hile the Roman Empire was no friend to the Jews, over the years we have developed a warmer relationship with Latin, their spoken language. Let’s face it: Jews love using Latin words to add some intellectual spice to their otherwise yeshivish shprach. Sure, it can get annoying when someone uses the word “qua” for no apparent reason, but a little errant “qua” usage can also be a great way to establish yourself as intellectual qua intellectual.
Help me complete this Top-10 list. I’ll start with the first 5.
This Latin phrase truly stands in a class by itself. It’s a marvelous superlative if “really chashuv” or “really unique” don’t seem emphatic enough. Want to pay someone a compliment while also implicitly insulting yourself as semi-obnoxious? This approach is truly sui generis.
Tired of the term “yesh mei’ayin” and having friends? Try this term out. Ex nihilo, meaning something that emerges from nothing, can establish your nerd credentials ex nihilo.
Confession: When I was a kid I thought the “Rabbi Emeritus” was a runner-up prize offered for the rabbi who they didn’t select in the interview but still deserved some consolation prize. Close enough. Honestly, the word “emeritus” seems to have largely retired from public usage except for its honorary position in the Jewish community to decorate our former mara d’asra. It’s a fitting honorific as a word that has done so much to service our community.
Dear ArtScroll: On behalf of yeshivah students everywhere, thank you for bringing this fabulous Latin word to the masses. Sure, we could have just been content with the phrase kal v’chomer, but once you’re already deploying Talmudic terminology in conversation, why not add some Latin alienation to intimidate your friends? If you’re willing to risk people not understanding you with Gemara concepts, then, a fortiori, why not double down and throw some Latin into the mix as well?
This BFF of Agudath Israel of America, meaning “friend of the court,” is the submission of a court briefing by someone who is not directly party to the legal matter. Amicus Curiae may not have been the coolest kid in high school, but he’s a loyal friend who has helped advocate for many important legal matters in the Jewish community. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you — you’re most likely pronouncing this friend’s name wrong.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 712)
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