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Yiddish As A Second Language / Live-Action TV

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  • On an episode of Happy Endings, Jane acts as Max's beard for his parents, and in order to prove she's great with parents, uses a lot of Yiddish (along with a lot of unnecessary french kissing) to try and impress them. They don't like her, and Max's mom says her use of Yiddish bordered on the anti-Semitic.
  • Mike Myers as Linda Richman in the "Coffee Talk" sketches on Saturday Night Live.
    Linda: This show used to be hosted by my friend, Paul Baldwin. But he developed shpilkes in his genecktecessoink.
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  • Barely an episode goes by without Judge Judy saying something in Yiddish. One of her most frequently used Yiddish words is bubbe meise ("Grandma story", or colloquially, "fairy tale"), a term she often uses with blatant liar litigants.
  • On Mash, Hawkeye sporadically uses Yiddish words.
    • "L'Chaim! That's bottoms-up from right-to-left"
    • There's a subversion in the fifth-season episode "38 Across", where Hawkeye spends the entire half hour seeking the Yiddish word for "bedbug" in order to finish a crossword puzzle. Father Mulcahy suggests he "ask Shapiro", but Private Shapiro tells him in a classic cornpone accent that his family's lived in the Deep South for seven generations and he hasn't a clue (since Jews in the American South are generally descended from German Jews, who considered Yiddish a low-class corruption of German). Doubly subverted in that Hawkeye finally gets the answer from a whitebread WASP Admiral who tags along when a friend of Hawkeye's misinterprets a call for help on the puzzle as a medical emergency.
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    • When Radar is mistakenly believed to be the father of a Korean woman's baby, Hawkeye cheers him with "Chugha abeoji!" (an attempt at Korean chughahae, appa, i.e. "Congratulations, papa!"). Someone else asks what that means, and Captain Pak (Pat Morita) says "Mazeltov."
  • Fran in The Nanny. Max and Niles hang a lampshade on this at one point when they debate what a certain word means, despite both being British.
    • In face, almost every member of the Fine family uses Yiddish words at one point, especially Sylvia and Yetta.
    • Non-Jewish characters also use Yiddish words and phrases, most notable Val, Grace, and occasionally Niles, though only for comedic effect.
  • Aaron Sorkin loves this one, especially when he can subvert it:
    • Lampshaded and subverted in Sports Night, when Isaac, an African-American (played by Robert Guillaume), busts out the phrase, "What, am I from Minsk-a-Pinsk?". When called on it, he claims that Yiddish phrases, "work for him." He is summarily informed, "Not as well as you think they do."
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    • The West Wing
      • Most characters especially the New York-area Jews Toby and Josh, will successfully pepper their speeches with Yiddish... and Jed and Leo, probably thanks to a lifetime of politics, will have at least a passing familiarity. In "Enemies Foreign and Domestic", Jed comes out with a beautifully inflected Vas vilst du fun mein layben?
      • Subverted when Donna — a blonde Midwesterner — tells Toby that Josh is recovering from being shot, and he doesn't need Toby "going over there and getting him fuhtushed. Toby, a New York Jew, corrects her pronunciation of "fartoost" and tells her, "don't bring the Yiddish unless you know what you're doing."
      • Subverted when Toby goes into a monologue about how a particular night is special, CJ interrupts "We dip twice and eat gefilte fish?" He replies "Suzie Creamcheese, do not attempt the Haggaddah" and she responds "I know how to bless the soup, too."
      • Subverted somewhat in flashbacks about Toby's father, showing him fully conversant in Yiddish as a member of the Jewish Mafia.
  • Munch only occasionally used Yiddish on Homicide: Life on the Street, although he did once teach it to Kellerman for his own amusement. It did, however, come in handy after he switched over to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, when they suspected a Rabbi of sexual misconduct and he fled New York to a Jewish community upstate where even the cops were Jewish and decided to shelter him. When Munch and Stabler arrive their local police contact is told (In Yiddish) to keep them away from the synagogue, and Munch overhears and thus deduces where the Rabbi is being hidden.
  • Walter Bishop from Fringe is VERY proud of the fact that he can speak Yiddish! He learned from his Ambiguously Jewish partner William Bell.
    Walter: Megif avagin frim dim Tish.
    Lincoln: Excuse me?
    Walter: It's Yiddish. It means "May I please be excused from the table?" No. You. May. Not!
  • As a New Jersey Jew, Jon Stewart frequently uses this trope on The Daily Show, but reprimanded Brian Williams for using one too many Yiddish words in an interview:
    Stewart: What's with the Yiddish tonight? What's with the — "shmaltzy", and the "just gave me a little schpilkis, but" — "I took my punim over there", bing bang boom —
    Williams: Joey Bishop, ladies and gentlemen.
    • The correspondents, however, have been granted Y-word privileges, and Jewish stories often have John Oliver or Jessica Williams speaking Yiddish every third word while Jon Stewart corpses all over the anchor desk.
    Stewart: Somewhere in upstate New York, a rabbinical college is laughing their asses off.
  • On an early Series 4 episode of Doctor Who, The Doctor tells Donna, "I'm tired of the shmoozing." Being The Doctor, of course, he can most likely speak Yiddish fluently just like practically every other human language.
  • Carl Kolchak recognizes Yiddish words in Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He's an ex-New York reporter working in Chicago. So...
  • Frasier:
    • Parodied in the episode, "Merry Christmas Mrs. Moskowitz," where (as part of a "Fawlty Towers" Plot) Frasier needs Niles to pretend to be Jewish for reasons too complicated to explain. Niles takes the job to heart, liberally injecting common Yiddish words into the conversation.
    • When Daphne attends a bat mitzvah, she comes back dropping Yiddish expressions into everything she says.
  • Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl after her mother marries a Jewish man. Also the man who plays Rufus, in one memorable blooper:
    Rufus: (serious) I think he's been schtupping Blair Waldorf.
  • The opening credits from Laverne & Shirley begins with the title characters chanting the immortal verse
    One, two, three, four,
    Five, six, seven, eight,
    Schlemiel, schlmazel,
    Hassenpfeffer incorporated!
  • Casualty 1906 has a lot of of Yiddish in it, hardly supprising due to the very high Eastern-European Jewish population of London and the fact that The London has Hebrew Wards.
  • Seinfeld has 'The Yada Yada' episode, where Tim Whatley converts to Judaism for the jokes. He uses a few Yiddish words in the episode.
  • Barbara Brownstein, Cody Martin's Jewish/Japanese-American girlfriend in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, likes to show off her Judaism by tossing the occasional Yiddish word around.
    • In one episode, even London uses some Yiddish when she mentions she celebrates Hannukah (for the extra presents).
  • House is sporadically prone to this, originally when in context of referring to Jewish people but later on just to throw off his co-workers.
    • House also presents us with Cuddy's incredibly Jewish mother, who isn't even Jewish. (She converted, but seems to have gone whole-hog; it rather reminds one of a certain Walter Sobchak).
  • On Covert Affairs, Eyal distracts Annie while pickpocketing her by telling her she has some "schmutz on her collar". She later admits she should've known something was up when he "broke out the Yiddish".
  • Subverted in one episode of Northern Exposure, Joel Fleischman finds out that the local Indian tribe has adopted several Yiddish words and phrases into their native language, due to the influence of a 19th Century Jewish doctor who joined the tribe and became one of their heroes. When the very Jewish Dr. Fleischman starts casually using Yiddish with the local Indians in an attempt to connect with them, he's told (by them) to knock it off because he sounds like a poser.
  • Babylon 5: Susan Ivanova is Jewish and occasionally uses Yiddish word order and phrases for comedic effect:
    What am I, chopped flarn?
    For this you wake me up?
  • Boardwalk Empire: Due to being set on the East Coast in the 1920s and 1930s, Yiddish pops up quite a lot.
    • Manny Horvitz repeatedly calls Jimmy boychik, which Jimmy hates.
    • Then there's the Funny Moment from "Broadway Limited", where Prohibition Agents Van Alden and Sebso are interrogating a gravely injured Jewish gangster in the middle of a public dentist's office. He growls something at Van Alden and the nice lady in the corner gasps in shock. Van Alden orders her to translate word for word:
    Woman: He says you should fuck your grandmother with your faggot penis.
    Sebso: Little faggot penis.
    • The Italian Charlie Luciano is childhood friends with his Jewish partner and confidant Meyer Lanksy. Their bond is so great that he'll address Lanksy in Yiddish and Lansky will respond in Italian, such as this exchange:
    Luciano: Meshuge bisl yingl. (Crazy little kid.)
    Lansky: Che cose potente fare? (What can you do?)
  • On Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Barek asks Logan if he feels like "taking a schvitz" with a suspect. To be fair, Yiddish is one of the languages she picked up while working for the FBI. Logan, on the other hand, is a NYC Irish Catholic.
  • In an early episode of the Law & Order mothership, Cragen responds to his detectives reporting that their last lead failed to pan out with "What's less than nothing? Minus zero? Negative bupkis?"
  • In the Two and a Half Men episode "Captain Terry's Spray-On Hair", when Alan pretends to be Jewish so he could use a Jewish dating service, he uses as many Yiddish expressions as he can.
  • New Girl: Schmidt has spoken of his zayde and his need to pish.
  • Gilmore Girls: Lorelai Gilmore uses Yiddish on a regular basis throughout the series run despite the character not being Jewish; other non-Jewish characters occasionally use Yiddish as well. The principal writer and showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino is of Jewish descent.
    • Lorelai does a whole riff on the humorous value of the word oy in one episode, announcing it as the funniest word in the world, able to be topped only by one comic move:
    Lorelai: "Poodle" is another funny word.
    Emily: Please drink your drink, Lorelai.
    Lorelai: In fact, if you put "oy" and "poodle" together, in the same sentence, you'd have a great new catchphrase, you know? Like, "Oy with the poodles already."
    • In "Application Anxiety," townspeople are trying to figure out what unnamed resident is requesting permission to build a soda shop when one of them realizes it it the same town leader who introduced the discussion:
    Luke Danes: What other putz would wanna open up an old-fashioned soda shop?
    Taylor Doose: Dispense with the Yiddish, young man.
  • In Trophy Wife the youngest child Bert starts doing this, to the confusion of the rest of the family, who have no idea where he's picking it up.
  • Maurice Levy on The Wire will occasionally use Yiddish expressions, such as calling Herc mishpocha (family) in the final episode.
  • Alien Nation: Francisco and Sykes consult a doctor of Tenctonese medicine, who peppers his speech with Yiddish words.
  • Howard's mother in The Big Bang Theory often uses terms such as "ferkarkt" and "putz" in regular speech. She even taught Howard's (non-Jewish) fiancee Bernadette how to use the latter.
  • In ER, Dr. Greene is treating an elderly Jewish woman who says she needs a CT scan like she needs a "loch im kopf." (that's "a hole in the head" for the goyshe tropers) He responds that the CT is to make sure she doesn't have a "loch im kopf" and reveals that he is ancestrally Jewish, leading the woman to agree to the test.
  • M*A*S*H: During "Movie Tonight," the entire camp has been snapping at each other due to stress. Then Col. Potter announces there'll be a movie being shown that night.
    Frank: A movie! Won't that be great?
    Hawkeye: Oh, Frank, it's just a movie. [Frank leaves] Ohboyohboyohboy a movie! I'm so excited I could plotz!
  • Grace (and her relatives) on Will & Grace, occasionally:
    (Will and Grace are arguing in the midst of Joe and Larry's wedding)
    Will: You might as well be my wife.
    Grace: What? "Marcus Welby's my wife"?
    Will: No! You might as well be my wife, deaf-o.
    Grace: I can't hear anything over that verkakte harp.
  • In the All in the Family episode "The Man in the Street", Archie makes an anti-Semitic remark to Levy, an Orthodox Jewish TV repairman who can't immediately fix his set because it's almost sundown on Friday.
    Levy: Mr. Bunker, I can only answer that insult with an old Jewish expression: Tzun a leben in a hoyz mit a toyznt tsimers un zolt hobn a boykhveytik in yeder tsimer. ("May you live in a house with a thousand rooms, and get a stomachache in each room.")
    Archie: What the hell does that mean?
    Levy: You'll never know, but believe me, I got even.
  • The main character in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is Jewish, so sometimes Yiddish pops up, most notably in the song "JAP Battle".
    Audra: And between your folks' divorce; And that haircut on you; I'm really not sure; Which one's the bigger shondeh
    Rebecca: That means "disgrace"; I'm translating for the goys
    Rebecca: That tough act's a bluff; So sheket bevaka shut the fuck upnote 
  • Get Shorty: In spite of taking place in Hollywood, there are no significant Jewish characters. To get around the fact that You Have to Have Jews, the show reveals Jewish influence around the edges of Hollywood, such as the fact that the studio uses a courier service called "Easy Schlep."
  • Project Runway: Tim Gunn, a fashion icon noted for his large vocabulary, received some minor controversy for calling a plus-sized model "zaftig."
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Many characters in the show sprinkle in or discuss Yiddish phrases due to the whole cast being Ambiguously Jewish.
  • Snapper, Da Editor in Supergirl, admonishes Kara Danvers: "A halb emes iz a gants lign, as my grandmother from the shtetl used to say. A half truth is a whole lie."
  • The Umbrella Academy: In the last episode of Season 1, the Handler speaks Yiddish, and implies that it's widely spoken, possibly even the primary language of The Commission. This has Unfortunate Implications and has led to some backlash.[1][2][3]


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