“What a Shandeh!”
Growing up my father went out of his way to infuse Yiddish phrases into everyday sentences. This taught me plenty of Yiddish words, but not a lot of substance. Most of the Yiddish I know cannot be used in polite company because it is all rather pejorative. As an adult several Yiddish words continue to rattle around my head and, from time to time, pop out. One is such word is “goyock”. I have never actually found or heard the word used anywhere else outside my family. As such I speculate it is the colloquial form of goyishe, a sort of a smashed up version meaning, quite literally “Gentile Head”. Goyock was a term we threw around here and there to describe everything from a Norman Rockwell painting, to fussy people in stores. Now that I am older I primarily use it to tease my Gentile wife about her non-Jewish ways. And so the Yiddish tradition continues.
But above all other Yiddish words, the nuclear bomb of Yiddish, if you will, is ‘shandeh’; meaning disgrace, or shame. And actually, it goes a little deeper than purely shame and disgrace, as it incorporates embarrassment and stupidity into the mix. Yeah — all of that, wrapped up in one convenient word. In past generations it was likely used to humiliate people who strayed from social conventions but in my life time I have only heard it used in comedic jest.
Stepping in dog shit on a first date? Total shandeh. Kissing your cousin? Yep — shandeh. That shirt you’re wearing? Hey-Oh!