Q: My daughter is now a Shakespeare professor. She credits me for her love of language, which gives me nakhes. You know that Yiddishism, I assume?
A: Yes, but I’ve usually seen it spelled naches. I love Leo Rosten’s advice on how to pronounce it: like a Scot would pronounce “Loch Ness” (more or less).
It means, as you know, proud pleasure, particularly that special joy a parent gets from the achievements of a child.
The linguist James A. Matisoff describes naches (he spelled is nakhes like you) as “one of the richest of all life’s treasures.” He says it’s “a peculiarly Jewish concept that is as hard to render in English as Chinese xiào (which usually gets translated as ‘filial piety’).”
Matisoff, in his book Blessings, Curses, Hopes, and Fears: Psycho-Ostensive Expressions in Yiddish, discusses the kind of childhood accomplishments that can give a parent pleasure:
“As far as nakhes-providing potential goes, anything may be an ‘accomplishment’ (growing one’s permanent teeth, becoming bar-mitsve, marrying a Jewish spouse, playing the violin for company, etc.).”
A Shakespeare professor, that’s an accomplishment. Mazel tov!
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