?

Log in

No account? Create an account

msilverstar

random language thoughts

« previous entry | next entry »
May. 24th, 2008 | 05:12 pm
mood: intrigued

acari had a fab post on German words in English. I took a history of the English language course in college and never quite recovered ;-)

English is particularly weird, IIRC, being a melange of Middle Low German and early Norman French with a lot of weirdness, including Latin from scholars since about 1400. Hybrid vigor, when it works, just a mess sometimes. Many of the "rules" of our language are actually rules of Latin applied to English in the 18th and 19th centuries by teachers who loved -- or at least admired -- Latin.

As for gestalt and verklempt, they have been absorbed because, in their English versions, they fill a void in the vocabulary. I think it's good for us to be open to other languages, we as a culture are pretty xenophobic otherwise.

... [acari says she thinks verklempt is from Yiddish]...

Yes, verklempt is Yiddish, meaning "choked up with emotion". It's not very common outside of those with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

There are a few Yiddish words that have wider usage: I think lots of people understand "schtick" as meaning the special thing someone does, their basic comedy routine: Dom's schtick was doing impressions of other actors. Also "chutzpah" -- a cross between confidence and hubris. "Kibitz" meaning to offer advice from the side, like a back-seat driver. "Tchotchkies" or "chochkeys" are knick-knacks, little things one puts on shelves, often of the cheap and silly kind distributed by vendors at a big convention.

The most widely used Yiddish-derived word in fandom is "maven", meaning someone who's an expert in a field, with the connotation of also being trustworthy and helpful. William Safaire popularized it, calling himself a language maven in the 60s.


ETA: the above is about Yiddish-in-American-English, not at all about UK or Commonwealth English. Yiddish being pretty much a mix of German and Hebrew, with some Russian and Polish thrown in, spoken by Ashkenazi Jews who lived in The Pale, an area pretty much overlayed by and variously ruled by Germany, Russia, Poland and Lithuania. My great-grandparents were native Yiddish speakers but I don't know much at all, which makes me kinds sad.
Tags:

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {38}

(Deleted comment)

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 24th, 2008 09:39 pm (UTC)
Link

It is very American, and I have ETAed to that point. I think a lot of things end up being random chance, and whatever got into the popular culture. Jewish writers and filmmakers definitely added their flavor to language!

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

(Deleted comment)

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 24th, 2008 09:42 pm (UTC)
Link

It is fun, you never know where things come from. "Boondocks" is from a Phillipino mountain name, "pygamas" from Hindu, "tattoo" from the South Pacific, and "algebra" from Arabic. <3

But according to the Onlyine Etymology Dictionary, mishmash is a Middle English word, not particularly German.

Reply | Parent | Thread

(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 24th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
Link

It's a classic US immigrant assimilation story, except that my mom learned quite a bit of Yiddish because she likes knowing about her heritage.

I'm glad you mentioned it about American English thing, it is interesting to me and adds context. I'd rather explain too much than assume too much.

Reply | Parent | Thread

(Deleted comment)

the Legs, the Nose and Mrs Robinson

(no subject)

from: matildabj
date: May. 24th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
Link

I've got a book I should send you, called 'The Stories of English'. Stories plural, because English is no longer one single language. Nor has it ever been, come to think of it. Also Bill Bryon's book Mother Tongue is rather excellent on this subject (talks about things like why British English still uses begotten and forgotten, but not gotten. I love all that).

However none of that has anything to do with Yiddish. Sorry.

Reply | Thread

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 24th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
Link

Oh that sounds like a neat book! I've got a copy of of Mother Tongue, of course, along with my textbook from the course. I love etymology.

American English uses gotten in some interesting ways. The first that come to mind are "gotten off", "gotten drunk", and "gotten ready". I think they might be perfect subjunctive but my Latin grammar is terribly rusty.

Oh I so don't want to go grocery shopping.

Reply | Parent | Thread

kaydee falls

(no subject)

from: kaydeefalls
date: May. 24th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
Link

I also use mensch, kvetch, kvell, schmuck, and goy/goyim regularly, along with a handful of other Yiddish words that have been fully adopted into American English (klutz, schmooze). Interestingly, I've found that in Chicago, I've had to explain certain Yiddish words/phrases that I consider common usage (like mensch and kvell); growing up in NYC, there was a LOT more Yiddish integrated into general use. Possibly because of the high concentration of Jews in NY?

Reply | Thread

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 24th, 2008 11:42 pm (UTC)
Link

New York and bits of LA seem to be the big Yiddish centers, I grew up in LA with most of those words (except kvell, which was later). I was surprised to see so very many people in Orthodox outfits this last visit to NY, maybe that will keep the language going for a while longer.

Reply | Parent | Thread

dommaven

(no subject)

from: dommaven
date: May. 24th, 2008 11:08 pm (UTC)
Link

This post is a shoutout to me, admit it. *G*

Reply | Thread

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 25th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
Link

hahahahhahaha! Yes of course!

Reply | Parent | Thread

juke_box_dive

(no subject)

from: juke_box_dive
date: May. 25th, 2008 01:25 am (UTC)
Link

I love reading about etymology. Also, never too late to learn. My mom started Hebrew lessons at 60.

Reply | Thread

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 25th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC)
Link

Do you read Language Log? It and the Online [English] Etymology Dictionary are so fun of win!

As for languages, I keep wanting to learn Spanish, because there's a whole chunk of local culture closed to me without it.

Reply | Parent | Thread

(no subject)

from: thelastgoodname
date: May. 25th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
Link

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language" -- or in this case, castigating it -- "is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

Reply | Thread

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 25th, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
Link

True! French has L'Academie, which prescribes allowable words, whereas we have no central authority and it's basically random what becomes standard.

And I looked up your quote, which is from Booker T. Washington, I had no idea he was that salty a guy :-)

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand

Any further questions? Ask the shrimp!

(no subject)

from: txvoodoo
date: May. 25th, 2008 03:46 am (UTC)
Link

Growing up, 2 of my friends grandmothers spoke Yiddish. They'd often throw words in here and there. One day, one of them was at my house during a visit from my (Sicilian) grandmother, and used some Yiddish. Imagine my surprise when my grandmother responded in Yiddish! Turns out she'd learned to speak it while working in a factory with Jewish girls in the early part of 20th century :D

I picked up a lot of it, too. It's such a beautifully RICH language.

Reply | Thread

Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: May. 25th, 2008 04:10 am (UTC)
Link

I'm kvelling at the very thought :-)

Oh! Also from Yiddish: "klutz"! And "glitch"! and "nosh!" Gosh this is fun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Yiddish_origin

Reply | Parent | Thread | Expand