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2005 blog


Keeping up with Jewish officeholders

And now, Yiddish for politicians
courtesy of LA's Bob Hertzberg,  Jan. 22, 2005

It's back!  When he was the Speaker of the California Assembly, Robert Hertzberg issued a booklet for legislators explaining terms in Yiddish that might be of use to them as lawmakers.  Now he's running for mayor of Los Angeles, and has posted the contents of the booklet on his website,

We hope he won't think us goniffs for posting it for you, so you wouldn't be farblondjet.


Alevai: ah-liv-EYE.  It should only happen.

Example: “We’ll get it out of Committee, alevai, and then we’ll see what happens on the floor.”

Alter kakher: OLL-ter-KOCK-er.   Crotchety, fussy, ineffectual, old person.

Example:  “You nitpick these bills so much, you’re beginning to be a real alter kakher.”

Bobbe- myseh: BUB-beh MY-seh.  Old wive’s tale; improbable story.

Example: “His resume showed that he had been the head of a major policy institute.  What a bobbe myseh!”

Boychik: BOY-chick.

Diminutive of boy; can be used sarcastically, but more
usually, with fondness.

Example:  “So boychik, are you proud of your accomplishments as a member of the Assembly?”

Bubeleh: BUB-eh-leh.

Term of endearment, used for dear, darling, honey.

Example:  “You are such a bubeleh; you’re always there when I need you.”

Bubkes: BUB-kiss.  Something of little or no value.

Example: “We spent all night in negotiations on the bill, but in the morning we had bubkes.”

Chaloshes: cha-LAW-shess.  Disgusting, unbelievably hideous.

Example: “That's the last time I go to one of his campaign events; he showed up three hours late and the food was chaloshes!”

Chazeray: khoz-zair-EYE.  Garbage, junk.

Example: “All we ate during the end of session was chazeray.”

Chutzpah: KHOOTS-pah. nerve.

Example: “It takes a lot of chutzpah to vote against such a good proposal.”

Cokamaimy: COK-a-MAY-me.  Fake, outrageous, ridiculous.

Example: “She gave some cokamaimy excuse for not showing up to the committee meeting.”

Dreck: DRECK.  Trash, junk, garbage.

Example: “I’ve got to clean up my office; it really looks like dreck.”

Emmes: EM-mess.  Lit.  The truth; often used to indicate the real story behind something.

Example: “You know that when he speaks, you’re hearing the emmes.”

Farblondjet: far-BLAWN-jet.
Lost.  Mixed-up.

Example: “We need better directions to our Capitol offices so that our constituents won’t get all farblondjet when they’re looking for us.” 

Farklempt: fer-KLEMPT.  Choked up.

Example:  “I received so many accolades at the Legislator of the Year Awards that I got all farklempt.”

Farputst: far-PUTST.  All dressed up.

Example: “We got all farputst for the swearing-in ceremony.”

Gelt: GELT.

Example:  “There’s just not enough gelt to support these important policies.” 

Gevalt: geh-VOLT.  Lit.  Strength.  Help! 

Example: “She took one look at the vote and shouted, “Gevalt!” 

Gey gezunterheit: GAY-gez-UNT-er-hate.  Go in good health, have a good time. 

Example: “Everyone on your committee is going to visit the child care center?  Great!    Gey gezunterheit.”

Goniff: GONE-iff.  Thief, someone untrustworthy. 

Example: “He’s such a goniff, he’d steal the wooden teeth out of George Washington’s mouth!” 

Gottenyu:  GAWT-en-yew.
Dear God; Oh, dear God.
An exclamation uttered with affection, despair or irony. 

Example: “Gottenyu!  How am I going to be in Sacramento and Los Angeles at the same time?” 

Haimish: HAIM-ish.  Friendly; down-to-earth; unpretentious. 

Example: “Even though I’m Committee Chair now, I’m trying to keep the same haimish atmosphere around my office.” 

Hock mir nisht kine chine-ick.  HOCK-mere-nisht-kin-eh-CHINE-ick.  Lit.  “Don’t bang me a tea kettle.”  Stop bothering me. 

Example: “So he screamed at me for ten minutes, and finally I yelled back, ‘Enough already!  Hock mir nisht kine chine ick!’ ” 

Kine-ahora: kin-a-HAW-reh.  Lit.  “There should be no evil eye.”  It is used to ward off evil spirits.  Usually it is said after somebody well-wished you or upon noting your good fortune, in the same way one would say, “Knock on wood.” 

Example: “And kine-ahora, if the rainy weather continues, we won’t have to worry about a drought next year.” 

Kibbitz:  KI-bits.  To provide a running commentary on something while someone else is working; to wisecrack; to socialize aimlessly. 

Example: “If we’re going to get all of these bills passed before next year, we’d better stop kibbitzing and get to work.” 

Klutz: CLUTS.  Clumsy person. 

Example:  “I’m such a klutz; I smashed my finger when I banged the gavel for order.” 

Kvell: KVELL.  Basking in glory; to beam with immense pleasure, usually about a child.

Example: “I worked hard on her campaign, so when she took the oath of office, I kvelled.”

Kvetch: KVETCH.  (noun) Complainer, whiner.
(verb) To complain or whine.

Example: “I know he won't like that office assignment; he kvetches about everything.”

L’Chaim: le-KHY-im.  To life, usually used in a toast.

Example: “And here's to the new committee chair,
‘L’ Chaim.’ ”

Loch in kop: LAWKH –in-kawp.  Like a hole in the head.

Example: “I need these troubles like a loch in kop.”

Macher: MOKH-er.  Someone who arranges, fixes, has connections; a big shot.

Example: “He’s a macher; we’ll hold up the meeting until he arrives.”

Mavin: MAY-vin. A really knowledgeable person; an expert.

Example: “Since when are you a mavin on the Prop 98 funding formula?”

Mazel tov: MOZ-l-TUV.  Congratulations.

Example: “Mazel tov on your first floor speech.”

Megillah: meh-GILL-eh.  Lit.  A tale; a long drawn out story.
Anything complicated, boring.

Example: “So he gave me the whole megillah about the bill and I agreed to be a co-author.”

Mentsch: MENTSCH (like bench).  Lit.  A human being.  Used to describe someone who is  upright, honorable, decent.

Example: “Even when he loses a bill, he’s always a mentsch.”

Meshuggeneh: me-SHUG-eh-neh.  Crazy, absurd. (A crazy man is a meshugenner; a crazy woman is a meshugenneh; this form is also used as an adjective “a meshugenneh idea.”)

Example:  “I’ve had such a meshuggeneh schedule lately that I forgot my own birthday!”

Mishpochah: mish-PAW-kheh.  Lit.  Family; group; close associate. 

Example: “The whole mishpochah came to Sacramento for the swearing-in ceremony.”

Mitzvah: MITTS-veh.
Lit. Commandment; a meritorious act, a “good work.”

Example: “You did a mitzvah when you passed the family health insurance bill.” 

Naches: NOKH-essProud pleasure, special joy particularly from a child.  

Example: “My mother got such naches from my winning the award.”

Nebbish: NE-bish.  Quiet, passive wimp. 

Example: “After hearing about how cool my blind date was supposed to be, I was surprised that he was such a nebbish.” 

Nu: NEW. 
The verbal equivalent of a sigh, a frown, a grin, a grunt, a sneer or a question. 

Example:  “I saw you come out of the Governor’s office.  Nu?”

Nudzh: NUD-jeh.  To pester someone surreptitiously.

Example: “He nudzhed me so much I finally said, 'All right, all right-I'll put you on the Select Committee." 

Ongepotchket: AWN-ge-potch-ket.  Slapped together or assembled without form or sense. 

Example: “Her office is so ongepotchket; every piece of furniture is from a different period.”

Oy: OI.  An untranslatable exclamation, used to express a variety of negative feelings ranging from anger to annoyance, fatigue, melancholy, dismay and more.  “Oy” may be used alone, but it may also be used in a variety of combinations depending on the amount of emphasis called for. 

Oy vay.” -annoyance-related indigestion coming on-.  Oy vay es meir!"  -Developing painful ulcer-.  OY GEVALT  -Impending heart attack-.

Plotz: PLOTS.

(noun)A place, a seat.  More commonly used as (verb) to split, to burst, to explode.

Example: “I almost plotzed when I realized that someone else had introduced the same bill.”

Pushke: PUSH-ka.  A charity box or more generally, the bank.

Example: “Let’s keep some money in the pushke for a rainy day.”

Shlemiel: shleh-MEAL.
A foolish person; a simpleton; a consistently unlucky person.

Example: “That shlemiel is always saying the wrong thing and at the worst possible time.” 

Shlock:  (sounds like clock)

A shoddy, cheaply made article; a fake article.
Example: “You can’t pass off that shlock as reasoned legislation.”

Shmooze: (rhymes with lose)

Friendly, gossipy “heart-to-heart” talk.

Example: “If the meeting ends early, we’ll have some time to get together and shmooze.”

Shmutz: SHMOOTS.  Dirt.

Example: “After the truck crashed into the Capitol, the Senate chambers were covered in shmutz for days.”

Shnorrer: SHNOR-er.
A beggar, moocher, cheapskate.

Example: “That shnorrer is always taking the credit for everyone else’s work.”

Tachlis: TOKH-liss.
The point, heart or substance of the matter.

Example: “Her speech went on for hours and she never got to the tachlis.”

Tchatske: TCHOT-skeh.  Gadget, knickknack.

Example: “I’ve saved all the tchatskes that my children made in school.” 

Tsouris: TSOO-riss.  Suffering, trouble.

Example: “I’m going to get tsouris for missing that meeting.”

Tzedakah: tse-DOCK-a.
The obligation to establish justice by being righteous; it is the closest word to charity.

Example:  “Let’s practice tzedakah here and increase the funding in the health care, food stamp and renter’s credit legislation.”

Yente: YEN-ta.  A busybody, a gossip.

Example: “Her mother is such a yente; she’s trying to fix us up.”

Donald H. Harrison