September 05, 2013

Schmos, Schmucks and Schlongs, Oy vey!

Oy vey. It has been a very busy, long summer and due to some glitches we've fallen behind in producing posts for the blog like some kind of nebbish. We could kvetch some more but no one likes a nudnik and beside we know all of our readers are real mensches and won't complain and become pains in our tukhus.

Besides, Rosh Hashanah is upon us and we have just enough time to power up the patented FloatingSheep mapping chutzpah and create a special holiday post... Mazel Tov!

And in case you haven't figured it out, today's theme is Yiddish, that wonderfully expressive language of the Jews of central and eastern Europe and more recently (by which we mean the past century) of New York. Drawing from the DOLLY database, aka the golem of the geoweb, we compiled maps of tweets in the USA for the most common yiddish words used in English. Ok, well, Wikipedia complied the list and we made the maps.

Since it is a holiday, we'll keep things short and simple. A key finding is that Yiddish words are alive and well on Twitter within the US, albeit primarily used as single words rather than in whole phrases or sentences. For example, there is a whole lot of "Oy" and "Oy vey" in the Twitterverse. Likewise, the surprisingly long list of Yiddish terms for penis (putz, schlong, schmuck) are running amuk like some kind of meshuggener, which upon reflection makes sense. Nosh is also very popular relative to other Yiddish terms, such as the delightful zaftig which is not as heavily used.

Below, you'll find a series of maps showing how these various terms are distributed across the U.S. Shalom.

Yiddish words are predominantly used in large cities in the US. The map of Yiddish speakers on Wikipedia suffers from the modifiable area unit problem, so not aggregating to the level of the state is more illustrative here.

chutzpah: nerve, guts, daring, audacity, effrontery (Yiddish חוצפּה khutspe, from Hebrew)

kvetch: to complain habitually, gripe; as a noun, a person who always complains (from Yiddish קװעטשן kvetshn 'press, squeeze', cf. German quetschen 'squeeze')

People in the north east kvetch more on Twitter than in other areas of the country.

mensch: an upright man; a decent human being (from Yiddish מענטש mentsh 'person', cf. German Mensch

nosh: snack (noun or verb) (Yiddish נאַשן nashn, cf. German naschen)

oy or oy vey: interjection of grief, pain, or horror (Yiddish אוי וויי oy vey 'oh, pain!' or "oh, woe"; cf. German oh weh

schlep: to drag or haul (an object); to walk, esp. to make a tedious journey (from Yiddish שלעפּן shlepn; cf. German schleppen)

schlong: (vulgar) penis (from Yiddish שלאַנג shlang 'snake'; cf. German Schlange)

There was more intense discussion of schlongs in smaller cities and suburbs throughout the United States.

schmo: a stupid person. (an alteration of schmuck; see below)

schmuck: (vulgar) a contemptible or foolish person; a jerk; literally means 'penis' (from Yiddish שמאָק shmok 'penis', maybe from Polish smok 'dragon')

schmutz: dirt (from Yiddish שמוץ shmuts or German Schmutz 'dirt')

schnoz or schnozz also schnozzle: a nose, especially a large nose (perhaps from Yiddish שנויץ shnoyts 'snout', cf. German Schnauze)

shtup: vulgar slang, to have intercourse (from Yiddish שטופּ "shtoop" 'push,' 'poke,' or 'intercourse'; cf. German stupsen 'poke')

Shtup is used evenly across the country, perhaps as a misprint for "shut up" in conversations, but then again shtuping is a popular activity across time and space.

spiel or shpiel: a sales pitch or speech intended to persuade (from Yiddish שפּיל shpil 'play' or German Spiel 'play')

Spiel is used more in small cities, such as around Marion, Illinois and Sandusky, Ohio.

tush (also tushy): buttocks, bottom, rear end (from tukhus

yutz: a fool 

zaftig: pleasingly plump, buxom, full-figured, as a woman (from Yiddish זאַפֿטיק zaftik 'juicy'; cf. German saftig 'juicy') 

There is no particular pattern of where 'zaftig' is used more, apparently the pleasingly plump are distributed throughout the continental United States.


  1. I don't want to kvetch too much, but what's the story with the NW-SE diagonal line running through MT, WY, NE, and KS?

    1. It looks like bots, mostly referencing "nosh". It shows up in the other maps because of normalization.

  2. There is reason to believe that שמאָק shmok is rhyming slang with שטאָק shtok `stick'.


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