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Marcia Stark Meth / Emmy Stark Zitter / Miriam Stark Zakon

To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the Yiddish language’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Just look up these words in the dictionary: Schmooze. Schlep. Schlemiel. Schlimazel. Meshuga. Kvetch. They’re all there! Integrated into English, used even among non-Jews.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Now try shrek, shmatte, mishpacha, and geshmak. Not there — yet. Check back in ten years. We predict they’ll also make it into the dictionary, along with a slew of other Yiddish words. What makes these words so “absorbable”? No other language has words and expressions as unique, colorful, vibrant, or rich. No other language conveys such undertones — whether humor, realism, excitement, even terror — with wisdom that runs the gamut from subtle to outrageous. And Yiddish words just sound better! Ever notice how many “sch” Yiddish words found their way into our English vocabulary? For us Sisters, Yiddish is literally our “mammeh lushen” — we learned it from our mother a”h. She was especially gifted at using Yiddishisms as parental aids. If a daughter was dressed too perfectly, no hair out of place, she would tell her, “You look tse-tish-gegreit.” (Literally, a perfectly set table. Meaning: “Try to look more natural.”). If we became addicted to some food after years of refusing to taste it, she’d compare us to der behr mit’n hunnik. (“The bear with the honey” — there must have been some story behind that!) That’s why we’re on a mission to impart what little Yiddish we know — no matter how tsebrochen (broken), how crudely transliterated. We’re determined to help this living language stay alive — especially the Yiddish of our mother, our mammeh lushen.  

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