Most Jews (and some non-Jews) understand and speak a bissel Yiddish (a few Yiddish words and expressions.)
But it's unlikely that many of those who can pronounce and define kvell, nachas, mensch, and chutzpah also know the Yiddish equivalents of quickie, French kiss, sugar daddy, and one-night stand.
But the Jewish Daily Forward this week reports on the work of someone who knew them, and many, many others as well. It's the Yiddish linguist and lexicographer Mordkhe Schaechter, who collected Yiddish vocabulary on every aspect of human life, including one that has been mostly left out of the lexicography -- sex.
As Jordan Kutzik writes in this week's edition of The Forward describing Dr. Schaechter's work,
He conducted his lexicographic research by working as both a collector and a detective; when he encountered a Yiddish word that interested him, he wrote it down on a note card along with the sentence in which it had been used. Afterward, he put the note card in a box organized by category and filed it alphabetically according to its English translation.
In these boxes, Schaechter would also insert short clippings from articles in English and other languages, using underlined terms and concepts for which he wanted to find (or create) Yiddish equivalents.
All these words, carefully sorted in Schaechter’s files, were written on more than a million note cards. He had planned to publish a dictionary of Yiddish terminology for the 21st century based on his massive lexicographic collection but he did not live to complete the project. The inheritors of his linguistic legacy, led by his daughter Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath, Paul Glasser and Chava Lapin, will soon publish the first edition of this long-awaited dictionary through the League for Yiddish.
Although Schaechter’s note cards will disappoint those looking for the most obscene Yiddish words, they do include numerous Yiddish words and expressions found in Yiddish literature that were excluded by most dictionaries. Two such Yiddish expressions are “tsu zayn a knak in bet” (to be good at sex — literally, “to be a bang in bed”) and “tsushteln a baykhl” (literally, “to deliver a belly”), which Schaechter translated as “to knock up.”(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)
For “French kissing,” Schaechter provides a citation for the curious Yiddish verb “parizeven” (literally, “to Paris”). Other terms for which Schaechter provides a clear citation from a Yiddish source are “libe-feter” (literally, “love-uncle”) for “sugar daddy,” “zi hot farflokhtn a koyletsh” (literally, “She braided a challah”) for what Schaechter translates as “He’s not getting any” and “erotoman” for a sex addict.