the schmooze
It's CH, CH, Like You Have Popcorn in the Throat; It's CCHHH
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

   The Yiddish language is alive and well.  One can learn Yiddish from Leo Rosten, Uriel Weinreich, Fred Kogos, Arnold Fein, Jackie Mason, Jerry Stiller, Pakn Treger (the magazine of the National Yiddish Book Center), or from Barbra Streisand.  Go see the movie, "Meet The Fockers" and you'll learn a "bisl" Yiddish.

   A brief summary:

   Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his "kale" (fiancee) Pam (Teri Polo), visited her "tate-mame," Dina (Blythe Danner) and Jack (Robert De Niro).  Pam is a white-bread beauty; Jack is a former CIA (not the Culinary Institute of America) operative with one testicle.  Greg is a Jewish American nurse (a "krankn-shvester").  About 6% of nurses today are male.  "Ver volt dos geglaibt?"  (Who would have believed it?)

   Greg struggles to make a good impression despite his "shmuts-sounding name and his less-than- manly-sounding job.  Just as Greg has finally made it into Jack's "krayz" (circle) of trust, Jack's family take their RV and overly-programmed "eynikl" (Little Jack) and drive Greg and Pam to Forida to be introduced to the Fockers.

   Greg's father, Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) gave up law to be a full-time "tate" and to train their toilet-flushing cat.  (The Fockers have a shorthaired little dog, Moses, that humps anything that moves.)  Greg's mom, Roz, (Barbra Streisand) is a sex therapist, specializing in the "alta" (elderly/geriatric) crowd.  She works with horny octogenarians.  Doesn't she know that every 7 minutes of every day someone in such a program pulls a hamstring?

   Paul Katz said, "It is fabulously funny to hear her [Barbra] spouting off the Yiddish-isms of Roz Focker, and watch her prance around in her little shmattas.  As Roz, she is the ultimate in Floridian Jewish mother-dom"  Katz also said, "She's more Jewish in this movie than ever, and when she tries to explain to the Byrnes' how to do the 'CH' sounds in words like 'chutzpah' or 'Chanukah,' I almost died."  Barbra corrects the Byrnes' pronunciation of Jewish words:  "It's CH, CH, like you have popcorn stuck in the throat. It's cchhh."

   In no time at all, we discover that Jack and Dina, Bernie and Roz are "eyl" (oil) and "vaser" (water).  They don't mix!  Bernie hangs his sombrero on the bedroom doorknob when he's busy "taking lessons" from his therapist wife.  "Yeder hot zayn eygene meshugaas." (Everyone has his own craziness.)

   Well, welcome to Focker  Isle, the Coconut Grove "heym" of the Focker family. It bears no resemblance to Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, or Boca Raton. The Fockers, who got "fargblonzhet" in the 1960s, live solely to humiliate their only "zun."  They "kvell" over everything about Greg, including his infant foreskin and loss of "b'sulehshaft" (virginity) to the family housekeeper.  Sheri Linden said, "Streisand is a sweetly overbearing New  Age yenta."

   FYI--a note of caution:  The movie contains "zeks" poop jokes and then there's a baby who coos the word "asshole" every few minutes.

   Barbra Streisand (Babs) has been sprinkling Yiddish words throughout her films, music, and interviews.  Some examples:  In the shooting of "The Prince of Tides," Barbra said that "there were days we were filming and I was up to my PUPIK in the water."  In a 1977 Playboy interview, Barbra talks about being in group therapy.  "I'm finding out about life, talking to people,  hearing what they feel and think.  They've got the same MESHEGOSS I do; it has nothing to do with my being an actress."  In "Funny Lady," when Billy takes Fanny's cigarette case and forgets  to return it, she asks for it back.  He gives it to her and she murmors  derisively, "GONIF."  In a 1997 Playboy interview, she said, "Sometimes I hear that first record of mine, where I'm GESHREYING and getting so emotional, I think, 'Oh, God, how did they ever like me?  I'm embarrassed by it.'"

   In "Meet The Fockers," Babs uses the Yiddish words, "meshuge" (crazy), "plotz" (bust your guts out), "tsatske" (plaything), "nisht gut" (not good), "punim" (face), "kvelling" (glow with pride), "Bubeleh" (endearing term for anybody you like), "shlimazl" (unlucky person) and "L'chaim"/lekhayim" (To life!)

   "A dank," Babs.  You're helping to keep the Yiddish language alive.


Search for Stories Beginning with the Letter
N O P Q R S T U V W   Y Z
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

Yiddish Stuff
Jewish Humor
Schmooze News
More Majorie Wolfe
Jewish Stories
All Things Jewish
Jewish Communities of the World
Site Designed and Maintained by
Haruth Communications