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Chutzpah [ xʊtspə ], even chutzpah (from the Yiddish חוצפה [chutzpah] of Hebrew חֻצְפָּה [chutzpah] for " insolence , arrogance , audacity borrowed insolence") is a mix of targeted, intelligent insolence, charming penetrance and irresistible audacity.

Differences in rating

In Hebrew, the term contains a negative evaluation for someone who transgresses the boundaries of politeness or propriety for selfish reasons. In Yiddish and in most European languages, there is an appreciation for some form of social fearlessness. Here we speak of chutzpah in particular, when someone is brazenly trying to get something out of it in an actually lost situation.


The meaning can be illustrated by examples.

The dialogue between the beggar Nachum (in everyday Yiddish language Reb is the salutation for an Orthodox Jew) and the wealthy butcher Lazar Wolf in the musical Anatevka is often quoted (where the naming of the beggar from Chutzpah already shows: The one as "Reb Nachum "known Nachum Kaplan was an important scribe of the Jewish tradition):

Nachum: "A mild gift, Lord, a mild gift please!"
Lazar: "There, Reb Nachum, you have a kopeck ."
Nachum: “Waaas, just a kopeck? You gave me two last week. "
Lazar: "Ooj ..., I had a bad week."
Nachum: "How, if you have a bad week, should I suffer from it?"

Another example of chutzpah is the story of the man who kills his father and mother and then asks the judge for mitigating circumstances because he is an orphan.

A Jewish joke defines and illustrates chutzpah like this:

A Jew is being sued for libel. He accused someone of chutzpah . However, the judge does not even know the word and asks the Jew to explain it.
The Jew initially declares the term untranslatable. Finally he declares himself ready to translate chutzpah as "cheek". "However," he adds, "it is not ordinary cheek, but cheek with tricks."
The judge: "What is Gewure?"
"Gewure - that is power."
"So chutzpah is a strong cheek?"
"Yes and no. Gewure is not just strength, but strength with an armor. "
"And what is Ssechel?"
"Ssechel - that's mind."
"So chutzpah is a strong, intelligent cheek."
"Yes and no. Ssechel is not just mind, but mind with Taam. "
"Nice - and what is Taam *?"
"Yes, you see, Mr. Richter: Taam is just something that can not be explained to a god ."
* "Taste, nuance, charm, cut"
** "Heathen, non-Jew (derogative)"

Chutzpah in the movie

The epitome of chutzpah is provided by Hans Albers with his exaggerated idea of ​​an investigator who pretends to be Sherlock Holmes in the comedy The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes .

Another example of chutzpah is the insane insolence of the “ Captain of Köpenick ”, who disguised himself as a captain in order to arrest the mayor of Köpenick and to confiscate the city treasury. Based on a true story, the film Der Hauptmann von Köpenick became famous, with the main hero portrayed by Heinz Rühmann u. a.

Web links

Wiktionary: Chutzpah  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Fritz Graf: Myth in a mythless society . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, p. 247, footnote 71 .
  2. NAHUM B. UZZIEL KAPLAN (Reb Nahum Grodner) - Retrieved May 28, 2020 .
  3. Jewish jokes. Selected and introduced by Salcia Landmann . Walter, Olten 1962 (extended paperback edition: DTV, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-423-21017-1 )