The Vortsman Says…

Our piteous plea for questions/disagreements from readers has yielded results!

From the NoCal District, AR/WC, comes a query and a complaint:

Q. 1) “I’m still trying to figure out if fraynd covers one and many (or is the latter fraynt or…)”

A. 1) Both fraynd and fraynt are both singular and plural. Fraynd is defined as “friend(s)” when applied to non-relatives and may also replace forms of address such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms, Ladies, Gentlemen, etc. Fraynt is defined as “relative(s), kin,” though The Vortsman has rarely heard it used that way.

Q. 2) “…not all Yiddish dictionaries—particularly condensed ones—give the gender of the word, a real problem for new Yiddish learners trying to master declension.”

A. 2) Why expect condensed dictionaries to be complete? For decades, we’ve had Uriel Weinreich’s Modern English-Yiddish, Yiddish-English Dictionary. Since 2002, we’ve had the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary by four editors, based on Yitskhok Niborski’s (with two associates’) Yiddish-French dictionary. Both provide the gender of every listed noun. True, they’re not pocket-sized. But one must often choose between convenience and completeness.

Besides, the Comprehensive is available online: Your smartphone is even easier to carry around than those pocket-size condensed editions.

And…the Chairmentsh of NoCal AR/WC adds: “In any case, I’m alerting some Bay Area beginners who may not know about your column of its existence…”

The Vortsman invites readers everywhere to follow that example.

Then, Carl Sunshine asks about “the meaning and derivation of in mitn derinen.” First off, the phrase means “all at once…all of a sudden…unexpectedly.” (And, sometimes, “inappropriately” as in arayngeforn — rode in — in mitn drinen.)

As to “derivation,” there’s no mystery. The literal translation would be “in the midst of an interior room,” which folk-speech simply converted from the specific to the general.

Next time: our former Exec. Dir. takes issue with The Vortsman over montik un donershtik. Stay tuned…and tell your friends!

(The Vortsman welcomes queries — and disagreements — from readers about Yiddish words and phrases. Send them to