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Weekend Word Wrap: Yiddish 101

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With the start of the Jewish holidays coming up next week, I thought I'd use the Word Wrap to drop some Yiddish on you all. For those who don't know, Yiddish is about 1000 years old and developed over centuries in Europe and Eastern Europe as Jews migrated, or were forced from country to country. Though it has a Germanic core, it is written in Hebrew and contains thousands of words from many other Slavic languages. For millions of Jews, it was the vernacular, their every day language, and they only spoke Hebrew in religious contexts.

When my great grandparents immigrated to Brooklyn from Rumania and Poland, respectively, Yiddish was the unifying language that united them until they could learn English. As a result, my grandparents spoke a little Yiddish and I heard it as a kid growing up. So here, then, are some of my favorite Yiddish words. Some you know already and probably use often in casual conversation. Some you need to know, and some you kinda know but may have been using incorrectly? (It's okay, all those Sch words can get pretty confusing!)

Okay then, after the jump, with a little further ado, my favorite 25 Yiddish words of all time (pay close attention because three of them are going to return in this afternoon's Celluloid-Stumper):

1. Chutzpah: gumption or balls, guts or audacity

2. Kitsch: trash, especially gaudy trash

3. Kishke: a cow's intestine stuffed with matzo meal, fat and spices (not as tasty as it sounds, trust me!)

4. Klutz: a clumsy person

5. Kvetch : to complain incessantly, also a person who complains incessantly

6. Lox: smoked salmon usually put on a bagel (also Yiddish)

7. Macher: a bigwig, a mover and a shaker

8. Putz: a stupid person or a jerk

9. Schlemiel: an inept or clumsy person

10. Schlep: to drag or carry

11. Schlock: shoddy merchandise, poorly made

12. Schmaltz: excessive sentimentality or saccharine, cheesy

13. Schmeer to spread, or as a noun, a spread

14. Schmuck: a putz or a schlemiel (Yiddish is full of dolts!)

15. Schmutz: dirt, grime

16. Schmo: yet one more stupid person

17. Schnook: a meek person

18. Schnorrer: someone who's always asking for handouts

19. Shtick: a distinguishing feature or device, usually comic

20. Shvitz: to sweat, also a steam bath

21. Shpilkes: an upset stomach, or simply nervous energy

22. Tchotchke: a knickknack or trinket

23. Tuchas: butt, tushy

24. Verklempt: choked with emotion

25. Zaftig: pleasingly plump, buxom

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science
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.

1. SHE WAS BORN TO, AND FOR, GREATNESS.

A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.

2. HER PARENTS' MARRIAGE WAS A MODEL FOR HER OWN.

Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.

3. SHE AND HER HUSBAND WERE AN UNSTOPPABLE PAIR.

Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.

4. THEY FOUGHT FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE.

The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.

5. SHE WAS NOT CONTENT WITH THE STATUS QUO.

Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.

6. SHE WORKED HERSELF TO DEATH.

Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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iStock

After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like Delivery.com or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with Delivery.com or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]

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