On Language


Unpacking 'Umgepotch' A Word for Sloppy

By Philologos

Our language columnist answers a reader who wants to know the nuance of ‘potchkie’ — a slap, a dawdle or a waste of time.Read More


Was Amy Winehouse 'A Nice Jewish Girl'?

By Philologos

Is it a cliche to call Amy Winehouse a ‘nice Jewish girl’? No, says Philologos, who argues that the term actually has a special meaning imported from the Yiddish word sheyne.Read More


Why Many Yiddish Words Have Been Integrated Into Dutch

By Philologos

The widespread integration of Yiddish words (especially those related to the world of petty crime) into the Dutch language is the subject of this week’s language column.Read More


What Do We Understand From Joe Biden's Use of 'Shtick' ?

By Philologos

The vice president recently used the word “shtick” incorrectly. Philologos wonders if we should be sad that Yiddish words are slipping from our grasp.Read More


The Yiddish Word for Wig Stretches Back to Parrots, Rocks and Jesus

By Philologos

Philologos, our language columnist, uncovers the French, German and Latin roots of sheytl, paruk and other Yiddish words for wigs.Read More


Fermisht but Not Fergotten

By Philologos

Our language columnist takes on a question about the Yiddish prefix “fer–” — as in ferklemt, ferblondzshet, ferkakt, ferdreyt, fermisht — and whether or not it has any relation to the English prefix “for.”Read More


On Language: Questioning the Questions

By Philologos

Ruth Fath of Princeton, N.J., asks a timely question: “Does the Yiddish word kashe, as in the fir kashes, the ‘Four Questions’ asked at the beginning of the Seder, come from the same root as the Hebrew word kasheh, ‘difficult’? Our rabbi points out that in Hebrew the Four Questions are known as arba ha-kushyot, rather than as arba ha-she’elot, even though she’elah is the Hebrew word for ‘question.’”Read More


On Language: Drawing Geographical Lines for Culinary Cravings

By Philologos

“I recently had an argument with a friend about the word ‘nosh.’ He grew up with Yiddish-speaking parents. I grew up around Yiddish-speaking grandparents. He maintained that to nosh means to snack on sweets, while I said it meant just to snack. I’m pretty sure I’m right, but since his family was from Galicia and mine were Litvaks, could it be a matter of different regional usage?”Read More


Philologos: Sniffing Out a Devil or Two

By Philologos

My father, who was British-born, spoke a good deal of Yiddish at home, and there was one phrase he used when he was exasperated, which was frequently. It sounded like ‘khapssen der riach’ or ‘khapshen der riach.’ Have you any idea what this could be?Read More


Philologos: Having Second Thoughts About Whether There’s Such a Language as Judeo-American

By Philologos

I’ve received a number of responses from readers to my March 4 column on “Yeshivish,” two of which I’ll share with you today. One is scholarly, the other is comic, but what rule states that the two can’t appear side by side?Read More





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  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
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