"Bubkes" in a humorous political commentary

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Tue Feb 3 15:26:09 UTC 2004

   A foreign word appropriately used in English can sometimes convey
greater force than the corresponding English term. For example,if a
writer says that something is "verboten" (strengthened further by
having it appear in italics) this is intended to carry more force
than merely saying "forbidden."

    Similarly, Spanish "nada" can be used emphatically in place of "nothing."
Which brings me to an Irishman's use of Yiddish "bubkes" (= "nothing)
in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2004, p. B3/2;
article title: "Is This Heaven? No, It's Stupid Iowa,", by Kevin
  "...If it was me,... I'd be flipping the channels on the TV, saying,
'Darned if I'm going to watch Stephanapolous.  I gave the kid his
start and now he's got his own show and what do I have? Bubkes.'"

    "Bubkes" doesn't really exist in English, although I've heard
Judge Judy use it occasionally (clear by context to everyone in the
courtroom). So Horrigan chose this foreign word over "Nothing" and
even the somewhat familiar "Nada."
No doubt there's a humorous overlay to his using it--appropriate in a
humorous political commentary.

     Clearly the full stylistic range of a cultured native speaker of
English includes not only high-styled speech but slang and apparently
also foreign elements.

Gerald Cohen

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