Friday, January 18, 2008

Yiddish Word of the Day

We have two Yiddish Words of the Day today: Bupkis and Tchotchke.

First: Bupkis


Yiddish: (large) beans, from the Yiddish word kozebupkes meaning goat droppings, from Slavic root koz meaning goat, and diminutive of Slavic root bob meaning bean. See Polish wiktionary entry:


Also: bupkis, bupkes, bobkes, bubkes, bopkes

1. absolutely nothing; nothing of value, significance, or substance

We searched for hours and found bupkis.

Usage notes

Often translated as as meaning small round fecal pellets, referring to the shape of goat droppings. A colorful usage, though more emphatic expression (in Yiddish mor so than in English) is "Bupkis mit Kuduchas", translating roughly to 'Shivering Sh*t Balls" - kudcuhas refering to the condition of generalized shaking palsy.

And: Tchotchke

Tchotchke (originally from Yiddish טשאַטשקע tshatshke [often spelled in a variety of other ways (such as tshotshke, tshatshke, tchatchke, chachke, or chochke) because there is no standardized transliteration] trinket), ultimately from a Slavic word for "toys" (Polish: cacka, Russian: цацки) are trinkets, small toys, knickknacks, baubles, or kitsch. The term has a connotation of worthlessness or disposability, as well as tackiness. The term was long used in the Jewish-American community and in the regional speech of New York City.

The word may also refer to swag, in the sense of the logo pens, keyfobs and other promotional freebies dispensed at trade shows, conventions and similar large events. Also, stores that sell cheap souvenirs in tourist areas like Times Square and Venice Beach are sometimes called tchotchke shops.

In Haredi circles a Yeshivah bochur (lad) of marriageable age who is considered exceptional, would be called a "tchotchke".

Leo Rosten, author of The Joys of Yiddish, gives an alternate sense of tchotchke as meaning a desirable young girl, a "pretty young thing". Less flatteringly, the term could be construed as a more dismissive synonym for "bimbo". These usages are not widely used outside Jewish circles. The term (in the form tzatzke with a "z" instead of a "ch") is sometimes used in modern Hebrew as a slang word equivalent to "slut."


Anonymous Noam said...

For those interested in learning Yiddish over the internet, check

Tue Jan 20, 02:00:00 AM EST  

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