I didn't notice how much Yiddish I use until I moved to Wisconsin and people had not heard any Yiddish. I keep using it, though because it’s a great supplement to English; almost all Yiddish words we use with English are actually extremely nuanced ways to express negative feelings about something or someone.
Take, for example, tsotcke, chazzerai, and schmate. In this photo, the candlesticks are tsotchkes—they are stuff I don't need but I have in the house because I like them. In general, if it's your stuff, it's valuable or sentimental, but to other people, it's just tsotchkes.
The stuff in front of my candlesticks is chazzerai—junky toys. The kids still play with them, but only in so far as they are weapons to catapult into each others' heads under the guise of a missed toss. Chazzerai is more negative than tsotchke. If it's a tsotchke, everyone wants to throw it out except for the owner. If it's chazzerai, even the owner will not rescue it from the garbage.
Using Yiddish is a way to feel a sense of belonging through a common language. There are lots of ways to feel like you belong. When I work at a company I belong through a common goal.
Last week I flew to Washington DC for a Brazen Careerist meeting, with Ryan Paugh. When he saw what I was wearing and he said, “Nu? What’s with this schmate around your waist?”
He didn't actually say that. He might have if he were Jewish. Instead, he said, “That sweater is pretty dirty.” I put another schmate over my schmate because if you have one schmate it's just a rag—which is the literal translation of the word. But two schmates, I was hoping, is more Mary-Kate Olsen. Read more