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Yiddish for Bankruptcy Lawyers

posted by Buce

In a previous post I discussed "blivik" which I understood, perhaps erroneously, to be Yiddish.  The discussion triggered memories of all sorts of specialized argot I got familiar with only in the bankruptcy court.  Yiddish words or phrases were still fairly common around there when I showed up in the 70s.  I was a latecomer: I didn't grow up with this stuff and I found it highly entertaining to try to learn to deal with it.  Some of it was hardly specific to bankruptcy, and some barely even Yiddish any more:  schmuck, for example, is more or less universal (but what of "guarantor"= "schmuck with a fountain pen"--?).   Schnorrer and gonif may not be universal, but we wouldn't want to claim them. And what of

Rachmunis, as in "writ of rachmunis," as in "judge, we got nothin', and we are throwing ourselves on your mercy."

Schmatta, rag, as in "the schmatta business," aka "the rag trade," textiles--the industry in which (in the lower east side of Manhattan) so much of old Chapter XI was crafted (aka, perhaps, The Pajama Game?).

Schlepperman, for the hewer of wood or drawer of water who did the hard work while somebody else got the big bucks, as in "we sent our schlepperman over to clean out the warehouse."  Not a made guy, only a connected guy (yeh, sorry, wrong argot).

Chazeri, as in one of the things that drove me out of law practice back to teaching--all that stuff on my desk that I never seemed to get to the bottom of, all those phone messages, all those screwed-up orders, all those headaches, all those--oy, I'm thinking of them all over again.

Are there other candidates?


Certainly most debtors have more "tsuris" than they could possibly handle, and as their lawyers, we have to deal with their "mischegoss."
Jonathan Ginsberg
Atlanta, GA

Chazzer (hog), as in don't be one or you get slaughtered, was still popular in the mid to late 1980s, if I remember my youth correctly.

There is a wonderfully funny piece that I believe was originally written by Connie Duberstein (a well regarded Bankruptcy Judge from the EDNY who recently passed away at age 90-ish) many years ago. This funny piece with a short paragraph and then his "definitions" of the Yiddish terms he uses in this bankruptcy context. I have it in pdf format, but don't know how to post that.

Responding to George Kuney, I certainly remember Chazzer, though as a dietary, rather than a moral, injunction (and I always heard it as chazzah). OTOH, a (somewhat) kosher lawyer of my acquaintance always insisted on dismissing bacon (in English) as "piggy food."

Unrelated, my friend Steve tells me that gonif is in the Chaucer. Source: Steve's grandmother, though a bit of googling suggests he may well be right.

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