Glossary

I’m a Jewish girl from East London, so I naturally have an inclination to throw slang around from both my Yiddishe and Cockney roots. Sometimes I use a Yiddish word because I like the way it sounds or because it’s natural for me, or (more often than not) there simply isn’t a better way of describing that thing (see Schlep). Sometimes I just really like the way a funny English phrase or Cockney word feels its way around in a jingly-jangly sort of jig.

It’s only fair then that I include this page to help you make sense of some of the words and phrases I use. (And if you think I’ve got any of the meanings or the etymology wrong, or you’d like to let me know more, do get in touch.)

Ashkenazim – the Germanic subgroup of the world’s Jewish people, who trace their origins to the indiginous Israelite tribes of the Middle East. Ashkenazic Jews also created and took with them the Yiddish language
Barney
– a cockney word meaning altercation or fight. The root of the word divides opinion (and is known as a ‘false etymology’) as its original etymology is unknown, even though it has been in use since the 19th century. Nowadays many believe it to be rhyming slang for ‘trouble’, deriving from the Flinstone’s cartoon character, Barney Rubble
Beigel
– Pronounced ‘buy-gul’ by East Londoners to the horror of The (Bristolian) Husband and the rest of the world over, who wrongly call/spell this deliciously chewy, popular bread roll a bagel. Made by boiling and then baking a yeast-based dough. Traditional accompaniments include smoked salmon and cream cheese, chopped or shmaltz herring, and egg and onion. I particularly like to accessorise mine with some gefilte fish (boiled fish balls) and ‘new greens’ (a type of pickled cucumber)
Boiler – an old chicken used for making soups and stews
Boracic – from ‘boracic lint’ (a type of medical dressing from the 19th century), meaning ‘skint’ (to have no money), in Cockney Rhyming Slang. Pronounced ‘brassic’
Bubbe – Yiddish word for grandmother
Butcher’s – derived from ‘butcher’s hook’ meaning ‘look’ in Cockney Rhyming Slang
Challah – traditional, slightly sweet plaited bread baked for the sabbath
Chanukah – the Jewish festival of light
Chippy – English slang for carpenter. (Also slang for a fish and chip shop)
Chutzpah – Yiddish word meaning cheek, audacity, gall, brazen courage
Fress – the Yiddish word meaning to indulge in and enjoy eating
Gedempte – Yiddish word for slowly cooked/stewed
Gefilte Fish – from the Yiddish, meaning ‘stuffed fish’, this is an Ashkenazi Jewish dish made from poached white fish (such as carp)
Golem – an animated anthropomorphic being in Jewish folklore
Gordon Bennett
– an expression of surprise, like ‘gorblimey’. Read more about the etymology of this phrase here
Hamishe – the Yiddish word for ‘homely’
Hava Nagila – (translation ‘let us rejoice’) is a traditional Jewish folk song, sung in Hebrew
I couldn’t give a monkey’s – is an English slang phrase meaning that ‘one hasn’t the slightest bit of interest’. The etymology is a little unclear but it is probably rude and has something to do with masturbation, sex or farting, naturally. The Guardian has a little bit about it here
Kneidlach – the Yiddish word for Jewish-style dumplings made with matzo meal and egg (my mother adds schmaltz, see below)
Kiddush – the social hour after a prayer service in the synagogue
L’chaim
cheers! Yiddish drinking terminology, literally meaning ‘to life’
Lobus – A Yiddish word describing a (often young) mischievous person full of chutzpah!
Lokshen – Jewish-style egg noodles
Matzo Meal – powder-ground matzoh, which itself is a traditional Jewish unleavened bread. Basically a circumcised Ryvita
Noggin – 250year old British slang,
meaning ‘head’, and originating in the boxing ring
Nosh
– Yiddish word (n) for snack or light meal, or (v) to eat food enthusiastically or greedily
Nosher – Yiddish word a person who eats enthusiastically or greedily
Ocakbasis – Turkish grill houses. I ate my way through both pregnancies at ocakbasis in London’s Stoke Newington district
Parve – food that contains neither milk nor meat products (and can therefore be eaten with either milk or meat dishes)
Passover – (or Pessach) the festival celebrating the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt (the Exodus) and their entering into the Land of Milk and Honey (and thus the birth of Israel)
Pukkah – from the Indian meaning ‘authentic’ or ‘genuine’, the British use it to describe something as being ‘excellent’. Somewhat overused by ‘celebrity chef’ Jamie Oliver, sadly
“Robert’s your father’s nearest male relative” – from the rather British saying, “Bob’s your uncle” (used to conclude a set of instructions), only better. Attributed to P.G. Wodehouse
Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year festival
Scarpered – English slang meaning ‘to escape’, probably from the Italian scappare (also ‘to escape’). Possibly used in the mid 19th century by travelling Punch and Judy puppeteers of English, Italian and Jewish origin to run away from the police
Schlep – Yiddish word for (v) haul or carry; (n) a tedious journey
Schmaltz – the Yiddish word for clarified chicken or goose fat. Wikipedia has a nice bit about Schmaltz and it’s other lovey-dovey meanings
Schmutter – from the Yiddish word schmatte meaning ‘rag’
Schtup – the Yiddish word for sexual relations
Scrump – to steal fruit from an orchard or garden
Seder – the ritual Jewish feast of the festival of Passover
Sephardim – is the subgroup of Jewish people attributed to the descendants of Jewish settlers from the Near East, who lived in the Iberian Peninsula until the Spanish Inquisition. It also refers to those who define themselves by the customs of this region
Shabbes – Yiddish word for the Jewish Sabbath. Also known as Shabbat
Shikker  the Yiddish word for ‘drunk’
Shissel
– Yiddish word for a large cooking vessel
Shiva –the Jewish week-long mourning period whereby first-degree relatives sit for seven days (shiva is the Hebrew number seven) in one home together to mourn the passing of their loved one. Friends and relatives join them to pay their respects, and bring offerings of food for sustenance
Shoah – the Hebrew name for the Holocaust, meaning ‘calamity’.  Coming from the Greek holokauston: ‘holos’ (complete) ‘kaustos’ (a burnt, sacrificial offering)
Shofar
– a musical instrument made from a ram’s horn; of ancient origin and traditionally blown in a synagogue during Jewish festivals
Shohet – the person certified by a Jewish court of law or rabbi to slaughter animals for consumption
Shtetl – the Yiddish word for a small town with a large Jewish population in central and eastern Europe before the pogroms and the Holocaust
Shuk – the nickname for the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem
Starkers – British slang meaning ‘naked’. Allegedly used from 1923, blending the word ‘stark’ (meaning utterly, strong; barren) with the term ‘stark naked’, an Old English term
Tuchus – the Yiddish word for bum, bottom, arse
Yarmulke – the skullcap worn by observant Jewish men
Yiddishe – relating to the traditional culture of Ashkenazic Jews of Central and Eastern Europe
Zup – Yiddish for soup!