Word of the Week: meschugge

Oct 26, 2012

Every Friday, Germany.info and The Week in Germany highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


Meschugge Enlarge image The slang expression "meschugge" (crazy) is one of several German words derived from Yiddish, which in turn was also influenced by German. (© German Information Center USA)

Derived from Yiddish, the adjective "meschugge" is used colloquially in German to describe someone or something as crazy.

The original Yiddish expression meshuge or meshige (meshigge) was used to describe someone as insane, overwrought, or crazy. The Yiddish usage was in turn based on a Hebrew word that included the verb form of "to lose one's way."

The slang expression "meschugge" had wended its way from Yiddish into German by the 19th century. It has been used ever since as a milder form of "verrückt" (crazy).

In this vein, you could drive someone slightly crazy as in "jemanden meschugge machen" or you could consider someone crazy as in "jemanden für meschugge halten."

Just as several Yiddish words have entered the German language, Yiddish - apart from its Hebrew origins - derived a large part of its vocabulary from German, and sometimes German speakers can even come close to comprehending a Yiddish phrase.

In the United States, this slang expression was also adopted with varius spellings - minus the "c" in the Germanic "sch" - as meshuga, meshugge, meshugah or meshuggah.

The German version of the word has even been used as the title for an English-language feature-length film: A 1998 German-Swiss-American co-production by Swiss actor-director Dani Levy and starring German actress Maria Schrader was called "Meschugge."

And an event held in a Berlin nightclub in 2010 featuring music provided by an Israeli DJ, moreover, was officially dubbed a - you guessed it - "Meschugge Party."

© Germany.info

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