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WOLFE'S WORDSApril 15, 2008
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by: Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
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This Month...

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In Yiddish, we say "ahf tsores," which means "in trouble." By the time you read this column, you've already read the news that Eliot Spitzer was involved in a high-priced prostitution ring, and has resigned as New York's governor. Was Spitzer a "tipesh"--a moron? Is he lacking "saykhl" (common sense)? Or were his actions just plain "chutzpah"? Whatever his problem, the website "Gawker" was right when they proclaimed it a "Shanda fur die Goyim." Think: "Es iz a shandeh far di kinder." (It's a shame for the children.)

Shown below is a Yiddish A - Z word list about Mr. Spitzer:

"aitzeh"/"eytse" (advice)
Perhaps Eliot Spitzer should have followed the advice of 83-year-old actor, Paul Newman, wife of Joanne Woodward: "Why go out for hamburger ("kotlet"), when you have steak ("bifsteyk")) at home?" "Gut gezogt!" (Well said!)

"arumforn" (to travel)
There's a statute that prohibits travel across state lines to engage in sex. Once it was learned that Spitzer was involved in soliciting prostitutes, they wanted to follow "di raye" (the evidence).

"aynshtelinish" (risk)
According to Evan Thomas (Newsweek, 3/24/08), "Spitzer had always loved risk hurtling down black-diamond slopes (to his mother's distress) on ski vacations.

"barimer" (braggart)
A few years ago, during a lunch with Time magazine staffers, Spitzer bragged about his extensive knowledge of wiretaps. They were just like the one that caught him arranging a date with Kristen "Az me redt a sakh, ken men zikh aynredn a narishkayt." (If you talk a lot, you might talk foolishness.)

"baytn" (to change)
Evan Thomas writes, "The question is whether Spitzer can change...this would be a good time to start thinking about how he could do something he really wants to do that is less grand but honorable and serves the public."

"cake man"
The Yiddish word for cake is "lekekh." A "cake man" is a husband who wants to have his wife and his mistress, too.

According to Pamela Druckerman, "D-Day" is the day you discover your spouse ("man"/"froy") has been cheating on you.

"endikn" (to end)
Neil Minow, corporate expert, said, "I'm a huge fan of Eliot Spitzer, and I'll be very sorry if this is the end of his political career."

"ershter" (first)
Fran Lebowitz said, "In every generation there is a rich Jewish boy in New York that people say is going to the FIRST Jewish president. But this is never going to happen because people don't like Jews. You must have noticed that by now. And I will also tell you, as a Jew, I don't want there to be a Jewish president. We have enough problems. Imagine if they could blame this [the Spitzer affair] on us, too."

"fartik" (finished)
Pamela Druckerman said, "America is also the only place I found that has a one-strike rule on fidelity: if someone cheats, the marriage is kaput."

"frage" (question)
Fortune Magazine asked Bernard Spitzer's dad, if Eliot would like to be the president of the United States. He answered, "It's his very nature" and admitted to musing about spending the night in the Lincoln Bedroom ("shloftsimer").

"finf" (5)
Mary McNamara, (LA Times, 3/13/08) wrote, "They may be a journalist's FIVE favorite words: Governor linked to prostitution ring. Now that's a TV crawl promising a very good week for everyone (except, of course, for the governor's family) the Politician, and the call girl. It's like a Broadway musical starring Nathan Lane...everyone's talking about it...Really, it is like the scandal was invented by Joy Behar and the gals at 'The View,' isn't it?)"

"fusbol" (soccer)
Spitzer told The Colbert Report that he wasn't very talented as an athlete. (He did play soccer!) But, he was useful as an "enforcer." "You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don't get caught" said Spitzer.

There's definitely an element of self-destruction in what Spitzer did. There's complete 'the rules don't apply to me'; it's very arrogant.

"gezets" (law; governing code)
Spitzer signed a law that lengthened jail time for johns from 3 months to as much as a year.

"grunteygns" (real estate)
Spitzer's father was a self-made real-estate mogul. "Er ken dikh tsen mol koyfn un farkoyfn." (He's a very wealthy man. He can buy and sell you ten times over.)

According to Kate Stinchfeld, Spitzer's problems may start with brain chemistry. Israeli researchers identified what they thought of as a risk gene, a behavioral coding that changes the re-absorption of the neurotransmitter DOPAMINE, making it easier for some people to respond to stress or anxiety. The higher your threshold for these feelings, the higher your tolerance of risk. However, this doesn't mean that Spitzer was a blameless victim of chemistry. Stinchfeld says, "Sometimes hubris is just hubris."

"khidesh" (surprise)
Pamela Druckerman wrote,"Don't be surprised if the Spitzers stay together." (His replacement, David A. Paterson, who had his own extramarital affairs, says that his marriage was back on track.)

"kindhayt" (childhood)
Spitzer was born in the Bronx, the youngest of three children of Anne (nee Goldhaber), a former teacher, and Bernard Spitzer, a real estate mogul. His "zeyde-bobe" were Jewish immigrants from Austria. He is a graduate of Horace Mann School. After scoring 1590 on the SAT exam, he attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He married Silda Wall, a non-Jew, on Oct. 17, 1987. Together they have three daughters.

"klayder" (clothing)
Spitzer's squareness can come off as shtick. Michael Wex defines "shmad-shtik" as shtick so wild that you wouldn't have expected it of a Jew. Spitzer wears only white button-down shirts, which he buys at Brooks Brothers. He bought a blue one once: "It was unnerving. Never wore it."

"manirn" (manners)
Nancy Lee Andrews said, "If a person's going to be in the public eye, they shouldn't set themselves up to 'be exposed.' Marriage is very important. Spitzer shouldn't have done what he did. It's pretty much bad manners."

"matsev" (status)
Joel Stein, columnist for the LA Times, interviewed a high-end escort in Las Vegas about what men want for $1,000 an hour. What Mr. Spitzer was really buying, she said, was status..."It's like a five-star hotel. If you call someone from the Yellow Pages, it's very businesslike. It's not a 'girlfriend experience.'"

"mishpokhe" (family)
Spitzer's brother, Daniel, is a neurosurgeon; his sister, Emily, is a successful public-interest "advokat" (lawyer).

"meynung" (opinion)
Ed Koch, a former NYC. mayor, said, "I think he [Spitzer] was totally invulnerable and could do whatever he wanted and there would be no consequences."

"moykhl zayn" (to forgive)
Silda has been described as "fiercely loyal" to her husband. Jan Constantine, a close friend, says that Silda is a very forgiving person and that they will weather this.

"narish" (dumb)
John Heilemann writes about the shock that "of all people, Spitzer--that storied crusader against Wall Street corruption, that tireless scourge against all manner of malfeasance, that embodiment of political rectitude--could possibly have been engaged in transgressions just so tawdry and venal, so reckless and just plain dumb."

"nit lib hobn" (to dislike)
John Heilemann (New York Magazine, 3/24/08) wrote, "...But Spitzer was even less popular among Democrats in Albany than he was among his constituents. The party disliked him personally, perhaps correctly, that it's long-term outlook was better served by his removal."

"nomen" (name)
Comedians say that we didn't know anything about Spitzer's woman. "She was given the fake name Kristen, and a vague general description--a petite brunette who was 5 foot 5. That's all we knew. Yet reporters were able to track down her in a day and a half. Osama bin Laden, the most famous terrorist in the world, 6 foot 6, long beard, he wears the same robe and a turban every day, and we have no idea where he is. It makes no sense."

Several years ago, tabloids proclaimed Spitzer the new "Eliot Ness." The reference/name was a play on Spitzer's squeaky clean image--and his zeal in ferreting out wrongdoing. The original Eliot Ness, was the Prohibition-era lawman who led "The Untouchables," the agents credited with binging down Chicago mobster and bootlegger Al Capone.

"Redt nit keyn narishkayt" (Don't talk nonsense.)
When Eliot Spitzer was growing up, each of the Spitzer children was required to hold forth and debate on worthy topics at the dinner table. Social chitchat was frowned upon. Eliot would read copies of foreign-policy magazines to bone up for "mitog" (dinner).

"rakhmones"/"rachmones" (compassion
for someone who is worse off than oneself) Silda Wall Spitzer pushed her husband not to resign but stood by him as he abdicated.

"Shnorer" (cheapskate)
Maureen Dowd wrote, "If you're a frugal governor who doesn't even like paying his political consultant bills, as opposed to an Arab sheik or a Vegas high roller, do you really need to shell out $4,300, plus minibar expenses, to a shell company for two hours with a shady lady? Aren't there cheaper hooker hookups on Craigslist? It makes you wonder how sharp now-ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer's pencil was on the state's fiscal discipline."

"soyne" (enemy)
Spitzer has made many enemies by bringing down entrenched CEOs and others. His enemies include Joseph Bruno, Kenneth Langone, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, and Richard Grasso.

"Der oreman hot veynik faynt; der raykher hot veyniker fraynd."
(The poor man has few enemies; the rich man has fewer friends.)

"tsol" (number)
Spitzer was known as Client No. 9.

"tsvies" (hypocrisy)
Hendrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker, 3/24/08) wrote, "...There was no way that Governor Spitzer's political career could survive the exposure of his secret life. Hypocrisy is not the worst of sins, but there is hypocrisy, and there is hypocrisy...He vigorously prosecuted prostitution rings of the type he patronized. And he pushed a bill--a good bill on the whole--that shifted the balance of penalties for prostitution toward the buyer, which is to say toward himself."

"valgeren zich" (homeless wandering) Ronald Martin, a homeless man sitting on "der tretar' (the sidewalk) on 42nd Street in Times Square, was holding a piece of cardboard. The sign read:


"Zei mir gezunt!"
Be well, Eliot.

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of a new book titled, "Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers." To order, click here:
Marjorie Wolfe
19 Market Dr.
Syosset, NY 11791
$13 (plus $3.50 postage & handling, USA)
$13 (pus $5.00 postage & handling, Canada)


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