What Are Some Yiddish Idioms?

Many common Yiddish idioms use colorful language to express earthy points, such as "Troubles are to man what rust is to iron," or "When a worm sits in horseradish, it thinks there's nothing sweeter." By painting elaborate pictures with words, Yiddish idioms connect the poetic with the occasionally profane.

While some idioms appear to be unique to Yiddish, such as "You can't dance at two weddings with one behind," the sentiment expressed is often common across cultures. "No one knows whose shoe pinches except the person who walks in it," for example, has a close parallel in the English idiom to "Walk a mile in another's shoes," including the footwear reference.

Yiddish contains many idioms with a sarcastic or self-deprecating tone. "If he were twice as smart, he'd be an idiot!" is an example of a fairly direct insult, while "A man studies until he's 70 and dies a fool" expresses a backhanded recognition that wisdom may never be fully attainable.

Given Yiddish's historical relationship with Judaism, it isn't surprising that many idioms take a distinctly religious tone. Examples are: "The closer to the synagogue, the farther from God," and "You're lucky, God, that you live so high; otherwise people would break your windows."