Scandals? Lies? Financial meltdowns? Nu? It’s time to go Yiddish on all that hot air and prick those balloons with the sharpest verbal pin in the language. Roughly translatable as “so?” nu conveys so very much more. In the context of political debate it means: “What you’re saying is either irrelevant or painfully obvious. Maybe you’d like to get to the point”; or, “So why have you still not done what you just promised to do again?” or, “You call that an excuse? Whatever you’ve done is bad enough; don’t make it worse by lying.” The old Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?” would have a one-word title in Yiddish.
Nu is the implacable parent of Yiddish speech. It allows no exceptions and accepts no apologies. Used interrogatively, it can make the most accomplished liar go weak in the knees.
Yiddish, which has already contributed so much to our cultural life, can now serve as a stepped-up border patrol protecting American public life from the encroachments of prevarication, temporizing and deliberate misinformation. If you’re looking for honest government that reflects the will of the people not to have to listen to any more crap, just say nu.
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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