Yiddish in the Running
After reading John Ayersman's piece in the NERC newsletter about hi experience with the "schmuck" who stole his backpack out of his car, I thought I'd better write a user friendly guide to the use of Yiddish in the world of running. For example, I am sure John would be horrified to know that the word "schmuck" refers to that portion of the male anatomy most in need of support while running. Indeed, this term is considered so vulgar it is rarely spoken aloud in most Yiddish speaking households. Still, I have no doubt that the person who ripped off John's backpack deserves every vulgarism we can throw at him.
Yiddish is a funny language. It was created during the Dark Ages so Jews could complain to each other without being understood by anyone else. Of course I realize there are a number of Yiddish speaking runners in the NERC, so feel free to correct any inaccuracies you may find here.
Here are a few words most closely associated with running:
"Kvetch" – to complain; what I generally do before, during and after every run.
"Schlemiel" – sad sack, loser; the person who trains year after year to run a three hour marathon but never finishes sooner than 5 hours.
"Feh" – yech, eewwwww" what every runner says when they step into a portajohn.
"Drekh" – a profane word sounding like (and spelled like) "sit," as in "The Galloway training program is nothing like a pile of drekh."
"Chutzpa" – nerve, gall, as in "The doctor has a lot of chutzpa to tell me to stop running just because I need a total hip replacement."
Yiddish also creeps into our lexicon in the way we say things. For example, repeating the question just asked or using short, incomplete sentences is a "Yiddish" way of communicating.
Runner #1: So, how are you?
Runner #2: How am I? How should I be? Everything hurts me. When I run. When I don't run. Doesn't matter.
Another Yiddishism is the use of the prefix "sh" to express disdain for the subject matter, as follows:
Runner #1: I am going to run my first ultra, a 50 miler.
Runner #2: Ultra, shmultra. I run 50 miles before breakfast.
So, you can see the importance of this supposed dead language to all of us, especially runners. And just remember that if the shmuck running next to you has the chutzpa to splash you with sticky Gatorade at the water stop, you can call him a piece of drekh and kvetch about him to the race director.