The shocking recent slide in stock markets around the world could well leave many a private investor and Wall Street maven on the verge of turning into a knakker on a nun, “a knakker without the n” (but with the initial k).

A knakker is a “big shot,” the sort of person who does everything with knak, with enough pizzazz to make sure that no one pays attention to anybody else. And many a market insider displays a talent knakn, the Rice Krispies of Yiddish verbs, which has meanings that range from “snap” to “crackle” to “pop your tongue.”

Remove the n, though, and knakn turns to kakn, the knakker becomes a kakker (rhymes with “sucker”): literally, someone who is sitting on the toilet, but more commonly used to mean someone whose every activity turns to dung, the sort of person whom Yiddish also calls a loy-yutslekh, “success-challenged,” because he can’t seem to bring anything to fruition. Kakker also puts the wind into the sails of the well-known alter kakker, best translated as an “old wind-breaker,” a dithering oldster who blunders about vi a forts in rosl, “like broken wind in brine.” The knakker on a nun, “the n-less knakker” is a sort of human typo, someone whose knack has turned to kack.

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week. Below are some items for sale from eBay for those of you with an interest in Yiddish.

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