the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

In 1955, Robert C. Heterick, Jr. said that [academic] "Productivity" is the dreaded P-word.  He said, "If we define productivity as creating something with economic value (a frequent dictionary definition of the term), then clearly higher education is productive.  Studies continue to show that those members of our society with a baccalaureate degree have a lifetime earning expectancy that exceeds those lacking such credentials."

Louis Uchitelle ("In Washington, the Dreaded 'P' Word Rears Its Head") - and that word is productivity.  "Nothing is more important than productivity in the rosy declarations of Alan Greenspan..."

Still others say that the dreaded 'P' word is "psychiatric" illness.  And some consider the dreaded 'P' word perfection or perfect ("perkekt" in Yiddish).

For teens, the dreaded "P" word may mean puberty; one morning you wake up and BAM! your bod (body) isn't quite the same as before.

According to  some,  the dreaded "p" word and tongue-torturer for those who fear Friday the 13th, is "paraskevidekatriaphobia."  According to Martin S. Smith, "U. S. businesses lose millions of dollars because some people refuse to shop, travel, or take risks on Friday the 13th."

Perhaps the dreaded P-word for college students is procrastination...and plagiarism. And in the medical field, perhaps the dreaded P-word is "placebo" - n. a pharmaceutical, that is a prescription containing no medicine.  (R. W. Jackson, "The Diabolical Dictionary of Modern English")

And remember watching everyone's favorite Cuban band leader, Ricky Ricardo, stumble over the word "psychiatrist."  (The dreaded "silent p" was such a problem for him.)

What are some dreaded Yiddish "P-words"?

1.  "Putz" - A fool; the male reproductive member.   Also used when describing someone as being "a jerk."  In the book, "Jewtopia," the Proper Usage:  Only a real putz would try to convince you that his nose job was to repair a deviated septum."
     In 1998, Sen. Al D'Amato called Chuck Schumer a "putzhead."  (He later apologized!)

     The late Joel Siegel describes "putz" as schmuk.  Once obscure, now in general usage; once a perjorative, now, often, a term of endearment.  And, I'm told, it's not related to the German putz, meaning "to polish."

     In the "Dictionary of Jewish Words" by Eisenberg and Skolnic, they give an example of how the word "putz" would be used:  "He dropped out of college and never finished, but his resume says he graduated in 1981.  What a putz!"

2.  "Pulkes" (thighs) This word has been traced back to the language of one of the original Tribes of Israel, the Cellulites.   

     "Pulke" is the Yiddish word for "chicken  leg" or drumstick.    The famous author, Israel Zangwill wrote a book called "The Schnorrer."  It spoke of a "yung" man who took a look at a possible marriage partner, and was wined and dined but did not marry her.  When he left without meeting the expectations, the parents cursed him, saying he should only choke ("shtikn") to death on the pulkes (drumsticks) he had eaten.

     Lawyer, William Ginsburg, whose most famous line was that he kissed [Monica] Lewinsky's "little pulkes" (thighs) as a baby, never met her until her early 20s.

     And in Tel Aviv there's a restaurant on 45 Bugrashov, named "Pulkes."

3.  "paskudnyak"/"paskudnik" (ugly, revolting, evil person; nasty person; scoundrel; lout.

     Peter Monheit ("The Yiddish Dictionary Of Fools") defines "paskudnyak" as "a revolting, corrupt person.  For him, there would be a very short funeral."

4.  "Prostaches" (Low class people)

5.  "Pustonpasnik" (loafer, idler)

6.  "Partatshnek" (inferior merchandise or work)

7.  "Pishers" (bed-wetters; male infant; a little squirt; a nobody; a young upstart.

    Some lawyers like to refer to their new young clients as "the little pishers."

8.  "Prietzeh"/"Pretzeh" (Princess; finicky girl; having a prima donna airs; being snooty)

9.  "Piqua" (literally, encounter, attack: terror attack)

10.  "Pisk-Malocheh" (chronic complainer; big talker - little doer; a man who talks a good line, but does nothing. )  Some people have said that Obama is a Big Talker rather than a Doer.

Jack Bachman, of Fairfield Glade, Tenn., wrote:  "Wake up, America.  On July 1 we spent half an hour listening to   President Barack Obama reiterate the problems in our immigration system, which we are all aware of.  At the close of his speech he outlined no plan to solve this issue, other than Congress should come together to solve this problem.  It should be noted that our president is a political, community organizer--big on words, but not a leader and/or doer."

One who is a chronic complainer will enjoy this story:  A man was carrying a very heavy pack on his back while
climbing  a steep hill.  It was an extremely hot ("heys") day.  Before long he was complaining.  "I wish I were dead."  Every few steps he took, the same complaint ("tayne") passed his lips.  Finally, the angel of death appeared to him and said:  "What is it you wish?" The man's eyes popped wide with fright. He began to stutter ("farhiken zikh shtamlen"):  "Would  you mind straightening the pack on my back so I can finish climbing this hill?"
         Source:  From Father Edwin J. Duffy's
         book, "Father Duffy's Reflections."

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe's FAVORITE P-word
is "peklfleysh" - corned beef.

2.  "Pishers" - bed-wetters; male infant; a
     little squirt, a nobody.
     Some lawyers like to refer to their new
     young clients as "the little pishers."

3.  Paskudnik - Ugly, revolting, evil person;
     nasty fellow, SCOUNDREL.

4.  "Pisk-Malocheh - Big talker - little doer;
     (a man who t alks a good line, but does

5  "Plyoot" - Bull-shitter (excuse the
    expression); loudmouth.

6.  "Prostaches" - Low class people

7.  "Prostak" - Ignorant boor, coarse person; vulgar man.

8.  "Prietzeh"/"pretzeh" - Pricess; finicky
    girl (Having a prima donna airs, giving
    airs, being snooty)

9.  "Pustonpasnik" - Loafer, idler.

10.  "partatshnek" - inferior merchandise
      or work


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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!

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