Baby, sweet baby

Yiddish is a mishmash of all different kinds of influences, most prominent German and Hebrew. With certain Slavic components. Mixed together, subtracted and extracted into something quite on its own.

Let’s take the word “sweet”. חנעוודיק. Cheynevdik. CHEYN-ev-dik. Stress on first syllable.

To Hebrew speakers “cheyn” is known as the Yiddish pronounciation of “chen”, meaning “grace”. It’s hilarious really, how Biblical expressions live on in the most trivial circumstances in the Holy Land. When the clothes’ store employee says to you “does this find grace in your eyes”, she simply asks you how you like the dress you have tried on – using the words of the ancient Hebrew prophets. Or whoever it was. But this was a digression.

“Ev” is a Slavic phrase, I was told.

“Dik” is typical Germanic.


What is sweeter than a baby really. In Yiddish a baby is an “oyfele” – stress on OY-fele. Literally “little chicken”. While babies may have a certain chickenish look to them, you may think that this is a bit derogatory to say. Right. But there is more. If the little chicken in question is REALLY precious, you would call him “the little ugly one”. Ken-en-hore. Without the evil eye! Because the evil eye is everywhere, constantly searching for small Jewish sweet babies. Better then to have small ugly chickens!

Why be a small ugly chicken when you can be an ugly duckling.

About goldenemedine

Student of the glorious Yiddish language
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