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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Chutzpah

Part 1


I have written before about the prominent role of Yiddish in New York City (see here). One word that well describes a character trait often needed for success here is chutzpah. Chutzpah derives from the Hebrew ḥuṣpâ (חֻצְפָּה), meaning audacity - someone who has overstepped the line of acceptable behavior with no shame. In Yiddish, the word has broadened in meaning and now has a more positive connotation, i.e. a gutsy attitude which serves admirably to achieve an end. If you live here, you will hear it often.


Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines Chutzpah as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts,' presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to." The word has been used over 200 times in legal opinions, including a US Supreme Court case.

Recently, at a friend's home, Myra Smolev told a tale of chutzpah so outrageous, that I asked if she would retell it, allow me to video tape it, audio record it for podcast and post it as a story here. She agreed and on the 4th of July, at a small party at her home, Myra told her story of Chutzpah. It will be revealed tomorrow :)

Related Posts: Myra's Isle, Ride to Hell, Eternal Vigilance and Tenacity, Toches ahfen tish!, New Yawk Style, Shalom, Bagels

3 comments:

ragtimemarkbirnbaum said...

Cant Wait!

renlgs303 said...

I don't know about other languages, but the French word "culot" has the same meaning.

Steve Rosenbach said...

Brian, I'm looking forward to Myra's story. I also followed the link you provided for your earlier post on Yiddish - wonderful!

I want to thank you for helping to season American English with Yiddish. As you said, there are certain things for which there is no good English equivalent, especially when it comes to words describing peoples' character.

So to you I say, "ot azoy!" - Literally it means "this is the way," but a better translation would be, "right on!"

Best regards,
SteveR