Have you run out of words to describe the abomination (literally) infesting the White House? If so, I’m here to help.
If my grandparents were alive today, I can imagine what they’d have to say about Donald Trump. It would have been in “Yinglish,” a mix of Yiddish and English that many Jews in my generation recall with amusement and nostalgia. Emigrating here in the early 20th century, they raised seven children who all realized the American dream. My grandparents were my primary caretakers during the first four years of my life, imparting a lot of Yiddish to me in the process.
Grandma was practical and straightforward, never shy about giving her opinions. I never heard her talk politics, but I do know she was, like her husband, grateful for having escaped from the cossacks and pogroms of western Russia, and proud to have become a citizens of what, during their lifetimes was truly the greatest nation on earth.
After witnessing the end of WWI, a pandemic, the emergence from the Great Depression and victory in WWII under FDR, they participated in the incredible post-war growth under Ike and JFK. They saw the first wave of the civil rights movement under Johnson. How dismayed they would have been to see what this nation has come to since then. By the time Reagan came in with the neocons and started the ball rolling toward the mess the Republican party has become, they were no longer with us. But, Grandma, had she lived to see, a “Schvarze” (Black man) become president, would be happily amazed. If America could elect him, even a Jew could become president. What would she have to say about our current President? I suspect it would include the phrase, “Azoy ah president?”
Grandma and Grandpa were raised with Victorian morays. Despite their lack of formal education, they had an expectation of manners, decorum and decency in people, especially leaders. Today they would scratch their heads to see half the nation simply shrug when confronted with the behavior of the low class slob who supposedly represents us to the world. They’d attribute his rise to schnooks (gullible fools) supporting him and would see his presidency as a schande (a disgrace.) I’m sure they’d be constantly kvetching (complaining) about him and applying all sorts of Yiddish insults to him.
I suspect many of my readers are sometimes at a loss for words to adequately describe the many negative traits embodied in our Schmuck-in-Chief. Maybe, given his “hand” size, that should be “schmekle.” Schmuck,” as we all know, means penis. But it also means a jerk just like the way we use the word, “dick.” But schmekle, that means a tiny penis, or a stupid jerk. Such are the subtleties of Yiddish.
If you are frustrated trying to find the perfect insult for DJT, don’t despair. Yiddish provides an abundance of colorful pejoratives, well befitting this meshuggerner (crazy) no-goodnick. He’d probably make my usually peaceful Grandma want to give him a klop in kop, (smack in the head) and would inspire Grandpa to say, “Vaksn zoistu vi a tsibele mit kopek in dr’erd” (May he grow like an onion with his head in the ground.)
What other words would they use to describe him? First and foremost, a “goy,” meaning a gentile (but often in a derogatory sense.) When you consider the prejudice the Jews had to endure at the hands of gentiles over the ages, I think you can understand the negativity implied in the word goy. Grandpa sang a little song to himself in his tailor shop: “Hoy-Hoy-Hoy, ah schiker ist ah goy, fa vus, fa vus? Ah tuchas mit ah nus” (Oh boy, oh boy, a drunkard is the goy. Why, why? A butt with a nose.”
The very goyische Trump claims not to drink, but even if that’s true, he sure could pass for a drunk. A butt with a nose? Perfect. Don’t let the fact he has an allegedly orthodox Jewish son-in-law, (who is rarely seen wearing a yarmulke–azoy an orthodox Jew?) fool you into thinking Trump isn’t anti-semitic. Trump may claim to support the Jews by supporting a corrupt, racist government in Israel, but his reaction to the Charlottesville demonstrations exposed his antisemitism and approval of neo-nazis. Oh yeah, he’s a goy in the negative sense for sure. My shiksa wife (this is usually a pejorative for a gentile woman, but for her we make the exception. Mom used to call her “my gorgeous schiksa,”) has asked me to include her original Yiddish curse on Mr.T, “gantz farschimmelt dien schmalzik schmuk” (may your fat male member completely shrivel up.) According to Ted Cruze it worked.
Trump would elicit terms from my grandparents like zhlub (a gauche person without graces,) Gonef, (crook) who would gladly zetz you, (screw you over.) A master utz, (one who torments others verbally.) A tsedrayter, (crackpot.) a schvitzer, (literally “sweaty” but denoting a braggart.) A schtunk, (stinker, bastard.) A schuyster (con artist–also often used to connote “lawyer.” Think Roy Cohn, Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr.) One we have to include is chutzpa, commonly described as the kind of person who murders his parents, then pleads for mercy on the grounds of being an orphan.
I’ve only scratched the surface. Yiddish is a language of an oppressed minority who had to be careful how they said things. Many of the words are double entendres, intentionally ambiguous and rich with nuance. But those who speak it know exactly what is implied. Grab the book “The Joys of Yiddish” and select your own favorites. For some reason, like the flavorful dishes Grandma used to cook, these insults, with their distinct Yiddish flavor are, to me at least, infinitely more juicy descriptive terms than are their English counterparts.
One thing for sure. At the end of it all, my grandparents would shake their heads at this nation’s flarbunget (hopelessly lost, or better yet, totally f—-d up leadership.) “Oy vey,” they would moan, “azoy a president?” (“You call this a president? Oh woe are we.”)
Bobe, ir hot es gesogt, (You said it, Grandma.)