The Yiddish language is making a come back

An October 2013 article in the Huffington Post discusses the revival of training in Yiddish that is helping to keep the language alive for the next generation.

This is of great interest to me since I chose to use Yiddish words in my novel, Papa’s Shoes. My resources were online Yiddish to English dictionaries and a wonderful old book called  The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten. My mother gave my husband a copy back in 1970 when we got married. I think she was trying to entice him to convert.

My copy looks like this

My copy looks like this

One of my novel’s beta readers, who is also not Jewish, did a study of the words I used in the book, dividing them into three categories:

Words he uses in his own vocabulary, for example:

Goy a person who is not Jewish
Kibitz to offer unsolicited advice as a spectator
Mazel tov good luck
Mensch a special man or person, someone respected
Nebbish a nobody, simpleton, weakling
Schmooze talk, conversation, chat
Shtup push, vulgarism for sexual intercourse
Tokhter daughter

Words he successfully guessed the meaning of, for example:

Boychick young boy
Gottenyu oh, G-d, a cry in anguish
Landsman countryman, neighbor
Macher big shot
Oy vey woe is me
Payess long side-curls worn by Hasidic and other ultra-orthodox Jewish men
Sheytl wig worn by observant Jewish women
Shlub a jerk, a foolish, stupid or unknowing person
Tsuris trouble, misery
Yahrzeit anniversary of the day of death of a loved-one

Words he had to research, for example:

Bentsh licht recite prayer over lit candles
Beshert to be destined
Bimah platform in the synagogue
Davens prays
Dreck human dung, inferior work, insincere talk
Khazer pig, filth, mess
Kishkas stuffed derma (sausage) or to describe a person’s innards
Mispocheh extended family
Naches joy, especially from children
Schemata rag, anything worthless
Shikker drunkard
Tallit rectangular prayer shawl with fringes attached to the four corners



This reader also felt that the more obscure words slowed the story and suggested I add a glossary at the end of the book to help my readers out. If I do so, I’ll have to decide on what spelling to use for each word. In filling in the definitions for this piece I found many ways to spell the words in English. I used this source today: The Gantseh Megillah Yiddish Glossary.

What do you think? Should I provide a glossary or not?

However, before I get into these details I’m awaiting feedback from another beta reader who is an orthodox Jew. She is looking at the Yiddish words to make sure I used them properly.

Nobody promised that writing a novel would be easy.

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