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Got a Yiddish or Jewish question? This is the place to look first for all your answers.

Good soul

We like to help people who’ve half-remembered a Yiddish expression they heard in their family. Here’s one example. There is a saying my family and I can’t find and hope you can give us the meaning. I’ll try to get it out….sounds like goota or guta nishuma. Can you help? Guteh neshomeh (or neshumeh) means

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If at first you don’t succeed…

Sometimes I don’t always get it the first time… I have heard of a Yiddish expression that in English means “It saves two others.” However, I have never been able to find it or hear it in Yiddish. Can you provide the expression in Yiddish? Sorry, but

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Saying “Welcome” in Yiddish

Here’s a lovely request we had from England recently: I am trying to translate the term ‘Welcome’ into Yiddish for a conference banner City and Hackney Mind are producing in London very soon! Can you help? If ‘Welcome’ is inappropriate please feel free to advice another similar term. We want people to feel welcome when […]

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Poo Poo Poo

Jews are superstitious. What’s up with that? I think that this is a tradition, but I do not know how it came about. Why when we wish to avoid ain horah do we extend the pointer finger and the tall finger when we spit three times and then say poo, poo, poo? My guess (and […]

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Oy daddy

We get a lot of pronunciation queries. Here’s one: I’m currently in a production of ‘Ragtime’ in Chicago, and we’ve got a question about the pronunciation of the word “Tateh”. Given that he’s a Latvian Jewish immigrant in the early 1900s, how would “Tateh” be pronounced? We’ve had two Tatehs and one pronounced it “Tah-tuh” […]

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Yiddish old fart

Transliteration of Yiddish words into English can be tricky. Here’s an example: What is the correct spelling you use for alte kocker/cocker/ or something like that? Is it correct to use the expression to refer to an old guy shooting the breeze, a regular guy, etc., who is also old? For general use, I’d spell […]

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When is a slob not a slob?

So where does the word zhlob come from? What is the translation of the Yiddish word “Zlob” . When my father used it on me I understood it to mean something like slob. However the accompanying intonation and facial expression made it seem worse than simply a slob. Are there regional variations in meaning? While […]

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Moishe Kapoyr

Every wondered where the express Moishe Kapoyr comes from? You’re not alone. Would you be able to explain the origin of the Yiddish expression, Moishe Kapoyer, used, to the best of my knowledge, to describe someone who always appears to do things in a way diametrically opposed to they way they should be done? Thank […]

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A rose by any other name…

Here’s an interesting query about Jewish surnames: I’m interested in the origin of European Jewish surnames, such as “Bloom” meaning flower, and Shecter which I learned from your book is shechet. Is Kaufman a buyer, or merchant? Zukeo is sugar I guess. Then Sugarman was a purveyor of sugar? You’re definitely on the right track.

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