I have a habit of picking up other people's expressions, ways of speaking, and turns of phrase. Especially so if they were from another language. Since moving to New York, especially, a number of Yiddish expressions have crept into my vocabulary. It's been a source of some hilarity for people sometimes; I'm very obviously not Jewish -- my given name just screams "WASP" -- and yet I will pepper my speech with words like "tuchus" and "bupkis" and "schmear" and "mensch".
But what I've also found is: if you speak the language a guy isn't expecting you to know, this is a good flirting tactic.
On one of my first dates with an old boyfriend, we were making small talk before dinner. Michael had mentioned he was Jewish; I had already mentioned I wasn't. And so when I was talking about something ridiculous that had happened at work, and blurted out that it was "mishegas" -- the Yiddish word for "nonsense" or "craziness" -- he nearly did a spit-take.
I smiled at his surprise, and decided to take it even further. "Yes," I said, "you did indeed just hear a shiksa say 'mischegas'." His eyes got even bigger. ...And the evening took a much more interesting turn.
Several months later we were telling the story of our first date to a mutual friend and I remarked that I'd impressed him by having used "mishegas." "It wasn't just that," he added -- "it was that you'd used the word 'mishegas' correctly."
I got an even stronger reaction ten years earlier, when my then-boyfriend Richard -- also Jewish -- and I were on a weekend getaway together. One of the things Richard liked to tease me about was how WASPY I was -- he sometimes called me Annie Hall. (He, of course, was Alfie.) It was our last day in the hotel, and he was brushing his teeth in the hotel bathroom while I was packing my things. I was having a hard time finding one of my earrings, and had just unpacked and repacked three of my bags looking for it, and had just unsuccessfully searched under the bed as well. Frustrated, I groaned out a very heartfelt "Oy vey iz mir!"
A moment later, Richard came walking slowly out of the bathroom, toothbrush hanging out of his mouth, and staring at me wide-eyed. "What did I just hear you say?" he said, shocked. I first explained my frustration; then explained I'd picked it up from a director I'd worked with. But Richard wasn't really listening. He was just giving me an awestruck, dazzled -- and somewhat lusty -- look.
We delayed our checkout a bit longer.
I'm single these days - Richard and I are still friends, and the guy who was enchanted by "mishegas" turned out to be, well, a schmuck -- but recently started developing a bit of a crush on someone I see in my neighborhood. This someone is Irish.
...And I just so happen to know a bit of Irish. So the next time he picks up something I've dropped or passes me a napkin or something, I'm going to try saying "go raibh maith agat"; we'll see what happens then.