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Sep 29, 2014
This week's theme
Words borrowed from Yiddish

This week's words
luftmensch
pisher

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

What does a bagel have in common with lox or a maven with a golem? They all are words that have come to us from Yiddish.

While Yiddish has words to describe almost everything its speakers need it for, there's no match to its stockpile of colorful words to describe people. From schlemiel to schlimazel to schmo to schnook.

This week we'll look at five other words from Yiddish that are now part of the English language.

luftmensch

PRONUNCIATION:
(LOOFT-mensh)

MEANING:
noun: An impractical dreamer.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Yiddish, from luft (air) + mensch (man, person), from German. Earliest documented use: 1907.

NOTES:
A luftmensch is, literally, an airman, someone with his head in the clouds. A luftmensch is unconcerned with such practical matters as earning a living. Read about a luftmensch ("Dentist and Restaurateur") in this short story by Israel Zangwill.

USAGE:
"Shavit thinks himself a hardened realist, but maybe he's another kind of luftmensch."
Geoffrey Wheatcroft; A Romantic Dream; The Spectator (London, UK); Feb 22, 2014.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
There are two possible outcomes: If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery. -Enrico Fermi, physicist and Nobel laureate (1901-1954)

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