The Yiddish language is both mystical and playful in nature with the ability to specifically describe and denote words, concepts and feelings that are unequivocally, well, Jewish. The language, known to be a creative hybrid of Hebrew, German and a slew of the Slavic languages, exists as a proud cornerstone of Jewish culture and history, specifically for those that identify as Ashkenazi. However, words like “schvitz,” “plotz” and “schmutz” have more or less found their way into the modern American zeitgeist and more. And while a small handful of words get tossed around more regularly, we at Menschions would love to keep the education going, and provide our readers and followers with a few less well-known, but equally brilliant Yiddish terms this upcoming holiday season.
Let’s start with a complimentary one!
GESHMAK: If we’re being honest, there’s more than a few Yiddish terms that lend to complaining (Kvetch, Oy Vey, Farbissina and more) but every so often, Yiddish provides for a word that elicits a sense of joy (or at least the Jewish version of that). GESHMAK is exactly that. The word means delicious, pleasurable or fun and it’s the perfect way to throw around a little positivity at a holiday dinner table.
Example: “Hetti, your Kugel is Geshmak! You have to send me the recipe!”
HEYMISH: Heymish describes that cozy feeling you get when you enter a location and feel right at home. It means unpretentious, warm or homey. In a way, the word is a cognate to “homey” and personally gives me Westchester vibes.
Example: “Ellen and Rob just bought the cutest little condo in Vermont. It’s adorable, very heymish! You’d love it.”
FARBISSINA: We all know one … the Debbie Downer of the group. The one that’s always got a complaint even on the most glorious of days. In their natural habitat, the farbissina can be found pointing out problems when there seemingly aren’t any to be found. They complain, they send back food, then adjust the thermostat and they find a way to call the glass half-empty even if it’s overflowing. But what can you do, right? Oddly enough, we find a way to love them, even in their most morose mood. (We even made a card for them)
Example: “Edith is nothing but a farbissina. She was too cold in New York and now she’s too hot in Florida. She’ll never be content! Oy Gavult!” (we’ll get to that one next time) Check out this funny card - perfect for your own Farbissina!
KVELL: Now for something you’ll rarely see a farbissina doing, to kvell is to rejoice. It is to celebrate, to plotz (again, more on that later) and to relish in the news or the moment. When a mother’s 35-year-old daughter gets married, she kvells. She also breathes a sigh of relief before almost immediately worrying about her 29-year-old son. When a grandfather meets his new grandchild, he kvells and when I hear that my bagel place is bringing back the honey mustard tuna, I kvell!
Side Note: If you have a wedding you’re kvelling about, make sure to buy one of our wedding cards before attending.
MAMISH: Used to accentuate, agree with or simply emphasize, Mamish is the all-encompassing Yiddish catchphrase you need to know! Think of it as the cousin of the Hebrew word Sababa, or the English slang versions of “mad,” “hella,” or “totally,” mamish is meant to affirm or punctuate a sentence or conversation with a bit of positivity!
Example: “I am mamish excited about this wedding! Rebecca and Corey have great taste so I know it’s going to be legit!”
HASHKAFA: While it’s technically a Hebrew word, hashkafa has gracefully found its way into the world of Yiddish slang. The word is used to describe an individual’s specific point of view or outlook. In other words, it’s used to describe a person’s perspective on life or a specific aspect of it.
Example: Carol’s got a very specific hashkafa when it comes to politics. You should hear some of the things she said at lunch the other day! Great restaurant though.
TUCHUS: Baby’s got back and Talia’s got Tuchus, at least according to Jewish law (not really). Tuchus quite literally means someone’s “rear end,” “butt” or “bottom.” It’s a term of endearment though … kinda/mostly. It’s usually used in good humor and nature and tends to be one of the first Yiddish words most American Jews acquaint themselves with. And since it really is all about that base and has been since roughly 2012, we recommend sending someone a nice card to let them know you “miss their tuchus!”
Example: Ruthie’s so adorable and has a great little tuchus! Check out our very own "Miss Your Tuchus" card to send to a friend or family member for a laugh!
MENSCH: Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Yiddish lesson without paying homage to the very word that inspired our company! At this point, mensch is as much an American phrase as a Yiddish one, used, appreciated and pretty much understood by all. To call someone a mensch is a high but humble compliment. It’s a great way to acknowledge someone’s all-around decency and character and an excellent way to get on their good side!
Example: “That young man Sean, you know, the one from Long Island … he is so polite and sweet. What a mensch! If you have a mensch in your life, gift the little ones our Mini Mensch onesie, the kids a Mini Mensch T-Shirt, and Mom a Mama Mensch T-Shirt, and Dad a Papa Mensch T-Shirt!
BALABUSTA: The match to a Macher, a balabusta is another word for the wife of a very important person or, independently, a very bossy woman!
Example: “Marvin’s wife is a real pistol. She acts like she runs his whole business. A real balabusta, that one. God bless.”
RACHMONES: A word as essential as its meaning, Rachmones translates to compassion or empathy and to many is the cornerstone of the Jewish ethos and teachings. Rachmones call for a sense of understanding toward the lives of others and is truly an important virtue to practice.
Example: “I know your friend’s a bit of an idiot but have a little Rachmones. He’s going through a lot.”
ZIE GA ZINK: A signoff as good as any, to tell someone “Zie Ga Zink”is to wish them good health. It’s a perfect add-on to a “Mazel Tov”and quite frankly a very nice way to sign a card … and while we’re on the subject, be sure to say “Zie Ga Zink'' to your relatives and loved ones with one of our Menschions cards this upcoming holiday season!
Example: “Dearest Ramona, I love you and wish you a very happy and healthy New Year! Zie Ga Zink, Luanne.”
Menschions’ loves incorporating Yiddish terms into our funny cards and gifts. Be sure to check them out in Menschions’ Funny Jewish Clothing section, Wedding Card section, Everyday Card section and fun games for the holidays.