This is a great book. I bought my first copy of The Joys of Yiddish when I was in high school. It’s a classic. My nursing colleagues underrate the value of Yiddish. It’s an expressive language, and it allows you to say a lot of things that would normally get you into trouble. Here’s an example: You get aggravated with someone at work and you call them a putz. The word sounds cute, but it means “fool” or more accurately,“dickhead.” Do you get my point? Yiddish is especially useful in areas of the country where people don’t know what Yiddish is in the first place.

Here are some fun Yiddish words that frequently come in handy around the nurses station:

KRENK (crank) n. an illness, a sickness
A farshlepteh krink—a chronic ailment.

It’s no fun taking care of a drug addict who has “chronic pain.” If it’s not one thing it’s another. “My back hurts, I have a toothache, and God forbid, my fibromyalgia.” Some doctors buckle and order Demerol, Morphine, and Oxycontin, and still, nothing is right. Such a farshlepteh KRENK!


The emergency room nurse wrinkled her nose when the paramedics brought in the homeless man reeking of alcohol. She said, “Geesh, that guy is FARSHTUNKEN!

GONIFF (GAH-nif) n. a thief, a swindler, a crook. A businessman with shady dealings.

Our hospital administrator is a GONIFF. He is always looking for ways to cut hospital staff so he can make more money.

GAI AVEK (gay-a-VECK) An exclamation meaning “Go away!” or “Get out of here!” or “Get lost!”

Some patients think that it’s my job to entertain them when they come into the hospital, and I hate it when they hangout at the nurses station. They keep yacking while I’m trying to get my work done. Some days I feel like yelling, “GAI AVEK!” There’s no party here. Get away from the desk already!

FEH (feh) interj. An exclamation meaning pee-yoo!, ieeww!, yuck! , usually used when one gets a whiff of or sees something that is stinky, offesive, or just plain icky.

A recently used bedpan that was not emptied. FEH! Enough said.

MAZEL TOV (MA-zull-toff) interj. Congratulations, kudos, praise.

MAZEL TOV to all of the men and women of the nursing profession!