Nov 8, 2023

In the 1950s just about every mother had a bag of expressions that she used on a daily basis.  I’m guessing they were time tested word groups drawn from the family lexicon.
And, everytime you heard one, “if I told you once I told you a million times …” it still had meaning (well, some meaning anyway).  My mother’s expressions were Yiddish mixed with English.  Kind of a Pig Latin.  It was a sort of shorthand.  Instead of having to explain why you should leave her alone, her expression simply got right to the point, “Gay kaken ofn yahm!” (Go shit in the ocean or, Go jump in the lake.)

She was never a big fan of hearing a “spiel” (long, involved sales pitch).

My mother also wasn’t any different than any other Jewish mother of her time. And, as kids were apt to do … continue to ask questions upon questions my mother would pull out her standard line: “Stop hocking me a chainik” (quit bothering her).

She also had a great repertoire of “f words” in sentences..  No not that one.  Words like “Ferblondjet” (I can’t find what I was just doing). “Ferkakte” (crazy or messed up .. it’s really a clean word but, it sounds a little dicey).  “Farshtunkene” (“It doesn’t work because it’s a farshtunkene machine.”) “That ferschluggineh  girl got pregnant, and her ferkakte parents kicked her out.”

Another classic was her use of the word, “ungepatchke” (tacky, ostentatious, ridiculously overdone or tasteless). “Don’t go outside wearing that outfit.  It’s ungepatchke.”

She often called me a pischer, noodnik and a pain in the kishke.  And, if I was bad I got a “patsh in the tookis”.

If she didn’t trust someone she called them a shmegegge – someone who was full of baloney hot air; nonsense. And, she loved to refer to men who were bald as “tookis kups” (ass heads). “Leo, would you look at that tookis kup?”)

On the bright side, my mother always liked to shmooze (small talk). And, on occasion, “‘plotz with  joy” (at a graduation or bar mitzvah”).  But, always preceded with a “kinehora” (sending evil spirits away).  And, “Sei gesund” was often said as a feeling of good wishes (Be well).

My mother actually had quite an array of great Yiddish words she used frequently:  Kibbitz (joke around), tuchis, tooshie, schlook (cheap or shoddy material), bubkis (nothingness), chazerei (junk, trash, anything disgusting), mishegas (craziness. A teenager stealing his parents’ car), megillah (a long involved story), schmooze, oy gevalt (oh my), oy vey (oh my) , vey is mir,  guttenyu (Oh God, woe is me) —these foreign phonemes were the  music of my childhood as much as the songs of the Andrews Sisters and  the Pretenders.

And, in the end, she always wished someone “A bi gesunt”, “As long as you’re healthy,” implying “nothing else matters.”

Credits to:  My Yiddishe Momma Told Me…and Other Yiddish Expressions – What A Language!
Author Unknown