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Yiddish is so expressive! Yidish hot a toyznt tamen!

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

The Yiddish language is replete with rich proverbs, sayings and idiomatic expressions.

Gey veys! Go figure!

My students love exploring and using the sayings we encounter in class. I find it especially rewarding when they remember expressions they heard in their youth.

Let's start with a few examples, which came up last semester. I plan to post more.

מאָרגן, מאָרגן נאָר נישט הײַנט, זאָגן אַלע פֿוילע לײַט!

Morgn, morgn nor nisht haynt, zogn ale foyle layt!

Tomorrow, tomorrow just not today, all lazy people say!

My student, Jonathan-Chaim, who lives all the way in Australia, remembers this saying from his elter-bobe (great grandmother), originally from Warsaw.


ווען עס לאָזט זיך הערן, וואַרפֿט מען עס אַרויס.

Ven es lozt zikh hern, varft men es aroys.

When it begins to stink (be heard), you throw it out.

The father of a student from South Africa would use this expression in reference to food. Very sage advice, if I may say so myself! Note the use of hern zikh (literally, to be heard), which means to stink here.


פֿאַרװאָס גייט אַ מאַן אַרויס קויפֿן בולקעס װען מע האָט ברויט אין דער היים?

Farvos geyt a man aroys koyfn bulkes ven me hot broyt in der heym?

Why does a man go out to buy rolls when there is bread at home?

A student, originally from the Bronx, now living in Missouri, remembers this saying from his bubby, who only spoke Yiddish.

According to one of my knowledgeable Facebook friends, this saying apparently comes from the Talmud. A vunder?

"one who has bread in his basket is not comparable to one who does not have bread in his basket"

אינו דומה מי שיש לו פס בסלו למי שאין לו



װאָס דרייסטו זיך אַרום װי אַ פֿאַרץ אין ראָסל?!

Vos dreystu zikh arum vi a farts in rosl?!

What are you loafing around for like a fart in rosl (meat broth, brine)?!

I found this one particularly delightful. A student's mother would say this to him.

One of my knowledgeable friends on Facebook (I have so many!), tells me that this expression comes from 1812 and refers to the French (אַ פֿאַרץ) who were in Russia (ראָסל) at the time.

At any rate, it reminds me of a similar expression: Vos shteystu do vi a leymener goylem? - What are you standing here for like a clay dummy?

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