(pronounced khutspe - like that really helps!)
By now everyone should know. You’d think. The throat-clearing word chutzpah is a Yiddish word recognizable or easily identifiable in English print. Along with words like shtik, maven, shlock, shmatta, shlemeil, nosh, kvetsh, goy, shiksha, oy, oy vey, oy gevalt, tuchis, shpiel, shlep, shmaltz, shmeer, and shmooz, chutzpah has horned in and settled into mass communication on the contemporary landscape. In popular writing and plain old one-on-one kibitzing and shmoozing, we find a weaving of Yinglish words and expressions that can be traced back to that era when Yiddish collided with the language of the New World, namely, American English. This linguistic collision resulted in some foinny, colorful combinations: Dotso, cockamamie, boo-boo, hoo ha, likewise, Look who’s talking? Sidonder. Big deal. Hau boy! It can’t hurt. Hokay. Could be. Get lost. So what? So sue me. That’s not chopped liver. Believe it or not, the usage of the imperative “Enjoy!” is a Yinglish concoction derived from Shepen naches!
Enough already. This you call a definition?
Chutzpah is unmitigated gall, audacity—as in you’ve gotta noive! And it’s all combined with moxy, savvy, inflection, gestures, irony, wit, and wits. It’s unbelievable self-confidence, startling effrontery, gumption, pluck, cheek, verve, brashness, presumption dished up with horseradish and onions. With our Chutzpah chili pepper, we suggest that chutzpah is Jewish salsa. Chutzpah is my claim to my inalienable right to assert myself and my beliefs without counting the cost because there isn’t a cost. Air is free, and everyone is entitled to my opinion.
Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law, reports that “chutzpah” has appeared in 112 reported [judicial] cases. Volokh’s explanation for this amusing yet amazing discovery, makes sense, especially since other Yiddish words have also found their way into published legal opinion: “Yiddish is quickly supplanting Latin as the spice in American legal argot.” Many thanks to Mr. Volokh for this great lawyer/chutzpah joke:
A man goes to a lawyer and asks:
Chutzpah is all of this and then some.