Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NPR: Using Yiddish to Define an English Word

This morning on NPR's Morning Edition a story was introduced by the host as follows: "We've been throwing the word moxie around lately. It means courage, nerve, sort of like the Yiddish word, hutzpah."

It's quite something when NPR uses Yiddish to define English!!

5 comments:

Guy said...

The Morning Edition host wasn't technically correct. In Yiddish, hutzpah always is a negative attribute (as in "Bernie Madoff had a lot of hutzpah for stealing money from Elie Wiesel's charity"). It only became a synonym for "moxie" when it became a part of what Leo Rosten calls "Yinglish."

h said...

I'd agree but slightly qualify the Yiddish meaning as being used in a negative but not especially harsh way. As in, "it's chutzpahdik to kibbitz, at cards, when you've just lost your own hand". Or as in the Israeli taxi driver's response, "azer chutzpah" to a suggestion to turn off the metre and come to a sum for the trip. The simple English "cheek" is a good translation. That's probably not what moxie means though.

dan said...

Deborah, where have you been? The mainstream media -- print, radio and TV -- has been using Yiddish words to define English for a very long time ... at least since the 1970s......where have you been? It's nothing unusual now. America has grown up!

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Using Yiddish as Yinglish, yes. Using Yiddish as a means of defining English... on NPR... I don't think so.

dan said...

You might have a point here. What do I know? I have been out of the USA since 1991..... in Japan and Asia hardly anyone speaks or knows Yiddish....but there is an interesting Taiwanese professor at Wenzao College of Languges in southern Taiwan named Dr Chang, about 40 years old, born and raised in Taiwan, she is a Yiddish specialist, really, and gives talks and papers around the world on Yiddish literature and language. Really. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency ran a story about her four years ago, google it. Cute. Yiddishkeit gets around.