When you make games you're working in the Entertainment Business, a business that has been around long before you ever entered it. I've been in it for over a quarter century and have always been fascinated at the amount of Yiddish spoken there and managed to pick up quite a bit over the years. And with the so-called "convergence" of Hollywood and the game industry, I thought it will help to know a little practical Yiddish that is spoken around Tinsel Town and, in fact, all over the entertainment industry.
What follows is a glossary of some practical Yiddish words and phrases that I've encountered over my many years in the game business. Remember, the limits of your language are the limits of your world.
Yiddish: An amalgam of medieval German dialects, Yiddish was first
used in the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe. By the 20th century over 11
million people spoke Yiddish.
Note: Yiddish is written in the Hebrew alphabet thus the spellings in this glossary are transliterations.
Borsht belt: A term used by entertainers to describe hotels in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, with an almost entirely Jewish clientele, who are fond of borsht.
Boychik: A young boy (term of endearment).
Broygis: Not on speaking terms.
Bubbee: A friendly term for anybody you like.
Bubeleh: Endearing term for anyone you like regardless of age.
Bupkis: Nothing. Something totally worthless. (Literally "Beans")
Chanukah: Also known as the "Festival of Lights," commemorates the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Chanukah is celebrated for eight days during which one additional candle is added to the menorah on each night of the holiday.
Chutzpeh: Brazenness, gall.
Cockamamie: Crazy; ludicrous
Drek: Human dung, feces, manure or excrement; inferior merchandise or work; insincere talk or excessive flattery
Faigelah: Bird (also used as a derogatory reference to a gay person).
Farkuckt (taboo): Dungy, shitty
Farshlugginer: Refers to a mixed-up or shaken item. Generally indicates something of little or dubious value.
Feh!: Fooey, It stinks, It's no good.
Gevalt!: Heaven Forbid! (Exclamatory in the extreme.)
Glick: Luck, piece of luck
Glitch: A minor malfunction:
Goy: Any person who is not Jewish
Goyeh: Gentile woman
Goyim: Group of non-Jewish persons
Gunsel: A young goose. Also used to describe a young man who accompanies a tramp or a young tramp.
Ipish: Bad odor, stink
(To) Kibbitz: To offer unsolicited advice as a spectator
Kibbitzer: Meddlesome spectator
Kish mir en toches: Kiss my backside (slang)
(A) Kitsel: Tickle
Klutz (klotz): Ungraceful, awkward, clumsy person; bungler
K'nishes: Baked dumplings filled with potato, meat, liver or barley
Kolboynik: Rascally know-it-all
Kosher: Jewish dietary laws based on "cleanliness". Also referring to the legitimacy of a situation. "This plan doesn't seem kosher".
K'vetsh: Whine, complain; whiner, a complainer
Leck, shmeck: Done superficially (Literally, "lick, smell")
L'chei-im, le'chayim!: To life! (the traditional Jewish toast); To your health, skol
Mazel Tov: Good Luck (lit) Generally used to convey "congratulations".
Mentsh: A special man or person. One who can be respected.
Meshugeneh: Mad, crazy, insane female.
Meshugener: Mad, crazy, insane man
Mish mash: Combination, mess, hodgepodge:
Mitzvah: Good deed; a gift to help one in get started in their career or future
Moyel: Person (usually a rabbi) who performs circumcisions.
Nebbish: A nobody, simpleton, weakling, awkward person
Nosh: Eat, snack
Nudnik: Pesty nagger, nuisance, a bore, obnoxious person
Nudje: Annoying person, badgerer (Americanism)
Oi!!: Yiddish exclamation to denote disgust, pain, astonishment or rapture
Oi, gevald: Cry of anguish, suffering, frustration or for help
Oi, Vai!: Dear me! Expression of dismay or hurt
Petseleh: Little penis
Phooey! fooey, pfui: Designates disbelief, distaste, contempt
Plotz: To burst, fall over
Prost: Coarse, common, vulgar
Putz: Slang word for "penis." Also used when describing someone someone as being "a jerk."
Rav: Rabbi, religious leader of the community
Reb: Mr., Rabbi; title given to a learned and respected man
Shikseh: Non-Jewish girl
Shiva: Mourning period of seven days observed by family and friends of deceased
Shlang: Snake, serpent; a troublesome wife; penis (taboo)
Shlemiel: Clumsy bungler, an inept person, butter-fingered; dopey person
Shlep: Drag, carry or haul, particularly unnecessary things, parcels or baggage; to go somewhere unwillingly or where you may be unwanted
Shlimazel: Luckless person. Unlucky person; one with perpetual bad luck (it is said that the shlemiel spills the soup on the shlimazel!)
Shlub: A jerk; a foolish, stupid or unknowing person, second rate, inferior.
Shlump: Careless dresser, untidy person; as a verb, to idle or lounge around
Shmaltz: Grease or fat; (slang) flattery; to sweet talk, overly praise, dramatic
Shmaltzy: Sentimental, corny
Shmeer: The business; the whole works; to bribe, to coat like butter
Shmendrik: nincompoop; an inept or indifferent person; same as shlemiel
Shmo(e): Naive person, easy to deceive; a goof (Americanism)
Shmooz; (shmuess): Chat, talk
Shmuck (tabboo): Self-made fool; obscene for penis: derisive term for a man
Shmuts: Dirt, slime
Shnook: A patsy, a sucker, a sap, easy-going, person easy to impose upon, gullible
Shnorrer: A beggar who makes pretensions to respectability; sponger, a parasite
Shtik: Piece, routine: a special bit of acting
(A) Shtunk: A guy who doesn't smell too good; a stink (bad odor) a lousy human
Shtup: Push, shove; vulgarism for sexual intercourse
Shvantz: tail, penis
Talmud: The complete treasury of Jewish law interpreting the Torah into livable law
Talmud Torah: The commandment to study the Law; an educational institution for orphans and poor children, supported by the community; in the United States, a Hebrew school for children
Tchotchkes: Little playthings, gadgets, ornaments, bric-a-brac, toys; the kind of cheap trinkets you'd pick up for free as a promotion item at a booth in a Trade Show
Toches: Buttocks, behind, fanny (ass)
Tsatskeh: Doll, plaything; something cute; an overdressed woman; a sexy girl
Tshatshki: Toy, doo-dad
Verklempt: Extremely emotional. On the verge of tears. (See "Farklempt")
Vi gaits?: How goes it? How are things? How's tricks?
Vos iz?: What's the matter?
Yarmelkeh: Traditional Jewish skull cap, usually worn during prayers; worn at all times by observant Orthodox Jews.
Yenteh: Gabby, talkative woman; female blabbermouth
Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement (the most holy of holy days of the Jewish calendar)
Zol zein!: Let it be! That's all!