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Mar 28, 2021
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Words borrowed from Yiddish

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AWADmail Issue 978

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day
and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

American Sign Language Finds Its Spotlight
The New York Times

Scotland’s Little-Known Fourth “Language”

From: Edouard Jurkevitch (jurkevi agri.huji.ac.il)
Subject: Yiddish

Every morning as I read my email, there is this moment of happiness and smiling heart. Thank you for A.Word.A.Day.

This week will be on Yiddish words. My parents grew up with the language, but unfortunately I don’t speak it. In the introduction, you mention that Israel’s official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore. Arabic’s status has been degraded to “special status language” as part of the “Nationality laws” that de-facto turned Arab citizens to second-class citizens. This is a stain, a shame on the country that is ruled by a far-right coalition. Tomorrow’s elections will tell us whether we (I am an Israeli) go on with this mishigas or come back to a more humanist path.

Edouard Jurkevitch, Rehovot, Israel

From: Sally P. Davis (klezmerphan yahoo.com)
Subject: It’s Yiddish Week!

My favorite AWAD week each year is the one when you celebrate my Ashkenazi Jewish heritage by presenting five Yiddish words to the world. (I’m always interested to see which five you opted to highlight.)

I grew up hearing my mother speaking Yiddish with her parents, cousins, and friends. After she retired, she was delighted to find various Yiddish-speaking groups in the Los Angeles area. We took a class at the Arbeiter Ring (“Workmen’s Circle”) on Robertson Blvd. in West LA for a while.

My mother, Anita L. Davis, passed away from Covid on Jan 25, 2021, at age 91. Now I am the sole keeper of the Yiddish flame in our branch of the family. Thank you for helping to keep Yiddish alive in the public consciousness.

Sally P. Davis, Redondo Beach, California

From: Ginger Speicher (via website comments)
Subject: plotz

Shul real estate: buy your Plotz before you plotz.

Ginger Speicher, Fairfield, Connecticut

From: David Auerbach (dave isiscat.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--plotz

Early film credit: 1966 Woody Allen movie What’s Up, Tiger Lily? He dubbed a Japanese spy film with a completely different story about a secret egg salad recipe that was so good you could plotz.

That word has stuck itself inside my head ever since I first saw that movie.

David Auerbach, Redmond, Washington

From: Eileen Saks (eileensaks gmail.com)
Subject: Plotz

This word always reminds me of the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins, and the song “How I Saved Roosevelt”. Bystanders at the attempted assassination of FDR in Miami are recounting how their actions saved him. One couple sings:

The crowd’s breaking up
and I hear these shots
and I mean lots
I thought I’d plotz
my stomach was tied in knots.

Eileen Saks, Morristown, New Jersey

From: Laura B Robinson (elbee577 yahoo.com)
Subject: plotz

Interesting that this is the word of the day for today. Just last night I had an earworm, a song from the comical farce movie The Producers. A goofy, Nazi wanna-be is singing:

“We drink our Schnapps ’til we--”

I could never discern what the last word in the line is. Is it flops or drops? Now I know! It has to be plotz!

The movie is a Mel Brooks production. He slips in some Yiddish every now and then. The weird irony of this word popping into a song by “German crazy guy” is, well, funny and ironic.

And, given the context, it makes perfect sense!

“We drink our Schnapps ’til we PLOTZ!” (lyrics)

Laura B Robinson, Illinois

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by Wise Up! + FREE Smarts Pills = unHappy Holidays!

From: Brian O’Hanlon (BOHanlon truenorthcompanies.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shonda

Plotz is also a great dog training command. Different from Sit, it can also reference a specific place where they are to plotz. Once they know that spot and the command, they can be trained to go to their corner and lie down.

Brian O’Hanlon, Longmont, Colorado

From: Yitzhak Dar (yitzhakdar gmail.com)
Subject: Thought

Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen. -Louis L’Amour, novelist (22 Mar 1908-1988)

Our eldest daughter is a hiker (who had to stay in Israel for more than a year, because of the pandemic). I sent her the thought.

She replied that this is a phenomenon known among hikers, and their answer to it is “It’s not about the miles, it’s about the smiles.”

Yitzhak Dar, Haifa, Israel

From: Lucy Kashangaki (lkashangaki gmail.com)
Subject: Frum

This brings to mind the hilarious nightmare scene (7 min.) in Fiddler on the Roof, haunted by visions of the pious Fruma-Sarah.

Lucy Kashangaki, Princeton, New Jersey

From: Lois Mowat (lmowat1810 gmail.com)
Subject: frum

When I saw the word frum it brought back a memory. I lived in a small suburb of Chicago and was raised a Catholic, though attended public school. My mother taught us that honesty was the most important trait to have. In my late teens, I went to confession at a large church in the city, not our regular parish.

I began my confession by saying, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, but there is a sin I am not sorry for and will commit again.” He sounded like a young priest when he said, “I cannot absolve your sin.” I then asked what I should do and was told to go home and try to feel the sorrow necessary to be forgiven. That was the very last time I went to confession.

Lois Mowat, Orinda, California

From: Melvyn Minnaar (min0003 mweb.co.za)
Subject: Frum

The Afrikaans word is vroom (more or less the same pronunciation). The same in Dutch.

Melvyn Minnaar, Cape Town, South Africa

From: Monique Lusse (equitybydesign gmail.com)
Subject: Choice of quotation today

We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming. -Wernher von Braun, rocket scientist (23 Mar 1912-1977)

I’ve been a fan since the beginning. My dad turned me on to Wordsmith.org when you guys first started and I’ve loved every step along the way. And continue to be a fan. I have always loved that you include a quotation at the end of every word of the day. I have found many of them inspiring and always a welcome part of my day.

Today I am disturbed by two things: the inclusion of a quotation by Wernher von Braun, and the attribution that he was a rocket scientist.

He was more than a rocket scientist. He was a Nazi, a major in the SS. Part of the overwhelming paperwork was recordkeeping in relation to the slave labor used in constructing the underground rocket bases in France and Germany. Calorie count calculations, transport logs, all manner of atrocities.

His reputation was whitewashed when the Americans granted him, and 1600 other German scientists, safe passage to the US to build our weapons program.

This man committed war crimes and was never brought to account for it. And to have him referred to today as a “rocket scientist” dishonors the men and women he worked to death during WW2.

Monique Lusse, Santa Cruz, California

Thanks for writing to alert us that there’s more to von Braun than just rocketry. We’re linking this quotation to your note.
-Anu Garg

From: Joan Perrin (perrinjoan aol.com)
Subject: A thought for today

The rocket scientist was immortalized in song (2 min.) by the prolific satirist, Tom Lehrer. My favorite line of the song was, “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down. That’s not my department.” Says Wernher von Braun.

Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York

From: Glenn Glazer (glenn.glazer gmail.com)
Subject: shanda fur di ...

I have heard this word most in two phrases:

Shanda fur di kinder, literally, “a shame in front of the kids” meaning that someone is setting a bad example or behaving badly around the young ones.

Shanda fur di goyim, literally, “a shame in front of the gentiles” meaning that someone is doing something that makes Jews look bad.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Mike Wagner (mike wildcardvideo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gelt

My father and his parents (of Austrian lineage) used to ask, “Do you think I have a gelt schizer?” when someone suggested a large value purchase. I’ll let you do the translation.

Mike Wagner, Miami, Florida

From: Kath O’Sullivan (pudsyduck gmail.com)
Subject: Quotation by Sterling Hayden

We are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. -Sterling Hayden, actor, author, and WWII veteran (26 Mar 1916-1986)

This hit me hard! I would like to have it set in a frame and handed to each of my thirteen grandkids and five greatgrands. Along with it I would give them the words from a poem we learned in school. It begins, “What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare...”

Kath O’Sullivan, Auckland, New Zealand

From: Michael Dresdner (mmdresdner gmail.com)
Subject: Yiddish origins

Like most Ashkenazic Jews, I grew up believing that, because our version of Yiddish was so heavily German, it originated there. Recent research suggests that it may have originated in Turkey among Silk Road traders.

Michael Dresdner, Puyallup, Washington

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: plotz and gelt

The word plotz took me back to my Warner Bros. Animation Studios days, early 1990s, and in particular, my small contribution to the great success of Animaniacs. The skit-formatted animated series was driven by the frenetic and wacky antics of siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner, celebrated 1930s animated cartoon characters, who’d been cooped up in the iconic Warner Bros. Burbank water tower for decades. They broke out of sequester in the early ‘90s. The CEO in this fictional version of Warner Studios at the time was the portly Thaddeus Plotz. Here, the mischievous Warner sibs smash through a studio backdrop, sparking his ire.

Swimming in Gelt
Disney’s insatiably avaricious Scrooge McDuck is the quintessential money-grubbing businessman. His Scottish thrift has become legendary. Here, wearing a vintage ’20s-era bathing suit and signature top hat, he’s literally swimming in his amassed riches, inside his storied vault, gleefully reveling in his ubiquitous wealth... “gelty” as charged!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Pangraph (contains all words from this week)

The shonda of watching people who claimed to be frum venerate a gelt- and yichus-obsessed gonif made me want to plotz.
-Ray Wiss, Greater Sudbury, Canada (portray vianet.ca)

The rebbitzin, frum, a paragon of yichus, was ready to plotz from the shonda on realizing she had some gelt in her pocket jingling on her way to shul for Shabbos.
-Robert H Sadowsky, DMD, New York, New York (rsadowskydmd gmail.com)

A true Bubbameister:
When I was little, my grandmother would give me some gelt. She dreamed I was destined to be a cantor, leading a frum life. In high school, the choral director assigned me the solo part of “O Holy Night”. I thought this would get me yichus. According to my mother, when my Yiddish bubba heard me sing, she said “Shonda!” and plotzed.
-Martin Rudolph, Oceanside, New York (mrudolph57 aol.com)


This week’s theme: Words borrowed from Yiddish
1. plotz
2. frum
3. shonda
4. yichus
5. gelt
= 1. flop down from work (sigh)
2. holy, trustworthy
3. shamed
4. esteemed rich
5. subsidized
     This week’s theme: Words borrowed from Yiddish
1. plotz
2. frum
3. shonda
4. yichus
5. gelt
= 1. boom!
2. sacred, feted with myrrh
3. disgust of, hurt
4. shows how prized, skilled
5. money
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


“Mama, Papa, be nice! This is Roy.”
“And this ‘Roy’, he’s a nice Jewish boy?”
“Mama, Papa, don’t plotz!
Roy for me has the hots,
But a Jew? No, he’s not -- he’s a goy.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

You just sit there and grumble and brood.
What you need is some good Jewish food.
You should eat lots and lots
’Til you’re ready to plotz,
And you’ll soon be in such a good mood.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

She needs furniture fast, for her house.
She wants trendy new things, or she’ll grouse.
She shops ’til she drops;
I fear she will plotz,
Which might really be good for her spouse.
-Sondra Landin, New York, New York (sunnytravel att.net)

Stephen King’s scary page-turner plots
tie me into improbable knots
in my gut. And what’s more,
with his horror galore,
by The End, I’m afraid I might plotz!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

She carefully weeds apricots
from her salad, “They give me the trots!
Just one tiny bite,
keeps me up half the night,
and by morning I’m ready to plotz!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

While they stood by their fancy new yachts,
The day’s talk was about vaccine shots.
Said Ms. Schwartz to Ms. Cohn,
“I let out a loud moan,
Oy, that Pfizer, it just made me plotz.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

A banquet in Rome was a treat!
It always meant “All you can eat!”
The guests consumed lots,
And then they would plotz,
But overindulgence was sweet.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I find myself now, lots and lots
Lost in thought and just wondering, What’s
Gonna be if the prince
And Meghan convince
The Queen to say “Sorry!” I’ll plotz!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

For her new neighbor, Faye had the hots.
She cried, “Oy, mama, he makes me plotz!”
By the spring it is said,
Under chuppah were wed,
And soon they had quite a few tots.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“The invention you see was James Watt’s,”
Said the tour guide, “It made England plotz.
‘Replace workers with steam?
That’s a plutocrat’s dream!’
Shouted business tycoons on their yachts.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Says he, “Faith’s important to me,
so I tend it assiduously.
Though at times burdensome,
perhaps, to be frum,
it’s serenity’s best recipe!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

My friend who is frum goes to shul
To pray thrice a day, as a rule.
He keeps kosher, too,
For he is a Jew
Who thinks that tradition is cool.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Without being overly frum,
I admonished my late-risen chum.
He’d missed Sunday mass,
And sports coaching class,
in company of floozies quite dumb.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

The time for his marriage had come,
Poor Isaac was feeling just numb.
Said the matchmaker, “Pearl
Is a nice Jewish girl,
And her family, they are quite frum.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

If you want to learn more about Shi’a,
There’s a place where they’ll love that idea.
“We’re all totally frum,”
Say the mullahs in Qom,
“Have a seat and let’s schmooze! Nice to see ya!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

My dear sister is making the Seder.
I am doing my best to persuade her,
A shonda ‘twill be
And for sure not thrill me
Should she not ask my young single neighbor.
-Sondra Landin, New York, New York (sunnytravel att.net)

When he saw the word shonda he knew
What he had to impart was so true.
People telling a lie
Become shamed, by and by.
A great lesson for both me and you.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

On a trip with his girlfriend named Rhonda,
They made love in the back of his Honda.
Nine months later, such scorn,
When their baby was born,
The girl’s mother called this such a shonda.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

He fell really hard for Yolanda,
Who dumped him and moved to Uganda.
The heartbroken swain
Had wooed her in vain --
It’s tragic, a terrible shonda.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Though the hot-dog champ frenziedly ate,
He couldn’t outdo his blind date.
The egotist’s shonda
would take far beyond a
few time spans to fully abate.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

“You Beach Boys are truly a shonda;
I won’t be your rebound,” said Rhonda.
“‘Help, help!’ you go on,
But I’d sooner, Don Juan,
Be the squeeze of a live anaconda.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Complains the tycoon, “Folks critique us
because of our wealth and our yichus.
To pay them no mind
isn’t easy, we find.
So their censure continues to pique us.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The posh wedding was very auspicious.
Both the food and the wine were delicious.
The groom married a bride,
Who, though pudgy and wide,
Came from family loaded with yichus.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Great yichus was gained by her son,
Once med school degree he had won.
That’s why she is kvelling
And constantly telling
How wondrously well he has done.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Don’t worry that out you may freak us;
If you’re large where it counts, you’ll get yichus.
No private-parts envy
Disturbs us -- we’re friendly!
It’s quite de rigueur at nude beaches.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“You’ve got gelt? You can do as you like.
Tell the goyim, “Go screw! Take a hike!
It’ll open most doors,
Pay for premium whores;
Hey! You might get a date with Ros Pyke!”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

It was rumored inside DC’s Belt,
That his daddy had left Trump the ge
lt. In the White House as resident
This pretend former president
At the altar of Mammon had knelt.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

I was pleased when I got all that gelt.
I then purchased a gorgeous new pelt;
My friends were unhappy,
Said, “Wearing fur’s crappy”;
This coat, though, feels better than felt!
-Sondra Landin, New York, New York (sunnytravel att.net)

Says she, “I was dreaming I dwelt
in a land where we women were svelte.
The weather was mild,
the kiddies all smiled,
and the men possessed plenty of gelt.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

He alleged just how deeply he felt.
His intent was to make her heart melt.
“Won’t you please marry me?”
But she thought him to be
A big bore only after her gelt.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The traveler now wears a belt
Containing his passport and gelt.
For once on a train,
When touring in Spain,
Some hands in his pockets he felt.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Get enough good skills under your belt
and with luck you’ll be earning real gelt,
but the best part of learning
is not what you’re earning
but the way you play life cards you’re dealt.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

As a kid and a cultural Jew --
I wasn’t observant, it’s true.
The most Jewish one felt
Was when Hanukkah gelt
Made its way from your parents to you!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

The goniff said, “Gimme your gelt!”
But, Aunt Yetta gave him a belt.
She swung her big purse.
The thief got it worse,
And on his head, he had a welt.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said a wildebeest roaming the veldt,
“Out here I don’t need any gelt.
The hyenas and crocs
And big cats I outfox;
I go running each day to stay svelte.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Puns The real estate agent fainted when he didn’t sell any plotz the whole week.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“The fainting spells were part of their villainous plotz,” Sherlock deduced.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The cook fainted when the plotz called the kettles black.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com

He said he was frum the same church I went to.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

My fiancée comes frum a devout Christian background, while I was raised with eastern beliefs.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com

“I get these strange religious feelings,” said the patient.
“Let’s start with the basics,” replied the psychiatrist. “Where are you frum?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

After seeing the overhead lighting fixture in a home, the snooty home buyer exclaimed, “What a shameful shonda-lier!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said Woodward to Bernstein, “We really shonda light on that burglary.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

In a plea to ban swearing, the town crier exclaimed, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Here yichus no more!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said the Republicans, “Not gelty!”
Answered the Democrats, “Yeah, we know he is millions in debt.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Joe Biden... calling them as he sees them

Joe Biden... calling them as he sees them
Unlike Trump, who maintained a longstanding bromance with Putin, offering up nary a discouraging word regarding the Russian despot, Pres. Biden is calling a spade a spade, or more pointedly... a killer a killer. In a recent interview, straight-shooting Joe echoed George W. Bush’s initial face-to-face take on Putin as “pure evil”. Biden sees through Putin’s smiling, seemingly congenial fa├žade, here symbolized by a mask. No bromance here.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

However well equipped our language, it can never be forearmed against all possible cases that may arise and call for description: fact is richer than diction. -J.L. Austin, philosopher of language (28 Mar 1911-1960)

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