We’re Back At It Again: Here’s Our Next Round of Old-School NYC Slang
As you probably know by now, we love bringing you pieces based around our distinct form of American English: New York City American English. It’s kind of different. We don’t really mess around with extremely polite speech too often.
You know, we’re more about that, “Boss, lemme get a small coffee regular. Yeah, thanks,” life.
Now part of what makes the English language effin’ fantastic (and so hard to learn) is the fact that it’s a mishmash of many languages: mainly Germanic, French, Latin, and Greek.
Of course, we’ve adopted many words and phrases from just about every major language around the world too… because, imperialism.
But you know what? There is a language that’s assimilated into American English so well, we hardly know it’s there: Yiddish.
Yes, the traditional/historic language of Ashkenazi Jews, Yiddish has shared so many words with American English, and many of them are in heavy rotation in the NYC area, as we’re happy to have the largest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel.
So in this round of NYC vocabulary, we’re doing Yiddish, because you already know what bodegas are and that “brick” means cold.
Some of these are terms you should know already. You might learn something, though. We did! Just to make sure we got it all (mostly) right, we consulted a Cantor’s daughter.
1. Bupkes (n):
jay_sportx L'Chaim! #oyvey #mazeltov #shlimazel #shlemiel #shmuck #bupkes #brooklyn #letmypeoplego
“Bupkes” basically means “little to nothing,’ or ‘less than nothing.” It’s often used when one is describing how little he or she has gotten in return for a bunch of hard work.
This is kind of a bad word. It’s at least impolite.
“Studying with Rachel all night, what did she bring? Bagels? No, bupkes!”
2. Klutz (n):
dj_kayoz Oh mother... #mom #collegelife #momsbelike #funny #klutz #klutzlife
This is one of those, “Oh I didn’t know that was Yiddish,” Yiddish words. Everyone knows a klutz is a clumsy person. It can work as an adjective as well, as in “klutzy.”
“David is such a klutz. He fell into the table and broke his poor mother’s favorite tchatchke.”
3. Mentsh (n):
kw_lewien #help #care #mentsch #bementsch
A mentsh is an honorable person who helps you when you need it. A mentsh doesn’t necessarily have to be a man; it can be a woman or child as well.
We’ve heard it used in lots of contexts, but if you’re doing something for someone out of the goodness of your heart without expecting anything in return, you’re probably a mentsh.
“Sal, you know, he’s not raising Ruth’s rent, what a mentsh he is!”
4. Nosh (v):
mannysdeli We are one of the only places where you can eat the casing. Kishke tastes extra 🔥 today. Probably cause it's Friday! 🍴 #chicagofoodauthority #chicagofoodscene #choosechicago
This is one very commonly used Yiddish word that means “to nibble.” Plain and simple. Lots of people use it, Jewish or not.
“Let’s nosh at Katz.”
5. Schmooze (v):
arrrmorin #WITHFRIEND#schmooze#smalltalk @许阿冰冰冰😁
This one has gotten a little away from itself. To schmooze is just to chat about nothing in particular, but it’s come to mean something a little different.
Now, lots of people “schmooze” those they’d like to impress or do business with.
“Ok Jerry, I’m going across the room to schmooze the talent.”
6. Speil (n):
jchandlee On point 👌🏼 those that are my friends on here know that I am completely, utterly, and blissfully happy with my future husband and I can't wait to marry him. I'm tired of people telling me or my future husband that we should not get married. Marriage fails because of view points like that. I do pray for everyone that thinks marriages aren't a good idea and hope they find someone like my other half. #soapbox #onpoint #nobullshit #engaged #marriage #squats #gymlife
From the German word for “play,” “speil” is a long winded pitch of some sort, usually trying to sell you something.
“He had this long speil, it seemed to go on for hours. I kept thinking, “Finish, will you?”