Our favorite over the top Yiddish curses

These curses toe the line between viciousness, wit and tough love.
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Yiddish actors perform the comedy "Mezra" in 1921. (Courtesy: American Jewish Historical Society)

Life in the old country could be hard and because of that Jews came up with a unique way to hurl insults at each other.

“It’s the humor, irony and frequent reference to Jewish texts and folkways that make them uniquely Jewish,” Yiddishist Jordan Kutzik told us.

According to Jordan, these curses were “quite common” before the Holocaust but they are less used today in Haredi communities.

These curses toe the line between viciousness, wit and tough love. Use at your own risk.

May a child be named after you soon

It doesn’t work for Sefardim, but according to Ashkenazi tradition a child cannot be named after someone who is still living. Get the hint?

May you lie in the ground and bake bagels

Sounds delicious instead of viscous, right? Wrong. In other words: drop dead, lay in the ground and let the heat of hell cook you into a crispy bagel.

Lign in drerd un bakn beygl!

May all your teeth fall out but one so that you may still get toothache

Yah… this insult found the line and crossed it.

Ale tseyn zoln bay im aroysfaln, not eyner zol im blaybn oyf tsonveytung.

May you be so rich your widow’s husband has to never work a day

Pro: You’re rich.

Con: You’re dead.

Double con: Your wife’s new husband is spending your hard earned money.

May you have a hundred houses, a hundred rooms in each house, 20 beds in each room, and may fever and chills toss you from one bed to the next

Forget the princess and the pea, this situation is a living nightmare. A more abbreviated way of saying this is: “May you have the most comfortable mattress and 1,000 sleepless nights.”

Hindert hayzer zol er hobn, in yeder hoyz a hindert tsimern, in yeder tsimer tsvonsik betn un kadukhes zol im varfn fin eyn bet in der tsveyter.

Your stomach will rumble so badly, you’ll think it was Purim noisemaker

The Purim grogger (noisemaker) is supposed to be loud enough so we can’t hear Haman’s name. That’s one heck of a stomach ache.

Es zol dir dunern in boykh, vestu meyen az s’iz a homon klaper.

May you make a fortune and afford your medical bills

In Hebrew this “compliment” is said: “שיהיה לך לתרופות” -“may you have it for medication” and the it is the money the receiver just got, and the “giver” thinks it’s ill gotten.

He should give it all away to doctors

A less polite way of saying above.

Oyf doktoyrim zol er dos avekgebn

I should outlive him long enough to bury him

With friends like these…

Vi tsu derleb ikh im shoyn tsu bagrobn.

Check out these other Yiddish phrases here.

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