What is the most Yiddish word?

Now, this is a good question. A gute frage indeed. We asked our shmoos-lerer (teacher in conversation) what in her opinion is the most Yiddish word. We could literally hear the wheels spinning in her head, before she finally exclaimed: I’ve got it! A word that is so uniquely Yiddish that it would be impossible in any other language.

We threw out guesses. But it was not shleppen (to carry lots of unnecessary stuff). Not shmock (¤%&#). Not shlimazl (unlucky dude). Not beygl.  Not chutzpa. Not even oy vey! (the arch-Jewish sigh of discontent). What could it possibly be?

Parev! Nu?! Farvoss – why? This is why: It’s a word pointing to a very specific cultural, religious trait. Dietary laws in Judaism prohibit among other things mixing dairy products (milchik) with meat products (fleishik). The “neutral” food category that is neither dairy nor meat and may be consumed together with both these two food categories is called parev. These are products like fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, etc.

This word that describe a quite specific phenomenon, a part of the everyday life of every observant Jew, has received a much wider application. Anything not particularly exciting is parev. Food that doesn’t taste good, but doesn’t smell neither. Shmekt nicht, shtinkt nicht. Or things that are simpy not that exciting. A parev exhibit, concert, film, vacation, or anything that you may have an opinion about.

If the Norwegian film reviewers were sufficiently knowledgeable of Yiddish, they would perhaps have labelled the last “Pirates of the Caribbean”-movie parev.

But the most Yiddish of all Yiddish words? I would personally would prefer a word with more schwung. Or more schmack. But in any case it is hard to argue that any other language can boast of the same type of word.

Advertisements

About goldenemedine

Student of the glorious Yiddish language
This entry was posted in Culture, Language and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What is the most Yiddish word?

  1. Maryathome says:

    Interessant, virkelig! Ord er morsomt:) Men enig med deg at det hadde vært gøy å finne et ord som er mer enn “verken fugl, fisk eller krabbe”.
    Har du det bra i NY, eller? Jeg gleder meg til å høre når du er tilbake!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s