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Words and statements that make you sound frummer than you are

I was at work a few weeks ago and I noticed one of my friends eating so I went to say hi, he had with him a possible employee for the community kollel here and I guess he was showing him around. I’m not sure exactly what would sell a really frum person on living in the Bay Area, I’m pretty sure the million dollar 3 bedroom homes, $20,000 day school tuition and 1 decent kosher restaurant are not exactly selling points, but alas everyone who visits the Bay must eat at the Kitchen Table and here was this guy showing a potential employee what we have to offer. I played a small game of Jewish Geography and the way he said “I’ve been in eretz yisroel for the last 9 years” struck me as too frum. Why it struck me as too frum is too hard to explain, but someone who speaks like that doesn’t exactly seem to me like the type of guy who’s going to give classes to reform lesbians about the halachic basis to use marijuana for besamin at havdalah.

There are many ways to sound frummer than you already are, or give away that your secular looking self was once a black hat, peyos behind the ears frummy. In general pronouncing things with a suf rather than a tuf will score you brownie points with the frummies, but there are some words which 90% of the population happens to pronounce with a tuf. Two famous examples of this are The Kotel and Tzfat. If you really want to sound frummer, a sure fire way to do this is to say something like – when I was in eretz yisroel I used to daven netz at the Koisel. Merely saying the Kosel, is ok, but if you’re already rocking it Kosel style – you might as well add the oy into Koisel.

The following are a list of substittions that will male you sound frummer than you are, if you already use these words, than you either grew up yeshivish/chassidish/heimishe or are a better faker than I am.

Funeral: Say Levaya instead

Death, died or passed away: Nifter is the supreme substitute, if you want to be a bit more moderishe, but not really too unfrum you should use passed away – but always follow it up with zecher tzadik lebracha, ava-shalom or of blessed memory if you want to sound conservative.

Wedding: Never say wedding – it sounds so modern orthodox – always say chasanah and if you could try to pronounce it Chasi-nah, rather than the traditional chasanah.

When dating someone: In the frum world no one ever says they are dating someone, they always say they are “busy” I have no idea why, but that’s how it is – I hear it’s because of tznius reasons – only God knows why it’s untznius to say you are dating someone.

How are you doing: The correct response is always to insert Baruch Hashem before whatever you want to say – so if your dog (obviously a BT because frummies are afraid of dogs because it’s a mesorah from the shtetl that the goyim had dogs during the progroms) died and someone says “nu, shmuely, vus mach-du” the correct response would be, “Baruch Hashem my dog was just nifter” and so on.

The frummest way to say “sure”: When saying “sure I can do that for you” frummies tend to say 100%, but usually they say it with their heads down, shoulders slumped (the same way they say gut shabbos to you) multiple times like “hey can you pick me up from the airport?” 100%, 100%.

Friends: Your friends are no longer your friends, homeboys or crew – they are now called your chevra.

Israel: Always called eretz yisroel.

Kiddush Cup: Call it a becher from now on.

Gays: Of you ever talk about the gays at all, you have to throw in words like “toevah” and be sure to spit when you say it.

Meal: No longer is any meal just a meal, now you should call it seuda. Shabbos Meal becomes shabbos seuda.

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  • A classic. Nicely done.

    I am sure your commenters could add many more, but off the top of my head here are 5 more:

    Never say hello, say shulum aleichem.

    Never say good bye, say gzei gezunt, alternatively use kol tuv.

    Never say shavua tov, say gut voch.

    Never say Jew, say Yid.

    Never say (Jewish) book, say sefer.

    • yael58

      I thought we also said “londsman” for fellow Jew…

  • “Chasanah”? Is that how you meant to spell it? Not “chasunah”? (Myself, I pronounce the letters in a proper Yemenite fashion, with the het sounding like you’re blowing on glass to fog it up, and the tav sounding like a soft “th” as in “thing”.)

    • There’s a story told to me by a congregant at Shearith Israel (Spanish-Portuguese) that Hakham Shlomo Gaon, originally from Sarajevo (a Judeo-Spanish Sephardi community), and later a rabbi in England and America, was visiting Israel, and he remarked to some Israelis he was speaking to, that it was so nice to hear them speaking Hebrew properly. They responded, “Of course we are; we’re Arabs.”

      • A. Nuran

        Zing!

      • Yochanan

        How is Chet and dagesh-less Tav pronounced by Iberian/Balkan Sefardim?

      • LOL

    • My Hebrew pronunciation was taught to me by two people: one is a baal teshuva congregant in Silver Spring, MD, who listened to Arabic radio for two years in order to learn how to pronounce Hebrew, so that the galuth (soft “th” as in “thing”) would not affect his Hebrew (he’s famous in the area for his pronunciation); and the second is a convert from the Netherlands at Shearith Israel who studied Islam and Arabic in university before he converted. This Dutch man is the one who told me the story of Hakham Gaon.

    • anonimo

      Do you also pronounce kaf differently than qof, tet differently than tav, ayin differently than alef, dalet/gimel/tav with dagesh differently than without?

      • The qof and the tet, I am working on; they are difficult.

        But yes, I do the ayin as if you’re a gobbling turkey, I do the dalet without a dagesh as a hard “th” as in “this”, the gimel without a dagesh as a ghrimel (like a Moroccan), the tav without a dagesh as a soft “th” as in “thing”, and the vav as a “waw”.

        • GerTrained (Hayyim ‘Ovadyah)

          And let’s not forget saddi. R’ Eli Mansour once had a segment of his “Daily Halacha” about pronunciation during qeri’at shema’ where he says something like, “Nowadays some people have come along and are pronouncing it like a t-z. But the REAL way to pronounce it is the way that the Arabs pronounce the same letter.”

          I try to be maqpid about the pronunciation of het, tet, saddi, qof, etc., in liturgical contexts, but the big three (waw, thaw, and dhaleth) that are primarily confined to the Temanim, (some) Iraqis, and some North African communities I relax on when in casual conversation. Sometimes when among the Ashkenazim I’ll even let a tav/thaw slip into a suf if it’s understood that I’m using the word in a Yiddish (e.g, gut shabbos) rather than Hebrew context.

          • This is all silly, of course. Why do we think Hebrew pronunciation was contaminated in Europe, but remained pure in Arabic speaking countries?

            It is not as if we unearthed any 2000 year old recordings to find out which is right!

            • Well, one would expect that Arabic pronunciation is closer to Hebrew pronunciation than German or Spanish is. So one would expect that Yemenites, Iraqis, and Moroccans would have something closer to the authentic Hebrew pronunciation. Not 100% correct, but closer than a German or Spanish accent.

              • Hayyim ‘Ovadya

                Ironically, early Biblical Hebrew probably sounded more like Arabic than Iraqi/Temani Hebrew does; there is evidence suggesting that dagesh/raphe was a later development, that (c)het originally represented both the het and khaf sounds (e.g., hamor = donkey and hemer/hamar = wine; cf. classical Arabic himar = donkey and khamr = wine), and that `ayin was both `ayin and ghayin (thus explaining the transliteration of `Amorra and `Aza into Greek as Gomorra and Gaza).

                • Yochanan

                  Chances are there was more than one dialect of biblical Hebrew. Hence the whole Shibolet thing.

                  I also think that eventually Hebrew lost the pharyngeal Tet and the pharyngeal or uvular Kuf since words borrowed from Greek are transliterated with these letters.

                  • Hayyim ‘Ovadya

                    At what stage? And if these sounds had been retained, how would the Greeks have transliterated them? Qoppa dropped out of the Greek alphabet long before the LXX and other Greek-language sources began transmitting Hebrew-transliterated words. Greek also has no equivalent to the “tet” sound, so it’s hard to see how the Greeks would have transliterated distinctly from tav (tau) or theta (which was really a plosive “t,” as found at the beginning of words in English such as “table,” talk,” and “tall,” rather than the “th” sound).

                  • Hayyim ‘Ovadya

                    Oops, I mixed up your reply (i.e., thought that you were talking about Greek transliteration of Hebrew rather than Greek loanwords in Hebrew).

                    Perhaps you’re right. In such a case, it would be interesting that influence from Arabic caused Sephardic/Mizrahi Hebrew to become more conservative again.

                    Alternatively, I suspect that the reason why these letters were chosen for tranliteration is that by the time Greek came into contact with Hebrew in a major way, the dagesh/raphe phenomenon was in full swing, so easier to transliterate with qof and tet, which each had a single sound, than kaf and tav, which didn’t. (Khaf was already doing a lot of work transliterating Greek chi.) This would be similar to the use of transliteration in English that doesn’t reflect native usage (e.g, “ch” for Greek chi and Hebrew (c)het ).

            • Hayyim ‘Ovadya

              You mean, why would we think that languages that are actually related to Hebrew (Arabic, Aramaic, Amharic, Tigrinya) are better sources for the phonetics of Hebrew than unrelated European languages?

              Do you really believe that “`ayin” and “aleph” were pronounced the same by the ancient Jews as among most contemporary Ashkenazim? The Gemara suggests that they weren’t, or at least that this pronunciation was considered substandard (Megillah 24b).

              If Arabic were the only reference point, I think that your argument would be stronger. But we have several other Semitic languages, the phonetics of which all suggest that Hebrew sounded more like the way that Yemenites, Iraqis, North Africans, and others pronounce it than the way Eastern Europeans pronounce it.

              Most relevantly for the pronunciation of Temanis, Iraqis, and some North African communities, “waw” as the pronunciation of “vav” is nearly universal among other Semitic languages (as far as I know, most don’t even have a “v” sound), and the dagesh/raphe distinction is absent from Arabic, which suggests that these aspects pronunciations can’t easily be dismissed as influences from Arabic.

              Youtube /watch?v=_29Z-iqjtvM is a rendition of the Assyrian/Aramaic alphabet, which reflects one contemporary pronunciation. There’s no reason to suspect that this Assyrian group influenced Temani or Iraqi Hebrew. (Does any dialect of Aramaic pronounce thaw as suf?)

              Other sounds (saddi/sad as a distinct sound rather than a tz-ts cluster, tet/tav, kap/qof, khaf/chet-het, etc.) are attested in many contemporary Semitic languages (e.g., the Olaf Beth recording) and even some non-Semitic Afroasiatic languages (e.g., Somali: c = ayin, qof/kaf are distinct, kh = khaf/x = het).

              I think that there is a point to be made that perhaps Ashkenazi pronunciation preserves some vowel distinctions better (except where it goes overboard, e.g., with holem becoming “oy” or “eh”), but many of these are also found among the Temanim.

              • Hayyim ‘Ovadya

                Also, to be fair, we know that certain aspects of contemporary Romance language pronunciation are nothing like classical Latin, and that modern Greek is pronounced very differently from classical Attic or Koine. So Seriously? does have a point. Even still, no one would attempt to reconstruct the pronunciation of ancient Latin using Hausa, so why the defensiveness about being skeptical that German or Polish should be the golden standard for knowing how ancient Hebrew was pronounced?

                Moreover, we know about many changes in Latin’s pronunciation based on documentary evidence (e.g., “Caesar” transliterated into Greek as “Kaisar,” changes in transcription as the Romance languages developed that indicate their phonetic evolution). The problem for a pro-Ashkenazi is that as far as it goes, the ancient documentary evidence (e.g., Saadia Gaon’s comparison of Hebrew to Arabic, Megillah 24b) mostly cuts against Ashkenazi pronunciation being more accurate. Unless the Samaritans, who dropped the “`ayin/aleph” distinction among other things, are one’s reference point.

                Third, where many of these changes took place, the Romance languages diverged not only from Latin, but from each other (e.g, c+i /c+e/c+ae, i/j/g, and other sounds in Latin became different things in different contexts in French, Iberian Castilian, and Italian), whereas the other Semitic languages are pretty close in most of the areas where Hebrew pronunciation is disputed (at least in the consonants – qof/kap distinction, tet, saddi, etc.), which may suggest that they have all been fairly conservative and are a pretty good resource.

                In any event, the development of the Romance dialects serves as an example of the reality that languages change. This reality is the basis for my rule that I relax my pronunciation when in conversation so that it matches Hebrew as contemporary speakers pronounce it, rather than using an idealized form approximating lashon qodesh as pronounced in the late Biblical period.

              • Yochanan

                It is common in the evolution (Evolution!!, Kfira!)of languages for “w” to become “v”.

                • Hayyim ‘Ovadya

                  Of course! The point is that this transition was an evolution, and that the varieties of Hebrew where this didn’t take place (Temani, Iraqi, some North African communities) are preserving this pronunciation, rather than merely being influenced by Arabic.

  • You never say that you’re eating “AT” someone’s house.
    Always say that you’re eating “BY” someone.

    • Yes, this has been discussed at length. Good point, nonetheless

  • Batsheva

    Baruch Hashem my dog was just nifter”
    I laughed so loud at that one, I think I peed a little.

    • Same here (minus the pee, er, pish would actually be frummer)

  • Anonymous

    Jewish Thanks: Yasher Koach
    Jewish School: Cheder
    Boys High School: Mesivta

    • Steve

      Haha, but to be really frum, it’s shkoiach!

  • Yochanan

    I wouldn’t mind the use of Hebrew words if the Dikduk carried over.

    Don’t say “His mother was Niftar.” Say “His mother Niftera”.

    • YaakovSchuster

      it would actually be Nifteres or Nifteret not niftera…nice try though

      • Yochanan

        Isn’t Nifteret present tense?

  • Anonymous

    When my family asks me how I’m doing, I sometimes respond “thank god,” even though I don’t believe in god. It makes me sound very frum.

  • frimmer kifer

    seifer not sefer

  • And here I thought I was the only one who noticed that frummies say “100%!” all the time…

  • I’ve noticed that a few people at my shul (who tend to be more black-hatty than the average), when saying kaddish, pronounce a certain word yisdakaysh (the last syllable sounding like “aish” as in “aish hatorah”) instead of yisdakash (the last syllable rhyming with “gosh”).

    • That’s because the Mishna Brurah says to say it that way.

  • Oh! Oh! I’d forgotten: Don’t say “principal” or “Rav”; say this:

    Rusheeva.

    • Anonymous

      HA!

    • Also chassidim has one vowel like this: chsidm

    • Yochanan

      Also, remember to slur your words together. One thing that kept me from adopting Ashkenazi pronunciation is this. It sounds like someone without teeth speaking.

      I would understand if it was “Shalosh Seudos”, but it’s “Shaleshudus”.

  • CCMSM

    Don’t say “Friday night” anymore, instead say “Lail Shabbos”. I only started hearing it within the last couple of years and I was really impressed with how yeshivish it makes the person look.

  • Jewish

    Tzfat? Are you kidding? Nobody “yeshivish” pronounces it that way…Tzfassss!

    Also, it’s “alav hashalom” not “ava shalom”….alav=upon him.

    • Yochanan

      True, but there are many who, although the regularly say “s” for Tav w/o Dagesh, say “t” for places in Israel.

  • Brilliant! Made me chuckle to myself in the way that one does when an obvious reality is brought to light and you’re like “omg! that’s sooo true!”. Loved it! Keep it coming! 🙂

  • Just Saying

    I think people who incorporate that kind of vocabulary that they didn’t grow up using sound really stupid and unintelligent.Sorry but yiddishisms
    and Talmudic phrases are not my thing. I don’t even understand what people are saying half of the time when they speak that way.Its much simpler to use English words.I tend to take those who are polished more seriously. Excuse me for sounding elitist but if you grew up with English as your first language, then why speak it as though it was your second language?
    I also find it irritating when people talk in Ebonics.Don’t let all those years of English education be for naught.Maybe its me but I tend to believe that people evaluate your intelligence based on the vocabulary you use and speaking in Yinglish makes you come off as being uneducated.

    • Yochanan

      I agree, especially when a perfectly suitable English equivalent exists. There are exceptions, like “Tzedaka”. Saying “Charity” doesn’t do justice (get it?) to what it means in Hebrew.

  • MalachHamovies

    Don’t say Rabbi Goldstein. Say “Rav” Goldstein.

  • masortiderech

    My impression is that frummies dont say they spent 9 year in Eretz yisrael – they just say ‘I spent 9 years in Eretz’ period, end of story.

    Some of the yiddishisms (like lavaya) just sound old fashioned to me, not frummie.

    Frummies tend to say baruch hashem where the old fashioned would say Keneinahara – OTOH frummies also say Keneinahara on some occasions, which I find confusing.

  • Leibel

    LOL all around.

  • haha

    dont call it friday nit- its called mitzva nite

  • confused

    what about the classic, “looking forward”

    only frum ppl say the phrase “looking forward to it” with the “to it” omitted.

    • Anonymous

      Once when I’d accepted someone’s invitation to a seuda, they replied, “Great! Looking very forward!”

  • Left Brooklyn

    And don’t forget these:

    Never say “that’s another story” but rather it’s a new parsha.

    Never say well done but “shkoyach”

    Never say “sahabbat shalom” but “gut shabbes”

    Never use the correct plural for Talit (“Talitot) but “talassim”

    And he “sits and learns” or “sits in beis medrash”

    And it is never an “organization” but a moisdos”

  • b

    nu, you say good, now say better<–classic frummy.

    • nu, say horrible, say half decent…

  • I’ve always loved the “What’s gonna be, what’s gonna be” with the head bob….you need the head bob.

    • Lol I think the double speak is there to mimic actual caring.

  • Geoff

    A great post. Frum satire classic.

  • senters

    I have cousins who say “Pesach Tikvah” and “Ramos” they learn in Brisk i’m saying

  • Shuli

    LOL @ “1oo%”

    Also, ba’al teshuva = balchoova

  • Emes vGartel

    Frumie:i have to make a pishy.
    Goyim: I have to take a shit.
    Frumie: git yum tiff 🙁
    Goyim: Happy holidays!! 🙂

    • Yochanan

      Frummie: Pishy
      Goyim: Pee/Piss

  • This is a terrific piece — very funny! Another one that took me a LONG time to figure out when I was at the Seminary was “zahl,” as in Rav Liebermanzahl. The way people slurred, I thought it was part of his name and was at a loss for quite some time until I realized that it was the acronym for “may his memory be for a blessing.” Of course, if you say the whole phrase in English, you are DEFINITELY not Yeshivish but Conservative. Your readers who are interested in a serious approach to Jewish words can check out my book at http://www.pamelagottfried.com/about-my-book/

  • Also, when davening, throw a few “vuh-vuh-vuh” sounds into your vowels. (Example: “Shalom al Yisra-vuh-vuh-el…”) I have NO IDEA why chazzanim do this, but they do – and it makes them sound super-frum.

  • Ilana

    Its not ” Friday afternoon”… it’s “Erev Shabbos”

    It’s not “Saturday night” … it’s “Motzei Shabbos”

    It’s not ” I’m GOING TO BE in New York for 2 days” … it’s “I’m BEING in New York for 2 days”

    It’s not “Mishloach manot” … it’s “Sloachmanos”

  • Left Brooklyn

    and the best is “… let me tell you over a vort.”

  • Yochanan

    Or, when discussing what they do for a living, they’re “in something”.

    Heshy is in cooking.

  • RebTirza

    I cannot tell you how I adore this website. As a rabbi (Yes, you heard right, a female rabbi…) I think we have to have a great sense of humor. Admittedly, rabbinic Judaism has taken us Hebrews somewhere very, very strange! Ashkenaz culture is like a religon of it’s own, not so much with Sephardim, though, as far as I know.

    • Hey, real men marry rabbis. I have a t-shirt that says so.

      • Avrumy

        And now we can!!!!!
        Yeah, New York State!!!!

  • RebTirza

    You know, in the Sephardic world there is no word “frum”…religious people are called Daati. Is ‘frumness’ indicative of the ashkenaz brand of observance? Could a sephardic person really be frum? Now let’s ponder forever….

    • Yochanan

      They don’t have female rabbis either.

      Most English speaking Sfardim have heard the word “Frum”. If Heshy was Sfardi, the title of the post would say “Yoter Dati” instead of “Frummer”.

  • Left Brooklyn

    The only Frum Sephardim are those who have adopted the ways of the Litvish yeshiva world (i.e. black suit, white shirt, mafia hat).

  • jersyboy

    Correction: sure=AVADA Gays=mishkav zochornikas

  • Jew boi

    Being that where I am now is a good place. I can really shtell with what you are saying 100% I discussed the matte with my chevra and they chap it but not cold my rebbishlita says I’m taking this out of the ball park , but he’s not with the maise. I hope somebody in the parsha could help us with this kasha

    • Yochanan

      Of course. How can anyone forget Chap?

  • Lundin Yid

    Seen recently on a signboard showing the name of the week’s sedra: Parshos Noisso.
    And heard in shul, a guy who answers Amaiyn (rhymes with Bharain) to kadish…
    Now thats’ frum!

  • Alan Najman

    Hilarious. Just the other day I was with my masbiah and mamesh gevaldik he made the hashgugeh by the koisel. There was a bris Milah and after the moihel cut the orlah, the baby’s mother took her tichel and wrapped it around the kid’s shmeckle. Oy vey we were shlepping such nachas…