Was my grandmother calling me a cup of soup?
April 22, 2012 4:17 PM   Subscribe

What was my Bubbe saying when she said "Teppeleh zoft"?

My maternal grandmother was a first generation American Jew whose parents were born in Russia. I'm not sure how fluent she actually was in Yiddish. Though English was their first language, both my grandparents used language in a kind of . . . slapdash way (for instance, my grandmother told us for years that her middle name was Libby but it was actually Lillian) and so figuring out what the phrases they used actually meant can be kind of difficult.

When I was a child, my grandmother would kiss me on the neck and say something that sounded like "Teppeleh zoft" (pronunciation confirmed by my mother). She told us this meant "kiss on the neck" in Yiddish. Today I decided to google that phrase and came up dry. "Neck" is apparently something along the lines of "haldz"--which I suppose might sound like "zoft" if you squint. The closest hit to the overall phrase was "teppeleh zupp" which means . . . a cup of soup? Is that a colloquial phrase for a kiss on the neck in Yiddish? (sounds absurd, but then, my grandfather called us all "pupik"). If not, what might my grandmother have been saying?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My mom (her parents came from Russia & she grew up speaking Yiddish though doesn't speak it anymore) thinks teppeleh is a pot and zoft is soft. But, as she says, "that doesn't make sense." (I'm pretty sure I was called pupick at one point, too.)

But keppeleh is head, could it have been "soft head" maybe?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:28 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Zaftig means juicy. Little juice pot?
posted by brujita at 4:35 PM on April 22, 2012

Maybe it's the Yiddish version of "I could eat you up"
posted by brujita at 4:37 PM on April 22, 2012

I came to second keppeleh instead of teppeleh.
posted by rabidsegue at 5:11 PM on April 22, 2012

"Eleh" is the diminutive. "Juicy little head" does make more sense.
posted by brujita at 6:40 PM on April 22, 2012

Maybe "jam pot". Teppeleh (טעפּעלע) would be commonly used for a pot of coffee, I think--it's something small, not a big cooking vessel on your stove. A google search of zoft (זאָפֿט) brings up a mention of a usage in some regions meaning jam.
posted by Paquda at 7:11 AM on April 23, 2012

Or to put it more idiomatically 'jar of jam'.
posted by Paquda at 7:13 AM on April 23, 2012

Try emailing the Amherst Yiddish Book Center and asking them! http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/
posted by blue_bicycle at 12:03 PM on April 23, 2012

Also, the Yiddish -> English name situation was always a mess. My grandmother's name was Anglicized in ways that don't even make sense (ie. middle name of "Marian", which, like your grandmother's middle name of "Lillian" has no relationship to whatever it would have been in Yiddish). Your grandmother's middle name was probably something like "Lyuba", which some official someone or other at the hospital or naturalization office wrote as "Lillian", but everyone in her family knew it as "Libby".
posted by judith at 5:33 AM on April 27, 2012

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