Weird words are fun. When we lived in Indiana, one radio guy used to have a “weird word of the day.” Bill O’Reilly of the “O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News has a word of the day. And, kids love inventing words: “krickle”!
When we lived in Simi Valley, I took a Voice and Diction Speech Class at Moorpark College. One of my fellow students, who always sat next to me in class, was a Jewish woman who was probably in her late twenties or early thirties.
One day, while chatting with me, she used the word “schlepping” in a sentence. “What’s ‘schlepping’?” I asked.
She was taken aback. “You don’t know what ‘schlepping’ is? Everybody uses that word! It’s Yiddish….”
I knew I’d undoubtedly heard the word once or twice, but as far as I was concerned, it was slang. And since I studiously avoided using slang, I’d felt no need to know what ‘schlepping’ meant. I had a vague notion that its meaning might be similar to ‘wasting one’s time wandering the shopping malls with other time-wasters’ – like packs of teenagers do during the summertime; and the teenagers themselves (in my lexicon) were “schleps.”
I remembered this conversation this morning while I was browsing through the most recent Reader’s Digest and stopped to look at the “Word Power” list. All seventeen words were Yiddish. Number 13 was ‘Schlep’—(meaning haul): “Lois schlepped the newspapers to the recycling center….”
I was curious to see if I was familiar with any of the other 16 Yiddish words. Amazingly I was! I knew “yenta” (busybody) and “mazel tov” (best wishes)—from Fiddler on the Roof, “oy vey” (oh woe), “kibitz” (offering opinions) and “bubkes” (nothing)—think Bupkis, as in the dice game. I’ve also seen “chutzpah” frequently—I thought it was equivalent to being “cheeky” (it actually means gall), but it is pronounced hoot-spuh not chuts-paw.
Hmmm. I probably won’t be slipping any of the above into my conversations anytime soon. The rest of the selections included:
-zaftig (pleasantly plump)
-mensch (honorable person)
-nudnik (a bore) pronounced “nood-nick”
Of the 17, I think I liked ‘nudnik’ the best, and might actually use it some time. It sounds like a word that Chris might have invented!