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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