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JackCohen commented on the word beygel
A variant of bagel, the round bread rolls associated with Jewish cuisine (but probably invented by non-Jewish Polish bakers). Bagel has become by far the more popular term, but beygel (pronounced by-gul rather than bay-gul) is still sometimes used by Jews of East Polish and Russian stock.
December 28, 2010
JackCohen commented on the word challah
According to Jewish tradition, challah commemorates the mannah upon which the Hebrews existed during their journey through the desert. As mannah did not fall on Shabbat, a double portion fell on Friday - this being the origin of the two loaves that form the centrepiece of the Shabbat meal eaten on a Friday evening.
It's also known as khale in Eastern Yiddish and as chałka in Polish.
JackCohen commented on the word dropping
Dropping is also combined with "by" or "in" to refer to the act of paying someone or somewhere a visit, usually informally. Example - "I was just dropping in on Aunt Mary when I saw Uncle Harry coming out of the house over the road..."
JackCohen commented on the word chav
The origins of the word are interesting, chiefly because nobody really knows where it came from. One argument suggests it stemmed from the Northern English term "charver," pronounced in Northern accents very similarly to "chavver" with a long A - this may then have been adopted by the Southern English as "chav," leaving out the R to mimic the Northern pronunciation.
There are several theories suggesting it to be an acronym, one of the most common being that it means Council Housed And Violent. Another is that it was used by pupils at Cheltenham College to mean "Cheltenham Average" - however, all of these seem unlikely and are more likely to be backronyms, acronyms invented later for humourous effect.
One intriguing theory states that it comes from the Romani word "chavi," referring to an urchin or mischievous child and then entered nationwide English use either via "charver" or directly.
However, as a Yiddish speaker I have wondered if it is related to the Yiddish "chavver," meaning "mate" (as in friend). Many Yiddish words have found their way into English slang, perhaps most notably in the East End of London - for example "kosher," which is commonly used to describe legitimacy and correctness, "nosh" and "chutzpah." Chutzpah is often pronounced with a typical English CH, rather than the Yiddish/Hebrew form which is similar to the CH in Bach - this would also be the case with "chav" if chavver is indeed its root.
JackCohen commented on the word sholem
Not strictly speaking Michael Chabon's coinage, sholem is a Yiddish variant spelling of the word shalom, most commonly translated into English as peace (though any rabbi will tell you it has a deeper meaning). Chabon, meanwhile, is probably the first to use it as a slang word for a gun (in his novel, The Yiddish Policeman's Union).
JackCohen commented on the word shoyfer
Shoyfers (shoyferim?) are referred to in the book as one of Sitka's most profitable exports (along with the three-wheeled truck thing that Meyer Landsman uses to escape the Verbover's compound before being rescued by Willie Dick. This suggests that the word was originally a name for a specific brand of cellphone that, in time, became a generic name for all cellphones, rather like the word "Hoover" which is now used for vacuum cleaners made by other manufacturers. It could, alternatively, have originally referred to those phones modified for use by the very observant, which do not operate (except for calls to emergency services) on Shabbat and, in the case of smartphones, prevent access to certain websites and services; later becoming a widely-used term for all cellphones (Landsman certainly doesn't seem the type to observe the prohibition of melakhot, after all).
The Yiddish Policeman's Union has been an enormously successful book which is still selling well, so with Yiddish being a highly adaptable language which is increasing in popularity among young Jewish people it will be interesting to see if shoyfer is adopted and used more widely.
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