Anyone in the business of writing legal briefs and memoranda knows how hard it is to breath new life into a stale medium. After a few years in the grind, it’s difficult to find new words that pack a punch. That’s where Yiddish can make a strong and memorable impression in your writing. Here are some top picks for incorporating Yiddish into your practice and legal writing.
- em>Bris. The word bris has made a welcome comeback in legal circles lately, thanks in part to U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood holding a bris in her courtroom. Bris is the Jewish rite of circumcision performed on a male child on the eighth day of the child’s life. The word is particularly effective with uncircumcised male judges and counsel, so know your audience well before using bris. Example use: “While defendant argues that complying with the law would be exceedingly hard, it’s not as if it’s a bris for a baby.”
- Shlemiel. Shlemiel, a bungler or dolt, resonates with older counsel and judges who came of age in the 1970s. Use it to describe opposing counsel, an opposing party, or even the opposing party’s expert, as in “Plaintiff’s expert has technically provided an opinion on the issue, but it is clear from Dr. Augustine’s affidavit and professional qualifications that he’s a shlemiel among coroners.” Don’t confuse shlemiel with schlamazel, which means a chronically unlucky person, such as some of your best clients.
- Tzimmes. A tzimmes is a slow-cooked stew that combines tubers with dried fruit. But it can also mean a big fuss or large production, typically over nothing. Example use: “Defendants are attempting to make a tzimmes of this case by serving subpoenas on every dog and pony and compelling the entire farmyard to testify.”
- Feh. While not generally a word to work into your briefs, it may go a long way in place of a vigorously stated objection at trial or at a motion hearing (we recommend using it first at a motion hearing unless you’ve already done a good job of pretrial voir dire). Example use: “Feh, your honor! Counsel has no foundational basis for that statement!” You can also follow up many statements with an emphatic feh for emphasis.
- Nudnik. Nudnik is a great word to slip into pretrial documents to characterize the other party’s case or to describe the opposing party generally. Example use: “Defendants have declined to respond to plaintiff’s demand or even entertain a nuisance settlement that would make this litigious nudnik go away.”
With the right choices, you can quickly increase the efficacy and power of your legal writing with Yiddish. Let us know how you use Yiddish in your practice and we’ll share examples so that others can learn. Good luck!