rousing choruses of boos. What is our world coming to?

As for me I like watching spectacles from the edge, trusting my intuition to come to my own conclusion. For example…It is not a banana. I know bananas. It is an apple of course. Your jokes are not funny and I refuse to reward you with applause for your outrageous claims. Thank you very much!

You can read more about this interesting word of the day at Wikipedia HERE.

Have a great weekend. And remember, if it walks like a duck and claques like a duck, it’s probably a turtle…..Ha! And I didn’t even need a laugh track to get a chuckle out of you…at least I imagine you smiling right now.

Here’s a little Haiku to reward you for reading this far.

the gullible gush
awed by the fake ovations
of shills and claqueurs


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