They tried to speak Yiddish to me but, as the number six child, you can bet I wasn't listening. As a American child of the 1960s, Yiddish was somewhat of an embarassment to me. I looked on it with some hostility since it was always used to keep secrets from me and because it was used for the incessant chattering of a billion uninteresting grown up conversations.
Of course, I changed my mind later. Too late. Long after my brain had frozen onto English and I only knew Yiddish adjectives and exclamations. But those Yiddish adjectives and exclamations color my world. I can't live without them. I teach them to my children and to my Amerikanish Jewish husband (his family? No Yiddish). And today, I teach it to you. Well, a first lesson, anyway.
Five Yiddish words you can't live without.
1) Drek - Crap or substandard junk. You can eat something and pronounce it "drek," or you can buy something shoddily made and declare it "drek." Needless to say, this one comes in handy.
2) Goniff - The jerk who sold you the drek - literally, a thief. A person who steals you blind. A pronouncement on his soul for being a thieving liar.
3) Schlmozel - You for being a hopeless dupe who got swindled by the goniff who sold you drek.
4) Schpilkes - How you feel inside now with your guts churning after you were such a schlmozel for buying such drek from that goniff. [Shpill-kiss]
5) Meshuganah - Crazy, insane. How you feel when you think about the goniff who gave you such schpilkes when he sold you the drek and made you into such a schlmozel. [Mesh-u-gah-nah]
Feel free to use these words however they fit into your life. You can pepper your speech with them for a little color. You can throw them around when you're angry so no one will know what you're talking about. Or you can do what my mom did: you can teach your children these words and then mutter commentary on the people around you under your breath so that only your children know that you have a steady stream of Yiddish criticisms rolling off your tongue while you're beaming at the synagogue ladies.
Does your family have any vestiges of an Old Country language it still uses? Any secret language? Will any of these words come in handy? Did your parents try to give you something you cast off but later appreciated?