“Oy Vey” & More Common Yiddish Phrases

4 August 2023
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Japanese House
The Nanny

When it comes to iconic characters from 90s American sitcoms, nothing compares to the fashionista Fran Fine from the hit show The Nanny. In the show, Fran Fine, otherwise known as the flashy girl from Flushing, is the nanny of the three children of British Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield. But Fran isn’t a scary nanny. Not at all. In fact, she is a very fun nanny who loves shopping at Loehmann’s and loves using Yiddish sayings whenever she can. Ms. Fine tosses plenty of Yiddish words in her talks because she grew up hearing these Yiddish phrases in her Jewish household.

Quick info on Fran Fine: She was born into a Jewish family in New York and was raised in Flushing, Queens. And with that tiny bit of background, you can say that Fran Fine is a Jewish-American woman who never shies away from her beautiful Jewish heritage which is an important part of the rich and diverse American culture.

Now, as a viewer of this funny show, you may or may not be familiar with Yiddish. And that’s very fine. But are you able to distinguish the Yiddish phrases Fran uses in her ordinary conversations and do you know what they mean? If not, don’t worry we got you covered.

Quick info on Yiddish (American Yiddish): Yiddish is a West Germanic language and was one of the primary languages of the Ashkenazic Jews. The language is a mix of German, Hebrew, and other languages; it is also written using the Hebrew alphabet.

  • Farpitzet: to get dolled up or dressed up
  • Farmisht: confused
  • Futz: to fool or play around
  • Nuschlep: chaperone
  • Klutz: to describe someone who is clumsy
  • Nosh: to eat or to snack
  • Oy vey: an expression of dismay; similar to saying “Woe is me”
  • Oy: shorter version of “Oy vey”
  • Putz: to describe someone who is acting like a jerk or a fool
  • Schmuck: another way to call someone a jerk
  • Kvetch: to complain
  • Schmooze or shmooze: to chat
  • Yenta: someone who is a gossip
  • Shande: a scandal
  • Schtick: to call someone’s specific mannerisms
  • Bubbe: a term of endearment to call your grandmother
  • Zeide: a term of endearment to call your grandfather
  • Chutzpah: to describe someone’s self-confidence and boldness
  • Mensch: another way to call a good person
  • Nish keet: not good
  • Schlep: to carry something unhappily
  • Spiel or Shpiel: a long speech
  • Tuchus: the butt or the tush
  • Tushie: the butt
  • Goy: to call someone who isn’t Jewish
  • Kibbitz: to talk, gossip, mingle
  • Keppie: forehead
  • Schvitz: to sweat
  • Shmendrik: to describe someone who is a jerk
  • Bupkis or bubkes: nothing
  • Mazel: luck
  • Mazel tov: congratulations
  • Bagel: type of bread roll
  • L’chaim: to life
  • Meshugaas: nonsense
  • Schlepper: to describe someone who is awkward
  • Schnozzle or schnoz: nose
  • Schmo: to describe someone stupid
  • Mishigas: craziness
  • Shiksa: a girl who is not Jewish