Passover is all about the breaking of unwanted bonds: three different people have e-mailed me this week about an idiom that likens the dissolution of a business relationship to the breakdown of a marriage.

If things go wrong between partners or associates, you can say that they are oys mekhutonim, “no more relatives-by-law.” The image derives from divorce—technically, it describes the divorced couple’s parents after the final decree has been issued—but usually means the dissolution of a business partnership, another contractual relationship from which both parties emerge aggrieved.

Oys mekhutonim can be compared with the delightful oys kapelyush-makher, “no more fancy-hat maker,” i.e., no more Mr. Big Shot. Kapelyush can mean either “derby” or “fancy woman’s hat”; someone who’s oys kapelyush-makher has “slipped,” as they used to say in English. The phrase has a jocular sense, a hint of resignation, and can be used just as easily in the first person as in the third: “So there I am, two days before my IPO when–bang! the market crashes and I’m oys kapelyush-makher, applying for food stamps.”

The mortgage crisis is making former derby-makers out of thousands of home-owners.

The ex-business partners will probably refer to each other the way our ancestors might have bid good riddance to Egypt: “A sheyne, reyne kapore, a beautiful, pure kapore” — to be waved around your head three times, then slaughtered like a chicken on the eve of Yom Kippur as penance for all your sins: “Benedict Arnold’s dead? A sheyne, reyne kapore.”

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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