[Mendele] Mendele 18.020

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Thu Mar 12 20:07:45 EDT 2009

Mendele: Yiddish literature and language

Contents of Vol. 18.020
March 5, 2009

1) pitseritse (Borukh Katz)
2) pitseritse (Doris Beth)
3) pitseritse (Hershl Hartman)
4) pitseritse (Jack Berger)
5) pitseritse (Meyer Wolf)
6) pitseritse (Noyekh Miller)
7) greenhorn (Borukh Katz)
8) greenhorn (Dina LΘvias)
9) geleymter terk? (Yankl Falk)

Date: February 27, 2009
Subject: pitseritse

It seems clear to me, though I've not heard of the expression before, that
the word derives from the Yiddish verb putsn - to clean or shine up - which
has a reflexive form: putsn zikh - to dress up. So a "pitseritse" could be
a woman (hence the ending) who indulges in such behavior to such an extent
that it attracts the descriptive noun. The verb likely comes from the
simpler noun, puts, meaning finery or (says Uriel Weinreich) splendor or
ostentation. Further back than that I cannot, alas, go.

Borukh Katz

Date: February 20, 2009
Subject: pitseritse

When we sat outdoors in our immigrant neighborhood, many moons ago, Yiddish
was the language of conversation. A "farpitster, farshmirter yidl "
passing by was referred to as "pitseritsi" along with an adjective I choose
not to mention. My parents emigrated from a shtetl not very far from

Doris Beth

Date: February 20, 2009
Subject: pitseritse

My mother, also an Odeser, pronounced it "pitsheritse" to denote a spoiled
young girl who was iberklayberish -- excessively restrictive in her tastes
-- perhaps an Odeser version of the Valley Girl?

Hershl Hartman

Date: February 20, 2009
Subject: pitseritse

A guess: in Russian, to chirp is "pishcheh."

Possibly a scrawny little thing, only capable of chirping, is a
"pishtsheritse." Hence a possible association of something like "the mouse
that roared."


Jack Berger

Date: February 20, 2009
Subject: pitseritse

A petsheritse is a kind of mushroom, said to be succulent. I have a
citation from Sholem Aleykhem's "Ayznban Geshikhtes":

Zi iz geven a gerotn kind, a shtils, an erlekhs, a guts un a klugs, un
sheyn -- sheyn vi di gantse velt. Ikh hob zi beemes lib gehat, vi mayns an
eygn kind. Kinder veyst ir dokh, vaksn, vi petsheritses; eyder me kukt zikh
arum, aha -- me darf shoyn klern mikoyekh khasene makhn.

I do not have a copy of the volume at hand, so I cannot provide its
location right now.

Meyer Wolf

Date: February 20, 2009
Subject: greenhorn

This word actually goes back in English usage to the mid-sixteenth century
(OED) and comes from the color found in immature and new plant growth, and
its derivatives. We speak of "green wood," for example, when referring to
lumber that has not been properly dried (matured) for use in building or
firewood not yet ready for use. So it's an imported word into Yiddish - or
if you like, a Yinglish word!

Borukh Katz

Date: February 20, 2009
Subject: pitseritse

Larry Friedman's query (Mendele 18.019) brought back agreeable memories of
my bobe's cooking. She grew up in a dorf and perhaps for that reason made
liberal use of those dried mushrooms, probably imported from Poland, that
she called pitseritses.

Its use to describe skinny people may derive from the desiccated look they
share with that flavorful fungus. The English "stringbean" conveys the
same idea.

Noyekh Miller

Date: February 20, 2009
Subject: greenhorn

Open your Webster's Dictionary and you'll find the definition of greenhorn!
It has nothing to do with Yiddish, though the term came to be widely used
for newcomers to America, often Jewish refugees from Europe.

Dina LΘvias

Date: February 20, 2009
Subject: geleymter terk?

In response to Stephen Berr's posting in Mendele 18.019, I think the phrase
is "geleymter terk" (crippled Turk). That's how my grandfather and mother
used to refer to someone who was particularly clumsy -- usually, me.

The term "geleymter" commonly refers to someone who is particularly clumsy.
But why a Turk? My pure speculation is that this pejorative came out of
Romania or some nearby area under Ottoman rule, where uniformed Turks were
not unusual. (My family's Galitsyaner roots are very close to the old
Austrian-Ottoman border.)

Perhaps one of you can give more context to this?

Yankl Falk
End of Mendele Vol. 18.020

Please do not use the "reply" key when writing to Mendele. Instead, 
direct your mail as

Material for Mendele Personal Notices & Announcements, i.e. 
announcements of events,
commercial publications, etc., always in plain text (no HTML or the 
like) to:

victor.bers at yale.edu (in the subject line write Mendele Personal)

Material for postings to Mendele Yiddish literature and language, i.e. 
inquiries and
comments of a non-commercial or publicity nature:

mendele at mailman.yale.edu

IMPORTANT: Please include your full name as you would like it to appear 
in your
posting. No posting will appear without its author's name.
Submissions to regular Mendele should not include personal email 
addresses, as
responses will be posted for all to read.

In order to spare the shamosim time and effort, we request that 
contributors adhere, when
applicable, as closely as possible to standard English punctuation, 
grammar, etc. and to
the YIVO rules of transliteration into Latin letters. A guide to 
Romanization can be
at this site: http://www.yivoinstitute.org/about/index.php?tid=57&aid=275

All other messages should be sent to the shamosim at this address:
mendele at mailman.yale.edu

Mendele on the web: http://shakti.trincoll.edu/~mendele/index.htm

To join or leave the list: http://mailman.yale.edu/mailman/listinfo/mendele

More information about the Mendele mailing list