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We’ve Got your Idiom

Leah Mandel

It started as a half-baked idea; one that we weren’t sure would hold water. Why not research those ten-a-penny phrases we often use and determine if any have their roots in our history, or our Hebrew or Yiddish language? Idioms, expressions that color every language, are phrases that mean much more than the words themselves. Leaving no stone unturned, we went on a wild-goose chase to discover the Jewish source of the cream of the crop. The fruits of our labor are now in your hands.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

To “put the kibosh” on something generally means to stop it in its tracks. You’ll often hear these words when someone has reached the end of his rope and frustration is reigning. According to Albert Jack, author of Red Herrings and White Elephants, the word “kibosh” comes from the Hebrew lichbosh — to conquer, subdue, or to imprison. When no one was able to put the kibosh on this phrase, it became an oft-used idiom.


“Every Monday and Thursday,” a translation of the Yiddish yedn Montig un Donershtig, was occasionally heard in the latter part of the 20th century. The New York Times used the phrase to complain about the frequency of oil rates rising. This phrase means something that happens often — so, what happens regularly on Mondays and Thursdays? A portion of that week’s parshah is read during Shacharis and extra tefillos are recited.

In his book Yiddish and English: A Century of Yiddish in America, linguist Sol Steinmetz notes that the phrase “every Monday and Thursday” surfaced either due to those occurrences or to the custom some people have to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. Place of origin: northeasternUnited States, most likelyNew York, early 1900s.


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