Forshtaying the Yiddish in Death At The Howard

For all of you who don’t forshtay (understand) Yiddish – or thought you did before you read what I did to it – this blog is a reader’s guide to its use in the book.  Yiddish and Hebrew are not the same language, but if you don’t know either of them, they might as well be, so just to minimize the confusion, I note where the term is actually Hebrew.  All clear?  Super!  

In the order the terms appear, here we go:

Ganef: a thief.

Haftorah (Hebrew):  a part of the Old Testament read in Hebrew in front of the congregation on Saturday morning by a boy at his bar-mitzvah or a girl at her bat-mitzvah.

Tatelah:  an affectionate name for a boy.

Nu: one of the many Yiddish words that has no precise equivalent in English, it means something like “You get it?” or “What are you going to do?” depending on the context.

Traif:  not kosher, not legitimate.

Bulvan: a tough guy.

Schwarzes: blacks.

Goyim: Non-Jews.

Shondah:  More than a shame or a pity, a total disgrace.

Shabbos (Hebrew): The Jewish Sabbath, lasting from sundown Friday till sundown Saturday.

Goyische:  Something pertaining to the goyim.

Gottenyu:  Dear God!  God help us!

Chutzpah: the gall, the nerve!

Mensch:  a good person.

Mitzvah: a good thing to do for another person.

Tsuris:  troubles, distress.

Kaddish (Hebrew):  the prayer for the dead.

Shul:  synagogue.

Bar-mitzvah (Hebrew):  the ritual by which a boy becomes a man in the eyes of Judaism, typically at age 13.

Shtarker:  See bulvan, above.

Kvelling: rejoicing.

Oy: an exclamation proclaiming that something is going very wrong. 

Mazel:  good luck.

Alev ha shalom: May peace be upon a dead person.

Vay iz mir:  Woe is me; often accompanied by Oy!

Bobbe:  Grandma.

Zayde:  Grandpa.

Takeh: Really, indeed; meant to underscore the description of something.

Nosh:  Verb: to eat.  Noun: a snack.

Azai mit mazel:  Go in peace.

Forshtayst:  See above.

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