Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Verklempt – Wacky Word Wednesday

Oy vey! Wednesday already! Good think we’ve prepared with Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world.

From TermWiki.com, the definition of today’s word:

ver·klempt

[fer-klempt]

-adjective

emotional; choked up or overcome with emotions

An image of a lip-quivering, verklempt cartoon, choked up on emotions.

Verklempt is a Yiddish word, sometimes written as ferklempt. Developed in the 10th century from a dialect of High German, Yiddish was the principal language of Ashkenazi Jews. Overtime, the language divided into Western Yiddish and Eastern Yiddish, distinguished by regional and phonetic differences.

In 1968, Leo Rosten composed a list of well-known and classic Yiddish lexicon, published in the book Joys of Yiddish. The book became a best-seller, used not only as a vocabulary reference, but also for insight into Jewish humor—Rosten managed to defined most of the entries with an accompanying joke.

In the 90s, verklempt was also made popular by Canadian actor and comedian Mike Myers on the late-night sketch-comedy show, Saturday Night Live. On the show, Myers played the role of Linda Richman in a recurring sketch called Coffee Talk. Myers-as-Richman was a stereotypical Jewish woman living in New York, with gaudy clothes, big hair, and long painted (fake) fingernails. She was known for a few quirks, including her obsession with Barbra Streisand, her New York accent, and throwing Yiddish words into her speech.

Myers-as-Richman was also known for placing her hand on her chest and saying “I’m all verklempt!” when feeling upset or emotional. This would be followed by the phrase “Talk amongst yourselves” whereupon she would sometimes offer a topic along the lines of “Grape Nuts—it contains neither grapes nor nuts. Discuss.” or “The jelly bean is neither made of jelly nor is it a bean. Discuss.” Interestingly enough, Myer’s character Linda Richman was a spoof of his actual mother-in-law of the same name.

Before you get all verklempt on us, here are three sentence examples:

  • Now I’m getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic: a Thighmaster is neither a thigh nor a master. Discuss! There I feel better. (Coffee Talk transcription)
  • Okay, I knew I would get verklempt over the end of All My Children, but I didn’t expect my heart to break even before the final show aired. (PopWatch)
  • When she accepted the latter clad in an Alexander McQueen frock and a mohawk of feathers, it was hard to tell whether she was getting verklempt or just talks as funny as she dresses. (Washington Post blog)

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