the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Ralph Monti, "I Remember Brooklyn - Memories From Famous Sons and Daughters,"asks, "What memories do you have of growing up in Brooklyn?  Perhaps it's a warm summer evening sitting out on the stoop.  The smell of a sizzling hot dog being scorched on a Coney Island griddle.  The excited roar of an Ebbets Field crowd as the Dodgers take the field.  The Saturday morning hustle and bustle on Fulton Street.  The trolley ride over the Manhattan Bridge.  The wisecracking candy-store man down the street.  The luscious taste of a chocolate egg cream."

Although I was born in Rockaway Beach, New York, my late husband, Howard, was from Avenue U and East 12th Street.  He went to "Stinkin' Lincoln High School.

My paternal grandparents, Clara and Louis Gottlieb, live on East 98th Street and Rutland Road.  Their apartment was located around the corner from the Sutter Avenue movie theater--the one of many movie houses that distributed FREE dishes.  Between 1945 and 1955 I visited them frequently.  My vocabulary included the "Bums" (for the Brooklyn Dodgers), the "Coney" (Coney Island), stoop/stoopball, "spaldeen" (that smooth pink rubber ball), "shtik" (He uses the same shtik night after night), and "shmeer" (bagel with cream cheese spread on it.)    When we left to return to our home in Arverne, we said, "see yuh later, alligator."

Robert Hendrickson ("New Yawk Talk - A Dictionary of New York City Expressions"), writes, "Someone long ago defined Brooklynese as what you have a bad case of if you recite the sentence There were thirty purple birds sitting on a curb, burping and chirping and eating dirty worms, brother, as "Dere were toity poiple boids sittin onna coib, boipin and choipin an eatin doity woims, brudda."

And Larry King wrote in his memoir, "Brooklyn...It was a special place where egg creams were stirred just so, where satin jackets were hip, where Manhattan was ‘the city,' and just a nickel subway ride away, where you hung out day after day with the boys on the corner--your corner--and played stickball and stoopball through the long summer days, where Coney Island was a magical escape, Nathan's hot dogs gourmet cuisine, and the beloved Dodgers, the emblem of a time and place."

Visiting Brooklyn or revisiting Brooklyn, here's a list of terms that you'll hear:

All the News That's Fit to Print
New York Times

(Yiddish) for a recently successful person who boasts about his or her success.

(avenue)--which is commonly heard in all five boroughs

Barclays Center
A multi-purpose indoor arena, located at 620 Atlantic Avenue, in Brooklyn.  In 2012, Barbra Streisand appeared there for two concerts as a sentimental homecoming.
With lyrics revised, she mentioned "Brooklyn docks and Nova lox" and "knishes."
Her Brooklyn accent seemed more pronounced than ever.

A small grocery store.  There are thousands of bodegas in the New York City area.
Here's where you buy cigarettes, sodas, six-packs, sandwiches, or a piece of fruit.
Benjamin Wallace wrote in 2012, "It's the Brooklyn where bodegas stock Fentimans ‘botanically brewed' Dandelion &Burdock soda..."

Cheap furniture, or any inexpensive and inferior merchandise.  A Yiddish expression used by Jewish immigrants on New York's Lower East Side in the late 19th century.
Slang for a uniformed police officer.

borscht belt
A resort area in the Catskills Mountains of upstate New York.  AT ONE TIME the borscht belt catered largely to a Jewish clientele from New York City.

bridge and tunnel
This term has been used by Manhattanites to describe visitors who travel to "the city" for work or entertainment.

Brighton Beach Baths
The Brighton Beach Baths opened in 1907.  It was a members-only club that at its peak had over 12,000 members.  It offered such pastimes as swimming in one of three pools, tennis, handball, miniature golf, mah-jongg, card playing, big-name entertainment, and a nude beach.  The Baths were closed in 1994 and in its place, in 2000, rose the Oceana Condominium and Club.  Marjorie Wolfe's mother-in-law was a member.

Bronx cheer
The razz, or raspberry, called the Bronx cheer.  Many players have received Bronx cheers in Yankee Stadium.

Brooklyn side
When a bowler hits into the wrong pocket of pins (the one opposite his bowling hand, for example, the 1-3 pocket if he's right-handed), the hit is called a Brooklyn side or a "Brooklyn," as in "You've been hitting the Brooklyn side all night."

Yiddish word meaning "beans" or nothing or very little.  Ex.  "The job pays bubkes!"

"bunk into"
Means "BUMP INTO."  Ex.  I bunked inta him on the subway yesterday, and did we reminisce about Idlewild--the former name for John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport.

The term "city" refers to the borough of Manhattan.  The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn are NEVER referred to as "the city."


The best Brooklyn quote:"That in order to amount to anything as a comedian in America, you must either have been born in Brooklyn or in a small town in the midwest."   Source:  "There Are Alligators in Our Sewers & OtherAmerican Credos"
  by Paul Dickson and Joseph Goulden

did you ever?
A very common interjection.  Ex.  Did you ever!  The movie, "42," just opened.
My kids must see it.  Jackie Robinson  was a national hero, but to young Brooklynites of his era, he represented a shot at the World Series.

The expression means "gelt," money, and dough. Ex.  Tickets to the B'way show, "The Brook of Mormon," cost me plenty of do-re-mi."

Does Macy's tell Gimbels?
Gimbels departmentstore is long gone. This expression can still be heard.  Eddie Cantor used it in a skit when a stooge asked Cantor to reveal some dark secret and the comedian replied, "Does Macy tell Gimbels?"  The Gimbels-Macy's rivalry was also shown in the film, "Miracle on 34th Street."

Hello. Ex.  "I'm your new martial arts instructor.  Don't worry!  There's not much zetz-ing or frosk-ing here."

"I'm not married to Con Edison."
Shut off the damn lights.

Did you ever?  "Jever see the Yiddish band, Kenahora, perform?"

Jewish penicillin
Homemade chicken soup.

A popular candy in New York and elsewhere, especially as a "movie candy."
There were enough of them to last through the entire show--two pictures, a serial or two, cartoons and a newsreel.

mind yerown bizniss mind your own business

New York Minute (in a)
Very quickly, in a heartbeat.

New York, New York
The term, "If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere," was popularized in the song, "New York, New York."  It was written by Fred Ebb and John Kander and recorded by Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra.

Not For Nothin' But..."
What I'm about to say is true.  You're suffering from ‘latte factor'--you're spending adds up to a significant amount of money over time.  $10 a day on coffee and snacks?  If you cut down enough, you can save $2,000 a year.

"oy vay"
A cry of dismay or delight.
There's a line of kosher Chinese sauces called Soy Vay.  Anna Dolinsky says, "What Jew can resist a pun on ‘oy vay'?"

Before visiting Brooklyn, be sure to read Larry King's book titled, "When You're From Brooklyn, Everything Else Is Tokyo."  (It was co-written with Marty Appel.)

An idiotic doofus.  Short of a "meshuganah," he's sure he'll make a killing with his musical toilet seat, an acts like a makher about it. (from Peter Monheit"'s Yiddish Dictionary Of Fools")

A contraction of what's the matter.  "Smatter with you?"
Ex.  "Smatte?  You don't think Anthony Weiner will be NYC's next mayor?"

Your stoop used to be the real life facebook, where you mix and mingle and talk about your neighbors.

tell me about it
I know exactly what you mean.  However, in "Beltway" vocabulary (2013) Ben Schott and Mark Leibovich define "tick tock" as "A minute-by-minute account of a story."

Three (3).  Ex.  "I'll take one, two, tree cannoli's and one charlotte russe."

Two Cents Plain

What's the problem?  The Park Slope 998-square-foot prewar condo now sells for $825,000?

Who died and made you boss?
A common phrase used to let a person know you AREN'T going to listen to their complaints, demands, concerns or orders.  Ex.  "So you missed attending the 17th Annual Kosherfest at the Jacob Javits Convention Center?  Yes, the show's highlights included a sculpture of NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg, made out of Sabra hummis!"

Yada, Yada, Yada
The TV show, "Seinfeld," starring Jerry Seinfeld, popularized this catchphrase.
The term means the same as "blah, blah, blah."  George said, "I gotta tell you, I am loving this yada yada thing.  I can gloss over my whole life story."

A Yiddisher Mama who likes to talk and gossip. She might even try to hook up all the single boys and girls in the neighborhood using JDate, ChaiExpectations,, Shoshanna's Matches or

In 2006, Cindy Adams (NYPost) wrote, "Barbara [Walters] Friday announcement of Rosie [O'Donnell] as replacement Yenta on ‘The View,' was kept even from fellow panel members until Thursday.  [She replaces Meredith Vieira.]

Jayden and Isabella are very popular baby names today.  "Brooklyn" is not terribly common as a baby name. However, David and Victoria Beckham's oldest son is named Brooklyn.  He got his name because he was conceived in that borough.
MARJORIE GOTTLIEB WOLFE reminds her readers who can't find their way around Brooklyn to "AXE SOMEONE FOR DIRECSHINGS."


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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