Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

Henry Winkler Shows Off His Yiddish Vocabulary

Who would have predicted that Henry Winkler, who became a household name in America as Arthur Fonzarelli (“The Fonz”) on “Happy Days” over 40 years ago, would be one of the most charming men in America in 2018? In an interview last week with People, the 72 year-old Winkler went on to quietly prove, as he has done in appearances on comedies like “Parks and Recration” and “New Girl” in the last decade, that his appeal has outlasted both 70’s biker chic and his own hairline.

In a cheerfully reflective feature, Winkler said, “I am now 72 years old, only recently did I become the actor that I thought about, that I talked about when I was 27.” The star of the new HBO hit “Barry,” (created by Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader and Seinfeld writer Alec Berg,) called himself “a late bloomer.” But now, Winkler said, “I am living my dream.”

And here’s the money quote:

I was so fershimmeled inside as a human being. Like a fruity blend, so I was still chunky, I never quite got the blend and now, honest to God, not hyperbole not humility, just now I am becoming that smoothie.

Now, here’s the thing — that is the cutest quote we’ve ever read. However, Winkler’s use of “fershimmeled” is controversial. People defined the word as “confused,” adding a paranthetical to Winkler’s quote. Forward Yiddishist Jordan Kutzik says that “fershimmeled” is not Yiddish at all.

“It’s gibberish,” he says. “I assume they mean ‘farshimlt’ which means moldy.”

Could Henry Winkler have been describing his 27 year-old psyche as moldy? Maybe. Smoothie ingredients can certainly be moldy, though they are no less moldy when blended, only less obviously moldy. On the other hand, unblended smoothie ingredients are really less “confused” than blended smoothie ingredients. Now I’m fershimelled/fershimlt.

Back to the Yiddishist.

Kutzik says that he’s not sure what Winkler may have intended. “The only thing I can think of is that old men’s brains are sometimes called “farshimlt” if they’re demented, so maybe that migrated into English as a synonym for confused?” he wonders.

Here’s to clarity of thought and hoping that Henry Winkler’s brain and smoothies remain mold-free. Amen.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny





    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.