1. Chaloshes Becomes Hallucious
Two sample sentences from New York City:
“To listen to Sarah Palin trying to complete any complex English sentence? A chaloshes.”
“Oy! That off-Broadway musical comedy based on Sillman’s Anatomy for Coroners? A chaloshes!”
Hallucious is a New York City adjective used chiefly by Jews who know a little or no Yiddish. An Anglo-Yiddish put-down adjective, immediately derived from the Polish Yiddish noun chaloshes (pronounced) kha-loo-shess. (Litvak Yiddish: khol-LAW-shess), its basic meaning: any thing vomit-making, utterly disgusting, loathsome. The original Yiddish expression is “a chaloshes.”
The ultimate root is probably the Hebrew verb le-hallakan “to faint.” But more recently influenced by holosh Hebrew ‘faint’ and its Yiddish form where it means ‘weak.’ The proper Yiddish adjective from the noun chaloshes is chaloshisdik, (kha-LOOSH-iz-dik) ‘revolting, sickening’ but New York Jews who knew only a little Yiddish heard chaloshes as an adjective and began to spell it as an English adjective: hallucious. Hallucious is an adjective now spreading in American showbiz slang as a synonym for anything artistic that is shlocky.
NYC: “If she doesn’t bring the knishes soon, I’m gona khalish.”
and its even more dismissive diminutive: tchotchkeleh
Referring to a thing in Yiddish: Gewgaw, trinket, useless unimportant thing, a child’s plaything or toy
A bobblehead doll of George W. Bush would be a tchotchke. I had an aunt who said anything you put away in a closet so no one will ever know you bought such a thing is a tchotchke. There can be, in the meaning of the word, an element of owner’s shame.
In Yiddish, a tchotchke may refer to a person who is a misfit, a nobody, a slut, an ineffectual person.
Some authorities say the Russian root of this common Yiddish word is the Slavic verb shalet “to play pranks.” Others claim it entered Yiddish through an obsolete Polish word, czaczko ‘knickknack.’ Still others state the source as the Russian noun tsatska ‘cheap, showy costume jewelry (?).
Maybe. But I don’t think so.
I think tchotchke is a borrowing into Yiddish from a legitimate Russian noun.
Chotki is a plural form that means ‘beads,’ originally clear glass beads from the Russian adjective chotki ‘clear, legible.’
In Russian, chotki is also a way to refer to a Russian Orthodox rosary. In that elaborated sense, chotki can be plainly descriptive, that is, a rosary is a chain of beads. But it may also be used pejoratively of the rosary as a sacrilegious dismissal: “a bunch of beads.”
I think there is a Yiddish putdown of something Christian in the borrowing of this word for an Orthodox religious object into Yiddish where its general sense is negative. Since knowledge of the Russian root of the term was never widespread in Yiddish, I don’t think the word’s continued use in Yiddish is some dark plot either. So, on this word’s history, anti-semites can take a hike.
Hak mir kein tchainik.
Alternate: Hak mir nicht in tchainik.
From the Russian word for ‘teapot’
From Russian chai = tea
Its range of meanings encompasses English phrases like:
Don’t get on my nerves.
Literally: Don’t bang my teapot.
Don’t make a big fuss.
In Russian a tchainik (literally ‘teapot’) is also a little café where one can sip tea. Here’s a picture of a chainik by a lake near Novgorod in Russia. Note the giant wooden teapot on the roof of the little teahouse.
A boat station and tchainik café in Valdai
For a lively discussion of the tchainik phrase, see this article in the Jewish Daily Forward. Click below
Yiddish plural noun, literally “pins”
First meaning: “on pins and needles,” an unpleasant nervousness before an event
The word entered Yiddish from Polish szpilka ‘pin’ and from Russian shpelka ‘hairpin,’ ‘tack,’or ‘little pivot.’
Nowadays it can mean “upset stomach,” “feeling antsy,” or “impatience.”
That's it for today. I'm goying home now.
© 2012 copyright William Gordon Casselman
Any comments, additional word lore or book orders?Please email me at email@example.com
I invite you to tour my site and select from the hundreds of word stories here.
To begin, click on the Word List banner below.
Then perhaps browse the site map with its links to every page of my
If you want to share some wonderful Canadian sayings, both in English and in Québec French, you will find more than 3,000 Canadian expressions in my three sayings books. Each of my three volumes of Canadian Sayings contains about 1,200 zesty phrases used by Canadians both today and throughout our history. Remember that profits from the sale of my books keep this website online.