By Sallie Pearlman Cohen
When you can’t find the right words, sometimes Yiddish fits the situation best!
1. Tsedrayt (tsuh-DRAYT) All mixed up, confused.
Before the Covid-19 virus, tsedrayt meant we couldn’t remember if we promised to meet a friend for lunch on Thursday or Friday. Now we don’t know what day of the week it is. These days, just getting the mail makes us tsedrayt. Do we leave the letters on the floor for 24 hours? Do we wipe the package before we put it on the floor or wash our hands and then wipe the package? And what do we do after we open it?
2. Shpilkes (SHPILL-kiss) Impatience, restlessness.
Before Covid-19, when our young kids had “ants in their pants,” we’d tell them to go outside and play. Now we have to mask them up first and watch them carefully so they stay six feet away from all the other kids who are also trying to get their shpilkes out. We used to go out to a yoga class; now when our little ones have shpilkes, we watch Cosmic Kids Yoga and do downward dogs right along with them.
3. Shlub n. (SHLUB) A slob; some who dresses sloppily.
All this self-quarantining has made shlubs even shlubbier. Sweatpants and torn T-shirts have gone from weekend wear to all day, everyday wear — unless you’re one of those people who don business casual from the waist up for your Zoom conference calls. If we’ve learned any fashion sense while being self-quarantined, it’s that a bra is optional.
4. Pulkes pl. n. (PULL-kehs) Thighs.
The word usually refers to cute, chubby baby thighs, but it can also mean those belonging to poultry. And with all the freezer diving we’re doing, we’ve discovered and eaten our fair share of pulkes in the last month. We’re counting the days till we can swap out our sweatpants for shorts and attend a summer barbecue, but we’re not certain our pulkes will be ready for public viewing after all we’ve eaten.
5. Sekhel n. (SEH-khul) Common sense; good judgment.
Advice used to flow downstream. Our parents would nag us: “Have a little sekhel; do you really have to fly when you’re pregnant?” Now the tables have turned and we nag our parents: “Wash your hands. Wear a mask. You’re going to the supermarket? You’re old. Stay home!” And our kids? They have the computer sekhel we need: They’ve taught us how to complete the online school attendance form and how to limit our Facebook posts to “friends only” so we don’t embarrass them in front of “the whole world!” They’ve also taught us that there’s nothing wrong with eating ice cream twice a day.
6. Eyngeshparter. n. (AYN-guh-shpar-ter) A stubborn person; someone who cannot be convinced with logic.
These are the people who are protesting to end the shutdown before it’s safe, ordering “cures” on the Internet, and claiming the pandemic is all a hoax.
7. Bubkes n. (BUP-kiss) Literally beans, nothing.
Something that’s worthless or that falls short of expectations. In this new normal, we’re getting used to bubkes in the toilet paper aisle, bubkes in our fresh vegetable drawer, and bubkes in our checking account.
8. Ongeblozen. adj. (un-geh-BLUH-zin) puffed-up, haughty, conceited, pouting (can have a sense of about to cry).
Our kids used to get ongeblozzen when we said we couldn’t go out for pizza. Now everyone’s ongeblozzen because we spent all afternoon making dough from scratch… and we didn’t have the right kind of cheese. “It tastes funny. It doesn’t taste like Beau Jo’s pizza. Why can’t we go to Beau Jo’s?”
9. Tsuris. n. (TSORE-iss) troubles and worries; problems.
We can’t help worrying when our close friend tells us she had a suspicious mammogram or our son hints that someone bullied him in school. But these days, instead of worrying about illness or money or school or our family or the future — we’re worried about all of it. Tsuris has gone from personal to universal.
10. Oy. int. (OY)
Perhaps the most popular Yiddish expression, oy conveys dozens of emotions, from surprise, joy, and relief to pain, fear, and grief. A big oy (or oy gadol) is oy veis mir. I use this often. Your Bubbe probably used to say that just groaning “a good oy” could make you feel better.
So give a good oy, tie the shmata on your face — be sure to cover your mouth and your nose! — and try not to get tsedrayt. Here’s hoping all this tsuris will be over soon!
Sallie Pearlman Cohen is the founder of Positive Charge! PDX.