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Thus, it incorporates words from Hebrew, Russian, Polish and other Slavic languages, Romance languages, and later, English.

Before WWII, Yiddish was spoken by more than 11 million people.

(pronunciation guide added only to words whose pronunciation might be questionable from the spelling.

If no guide is given, it's pronounced as it looks.)Note, too, that Yiddish is actually written with Hebrew letters, therefore, when used in English, words are transliterated, or spelled as they sound (as we write Chinese or Arabic words in English.) Since Yiddish was spoken by Jews all over Europe, accents and inflexions varied greatly. For example, "ferdrayed" is the same as "fardrayed" is the same as "tsedrayd" etc. It's totally Italian, but for some reason many people seem to think it's Yiddish and have asked me what it means. "If my grandmother had balls, she'd be my grandfather.") It's the more sarcastic equivalent of the English expression "..if I had wings, I would fly." (A less "blue" version is "If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a trolley car.") Billig: cheap, inexpensive.

The addition of a rhyme beginning with "shm" to denote something of little consequence ("Hospital, shmospital... This from Leo Rosten's wonderful book "The Joys of Yiddish": (The questioner as asking whether he/she should attend a concert being given by a niece.

The meaning of the same sentence changes completely, depending on where the speaker places the emphasis:) ? According to Rosten, there are other linguistic devices in English, derived from Yiddish syntax, which subtly "convey nuances of affection, compassion, displeasure, emphasis, disbelief, skepticism, ridicule, sarcasm, and scorn." Mordant syntax: "Smart, he isn't." Sarcasm through innocuous diction: "He only tried to shoot himself." Scorn through reversed word order: "Already you're discouraged?

" Contempt through affirmation: "My partner, he wants to be." Fearful curses sanctioned by nominal cancellation: "May all your teeth fall out except one, so that you can have a toothache, God forbid." Derisive dismissal disguised an innocent interrogation: "I should pay him for such devoted service? Help keep Yiddish alive by learning new words and making them a part of your everyday conversation.

This list is by no means complete, but it's enough to get you started sounding like a Member of the Tribe.

You will find maven (expert) and gonif (thief) in most dictionaries.

Words such as shlep, shmata, nosh are regularly used in film, on TV and in books and magazines, without translation. Inflection, too, is an important aspect to Yiddish.

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