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Cousins Mike and Murray’s Yiddish Primer #5: Meshuggener

Since I started hosting The Cousins on Mondays and Fridays, the boys have been giving me lessons in Yiddish. Check out below for an example.

So with the help of the boys, we thought we’d share insight into this wonderful language to the younger Stoolies. Last week, we covered the words “Mensch” (there’s a link to all the lessons at the bottom of this blog).

The word for today is “Meshuggener,” a very hard word to spell and a very funny word to say.

The definition of “Meshuggener” is someone who is crazy, ridiculous, or insane, but not in a clinical way, but in a day-to-day life manner. As in, “That dude must be meshuggener to mow his lawn in a bath robe.” It comes from the root adjective “Meshuge,” meaning crazy or foolish. It’s related to another fine Yiddish term, “Mishegoss,” which means craziness.  

I asked Cousin Mike for his thoughts on this word, which, to be fair, some people could say applies pretty well to him. Here’s what he said:

“Marty Mush is absolutely meshuggener, nuts.” I think everyone would agree with that. Cousin Mike further noted, “Keith Oberman is meshuggener, also a putz and smug to a fault, leaving ESPN only to return.” 

Joel Samberg wrote in The Jewish Book of Lists (1998) that "Meshuggener is a crazy person, someone who acts in a bizarre or obsessive manner. Slight differentiation between male and female. Meshuggener with an r means crazy man, and meshuggeneh with an eh means a crazy woman." So keep in mind its gender specific when you use this delightful word. 

Maybe my favorite use of the word comes from Dvora Waysman, who wrote in her story "The Case of the Loaded Dreidle" (2001): 

I mean, if even a meshuggener like Harry Zots could have an actual female mother, someone who loves him , tucks his shirt in, washes behind his ears, the whole nine yards, then there's nobody on earth who isn't a little bit lovable.

Comforting thoughts on the day after a meshuggener election day.

Class dismissed. See you all next week and if you’re interested in learning more Yiddish words, tune into the Cousins on Sirius XM Radio Power 85 every weekday at 9am EST. 

Lesson 1: Schmuck

Lesson 2: Yutz & Putz

Lesson 3: Nebbish

Lesson 4: Mensch