The first word posed in competition this morning on the first day of the storied Scripps National Spelling Bee was “yiddishkeit,” a beloved phrase from Yiddish that sums up Ashkenazi Jewish culture in a manner akin to the term Americana.
More technically, the word means “Jewish character or quality,” “Jewish way of life” or “Jewishness,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The first word this morning at the Scripps National #SpellingBee finals: Yiddishkeit. Excited to see what other Hebrew and Yiddish words pop up in this year’s competition. pic.twitter.com/vwK2v7XnBQ— Jewish Tweets (@JewishTweets) May 30, 2019
The contestant who got the word asked its language of origin right away. “Yiddish,” was the answer, of course.
“I don’t know what I expected,” he deadpanned in response.
“Yiddishkeit. Can I have the language of origin?”
“It’s from Yiddish.”
“I don’t know what I expected…”#SpellingBeepic.twitter.com/un1GEUjcOF— Jewish Tweets (@JewishTweets) May 30, 2019
Yiddishkeit is used to refer to things that just ooze Jewishness — specifically Ashkenazic/Eastern European Jewishness — such as shtiebels, taking a whiskey break in the middle of Shabbat morning services, food from Russ & Daughter’s, etc.
Scripps National Spelling Bee Starts With ‘Yiddishkeit’