Something Tough to Say: If Skittish, Try Yiddish!

“Cyber dreck” … that’s what the Wall Street Journal said in 1992 was the composition of much that was on the WWW. I roared, knowing full well what that meant and what the Wall Street Journal thought of much of the stuff floating on the internet.
I hasten to add that not much has changed in two decades. There’s just more dreck amidst the valuable Internet Information.

But I was inspired and motivated to reclaim dreck in my vocabulary. “That report is dreck,” “That blowhard, or independent prosecutor, is full of dreck,” or “I have to go shopping, my workout clothes are such dreck.”
Get the point?
And now you can hear Yiddish peppered throughout television shows and movies and read it in most national newspapers and magazines. From schmooze to nosh to maven, even “bupkes” is within earshot.

So, I added “cyberdreck” to my trademark Yiddish Glossary in my third book, What Do I Say Next? Not that my mother was thrilled!
We all know, as we are running through airports, what it feels like to schlep too much luggage. The word tingles with onomatopoeia. Or as we attend events or go to places we can see who is dressed like a schlep.
The newscasters, pundits, TV series and (non Jewish) comedians have chosen to describe the current state of the state and the political machinations/ circus as “mishegas”. It’s safer than calling our current events (and the event provocateur) crazy.

Can our assessment be any clearer when we call a boss, co-worker, competitor client or someone we met at a business networking event a schlemiel or a schmuck? Or even very worse – a putz? (Words that I shudder to hear spewed on television!) When I referred to the self-described wine aficionado who partook generously of the grape, I called him a “shikker.” Calling him an alcoholic felt far too much, too judgmental, too labeling.
We might be very reluctant to use the English words. I was not going to call him an alcoholic or drunk. I was skittish so I followed my own recommendation and tried Yiddish!

In discussing the original hardback publisher of How To Work A Room, I was careful (for legal reasons) to not call him what he truly is. But, goniff just rolled off my tongue with no hesitation.
There is no language as colorful, as hard to translate and as much fun as Yiddish. Just ask Guy Kawasaki, the Apple (and Yiddish) Evangelist. In his book, New Rules for Revolutionaries, he congratulates leaders with a hearty Mazel Tov! At his grand opening, Guy’s encouraged his guests to schmooze and that set the tone for many animated conversations.

And if you’re tired of all the knickknacks on your desk, collecting dust and contributing to the clutter, get rid of the tchotchkes!
I prefer hanging out with people who score high on my mensch quotient survey. They are people who have character, not act like characters.
Please don’t think I am kvetching, I’m sharing another way to say what we mean without having to say it in English. If you want to say something and are skittish, be my guest and try Yiddish.

Susan RoAne, Keynote Speaker and coach, is the best-selling author of How To Work a Room, The Secrets of Savvy Networking and What Do I Say Next? among others. She was the first business author to include Yiddish glossaries in her books. (Except for Face To Face where it was deemed unnecessary because the majority of the terms are now considered Yinglish!

For more information on how you can hire Susan to speak for your event, call 415 461 3915 or visit

©2019SusanRoAne Reprint with the permission of author
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About Susan RoAne

Susan RoAne leads a double life as a sought-after professional keynote speaker and a bestselling author. Known as The Mingling Maven®, she gives diverse audiences the required tools, techniques and strategies they need to connect and communicate in today’s global business world. The San Francisco Chronicle says she has a “dynamite sense of humor.” To hire Susan to speak for your company, association or college, 1.415.461.3915