Back to School | New T-Shirts, Hoodies, Hats, Crewnecks, Jackets and MoreSHOP NOW

Cousins Mike & Murray’s Yiddish Primer #6: Oy Vey!

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 “Meshuggener” (there’s a link to all the lessons at the bottom of this blog).

The word for today is “Oy Vey,” an exclamation that’s VERY popular with Cousin Mike and Cousin Murray.

According to the dictionary, Oy Vey is an exclamation “indicating dismay or grief.” In other words, it’s “a phrase that expresses grief, pain, frustration, or exasperation.” 

A perfect term for the Cousins, as you can imagine.

I asked Cousin Mike to tell me what his favorite use of the phrase was and he wrote the following. “Trysta Krick getting disqualified in Jenga is an Oy Vey moment,” he said. “When you used both hands? OY VEY!” 

For those who don’t know what Cousin Mike was talking about, I somehow managed to pull off simultaneously the greatest Jenga move of all time as well as the biggest boneheaded play ever. 

Oy Vey, indeed!

The phrase itself is so common it’s been used in the title of dozens of books. My favorite might very well be Fifty Shades of Oy Vey by E.L. Jamesbergstein (2013). But my favorite description of this word comes from comedian Jackie Mason, from How To Talk Jewish (2013): 

If you just found out that the stock market crashed or you found your wife is cheating or she turned down the divorce or you lost your visitation rights to the children or a hammer fell on your foot or you discovered that there's no gas in the tank, no shirts in the closet, only one cuff link in the drawer, you can't find the other sock, you lost a bet, the plane just took off without you -- the first thing a Jew always says is, "Oy Vey!" No other words in life can describe his predicament better. 

When you take a good look at your blind date and she just looks bad, it's always "oy." If she looks really bad, it's "oy vey!" If she's pretty, it's never "oy vey." It's "Thank God. … It's not "oy vey" when you feel something wonderful deep in your heart and you're praying that it all doesn't blow up in your face.

I can think of a few people these days who probably are saying Oy Vey a lot.

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 9 am EST. Don’t be a schmuck. 

Lesson 1: Schmuck

Lesson 2: Yutz & Putz

Lesson 3: Nebbish

Lesson 4: Mensch

Lesson 5: Meshuggener