the schmooze


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Did you ever notice that most English words beginning with "sl" have a negative connotation? Some examples: slob, sloppy, slut, slang, sly, and slick.

Here's examples of "sl" words and their Yiddish equivalent:

slob - "shlump" or "opgelozen(er)";
a careless dresser
slaughter, ritual - "shoykhet"
slander - "rekhiles"
(to) smoke - "reykhern"
slow/dumb - "narish"
slow/not fast - "pamelekh"
slap - "patch/"potsh"/frask"
I gave him a potsh in ponem and he gave me a klap in kop." (I slapped him in his face and he hit me on the head.)
"Geben a patsh" - to slap
slightly drunk- "farshnoshket"
slime - "shmuts"/'shmutz"
slow-witted - "Goyisher kop"
slums - "dales-hayzer"
slumhouse - "churveh"
sly - "khitre"

Donald Czerwinski ("Replace Negative Words with Positive Words") wants to reach out to mankind and ask that all people begin to replace ("fabaytn") negative words in their speech with positive words. He writes, "The news media, the newspapers, the radio shows and different sitcom's, movies we watch or listen to daily are filled with negative words."

Yiddish negation is the process that turns an affirmative statement (I am happy/
I am "gliklekh" into its opposite denial,
I am not happy/I am "umgliklekh."

I am "klug" (smart).
I am not a "shtummie." Note: A "shtummie" is a dummy; one who doesn't say much. ("shtum" means silent)

I am outgoing and love to "shmooze."
I am not a "shmoozer" - someone who just sits around and talks all day long without doing anything productive.

I am into dancing: the Horah and the Mezinke Tanz (Krenzl).
I am not into the joy, pain, passion and drama ("drame") of "Dancing "Mit" (With) the Stars."

I am into Chanukah/Hanukkah.
I am not into Chrismukkah.
Note: Ron Gompertz ("Chrismukkah - The Merry Mish-Mash Holiday Cookbook") says that "Chrismukkah is a medley of Bing Crosby's crooning "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire," Bruce Springsteen's rollicking "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and Adam Sandler's nebbishy "Hanukkah Song." Ron says, "Merry Mazeltov!"

I am talented ("talantirt").
I am not a "shmeggegge"--an untalented loser; a whiner; a petty person.

I am a senior citizen ("elter birger").
I am not "over the hill." Don't call me elderly, an advanced adult, a goldenager, a seasoned citizen, or a member of 'OWLS' (Older, Wiser, Livelier Souls). On second thought, you MAY use the term 'OPALS'--Older Persons with Active Life Styles. And there are some perks to being a senior citizen: In a hostage ("orevnik") situation, you are likely to be released first.

I am a "fresser" - someone who loves to eat and snack, often in large quantities.
I am not a "khazer" - a pig.
Speaking of food. We all remember the Catskills. And Kutshers. "Kutsher's Tribeca"--a modern Jewish American restaurant (formerly located in the old Mai House), 186 Franklin St., Manhattan, opens shortly. The menu includes "Moshe Peking's sizzling beef," varnishkes, matzo-ball soup, etc. As my mother would say, "Ess. Ess. Look how thin you look."

I am about to become "tsuriktsien zikh" (retired).
I am not off to "God's waiting room" (AKA Florida) or that Great Senior Center in the Sky. According to Rose Madeline Mula ("If these are laugh lines, I'm having way too much fun"), "Those poor misguided workaholics plan never to slow down. They'd have us believe that retirement is fatal, more dangerous than pirouetting blindfolded across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. They swear that hard work is keeping them alive. Give me a break. That's living?"

I am thrifty ("shporveydik").
I am not a cheapskate ("shnorer").
I'm not like the "shnorer" who, instead of giving her dress to be drycleaned for $10 or more, donates it to the Salvation Army. They clean it, press it, put it on a hanger, and she buys it back for $2 bucks.

I am a tale teller ("shpilmener.")
I do not fabricate stories. In 1960 the young Judi Dench was playing Shakespeare's Juliet at the Old Vic Theatre in London. She was crouching over the lifeless body of her cousin,Tybalt, crying out, "Where are my father and my mother, nurse?" when her actual father, a doctor, who was in the audience with her mother, stood up and announced, "Here we are, darling, in row H!" (Thank you, Tom Friedman!)

I have a good "zikorn" (memory). I am not forgetful.
According to Tom...uh...Friedman ("1,000 unforgettable Senior Moments"), "Before winning the senate seat in North Carolina in 1998, presidential candidate John Edwards showed little interest in politics and often forgot to vote. He was once asked whether he had started his political life by registering as a Democrat or Republican. HE COULDN'T REMEMBER!"

I am a movie producer.
I am not a "schlock meister"--a movie maker who produces kitsch.

I am tired ("farmatert").
I am not "oysgematert" (utterly exhausted).

I am into Fendi, Manolo Blahnik, UGG boots (sometimes called uggs), Rodeo Drive, and Bloomingdale's.
I am not a J.A.P.--Jewish American Princess.
Note: According to the "Dictionary of Jewish Worlds" by Eisenberg and Scolnic, JAP is a "derogatory slang for a young Jewish woman who is spoiled or showy with material possessions. The term is considered offensive and insulting."

I am a polite ("eydl") negotiator.
I am not into "handling."
Jackie Mason ("How to Talk Jewish") says, "When a Jew comes home from buying something, there are always two questions:
"What did they ask?" and
"What did you pay?"

Mason adds, "A Jewish storekeeper always knows that you're not going to buy anything unless he was going out of business and was desperate to sell his goods at a bargain. So a Jewish storekeeper always has all kinds of sales and always stays in business.

A gentile only has a Christmas Sale or a George Washington Sale. But Jewish store owners in Miami Beach have sales every day that no one has ever heard of before. There's an Early Bird Sale, an After Dinner Sale, a Late Lunch Sale, and there's the Going Out of Business Sale, the I Already Went Out of Business Sale, and the Store Has Never Been in Business Sale."
Marjorie Wolfe says that the Yiddish expression, "hoo-ha!" is NOT considered to be an example of negative words. "That'll be the day! Mitt Romney wants to be president. hoo-ha!"


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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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