What’s Nu for the New Year?
FYY (For Your Yiddishkeit*)
If a Jewish person should say to you, Nu?” she isn’t asking how long you’ve had your jacket.
“Nu” is an amazing little Jewish word that can mean a great many things, 19 in fact, according to Leo Rosten in his book The Joys of Yiddish.
Nu, which rhymes with true, is most often put in the form of a question. Think of it as the Jewish way to say, “Well?” or “So?”
If someone has a long pause in a conversation, to speed along the response, you can say, “Nu?”
Or if it’s been a while since you’ve seen your Jewish friend, all you have to ask is, “Nu?” and it’s understood you want to know what’s up since you last chatted.
Further, if you are looking for a response regarding a sensitive subject and you don’t want to be too confrontational, this word also comes in handy: “Okay, so you say I’ve answered all your questions about Jesus…nu?” (This one is best with a slight shrug of the shoulders and you can raise your eyebrows a bit.)
However, if you want to be a little more confrontational, nu is still a good word: “Hey neighbor, you remember the lawnmower you were going to return to me last week-nu?” Instead of shrugging your shoulders, try emphasizing the nu by sticking your neck out as you say it, and raise your eyebrows as high as you want. (Either you’ll get your lawnmower back very soon or you’ll never see your neighbor again.)
Nu is a great word and if you have Jewish friends you can surprise and delight them by dropping it now and then in conversation.