Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yiddishology: How Good Is Your Yiddish? "Balabusta": Eighth of a Series

We're taking you to Tampa once again for another peek at how the Tampanese, members of the Tampa Jewish Community, define the Yiddish word balabusta.  In the previous seven weeks, we brought you definitions of shtupper, kenahora, ungapatchka, shlimazel, and shmegegge, tchotchke, and halevai.

After asking a range of people to define balabusta (the actual pronunciation is closer to balabuste), the off-camera man-in-the-street silent interviewer asks Yiddish expert and author Michael Wex to deliver the final word, leaving no doubt as to its meaning.

We thought we'd add a little etymology, explaining the word's origin.

In Hebrew, the master of the house is literally the ba'al ha'bayit, or ba'al ha'bayis.  The words, when they transmuted into Yiddish, became balabus. It's fairly common in Yiddish for a male term, when converted to its female equivalent, to take on the ending "te" or "ene," e.g. chazzan-chazzante, yid-yidene.  Thus for every balabus there is usually a balabuste.  This is one word that is almost always positive, expressing admiration for a woman who can take hold of a home and manage it well.

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