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What is a Mensch?

Discussion in 'General Entrepreneur Discussion' started by Russ H, Oct 4, 2007.

  1. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    I'm not Jewish, but as a writer, I have a great respect for language.

    Occasionally, I discover a word and get to know its meaning, but rarely have a chance to use it.

    Here's an example of one of those times.

    I post it here because it says a lot about how people can choose to do business.

    I hope you enjoy it.

    -Russ H.

    mensch or mensh
    from the American Heritage Dictionary:
    n. pl. mensch·es or mensch·en Informal
    A person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose.

    [Yiddish, human being, mensch, from Middle High German, human being, from Old High German mennisco; see man-1 in Indo-European roots.]


    **********

    I did a small amount of work for the President of MTV about 10 years ago.

    He called me to ask a few questions (I remember being in an airport in Australia at the time, and thinking about how surreal my life had become, sitting there talking w/the head of MTV on the other side of the world).

    He said that due to construction issues and such, they were not going to be able to use my engineering (I had made some suggestions/done some engineering drawings that could not be integrated without going back to the city for plan review, and this would delay his project for months).

    Since I had not entered into a contract with him, I didn't feel right about charging him for work he was not going to use (I had done the work as a rush job, since I was heading out the door to Australia when it hit my desk).

    Still, he asked me, "How much time did you put into this? I want to pay you."

    After joking around for a bit, I told him that if he paid me, I would be contractually liable for any work that might be done on his house. And that a letter from his atty telling me that they would never hold me responsible would be the nicest thing he could give me, in lieau of payment (since I was, in effect, stopping work before the job was finished).

    He laughed and said that if I was serious (I was), that this was no problem at all.

    "But I want to do something for you. You've been a great guy, and you deserve to get something for what you've done."

    So I asked for a personal recommendation, on MTV letterhead.

    He said, "That's it!?" I said, "Yep."

    When I got home from Australia, there were 2 Fed Exs waiting for me from him.

    In one was the letter of recommendation, on MTV letterhead, as promised.

    In the other, was a letter drawn up by his atty, signed by him, releasing me of any and all responsiblities.

    And paper clipped to the release was a check, for $10,000. With a post-it:

    "Thanks for all your help. Have lunch on me."

    I called his office and asked for him. When he came on the line, I said, "I just wanted to thank you. And tell you that I think you're a mensch."

    He laughed and said, "You're very welcome. You should know that the reason I did this was that I consider *you* a mensch."

    I considered that a great compliment.

    He asked me to give him a call the next time I was in New York, and we signed off.

    ******
     
  2. AroundTheWorld
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    AroundTheWorld Be in the Moment Speedway Pass

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    Great Story Russ.

    I would much rather live my life that way then refusing to sit with my back to the door. If you treat people well - - what fulfilling relationships you will have. What a fulfilling life you will lead.

    At the end of the day - that is what you will take with you.
     
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  3. randallg99
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    randallg99 Bronze Contributor

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    better than being a schmuck. heh.
     
  4. LightHouse
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    LightHouse Legendary Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR Summit Attendee

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    I acctually read this post, laughed out loud, exited the forum, then continued laughing and came back in just to write this post. For some reason this was funny as anything to me.

    Good story russ, good find as well. Some not knowing the meaning could mis-interpret that word although.
     
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  5. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    bump.

    -Russ H.
     
  6. SaraK
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    SaraK Contributor

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    Thanks for the definition and the story Russ. For some reason I always thought mensch was a negative term. Glad I know better now!
     
  7. randallg99
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    randallg99 Bronze Contributor

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    schmuck is a supposed to be a very derogatory term, lol.


    it's negative if the connotation is associated with being a pushover.... depends what context it's being used in.

    example, he took extra time to spend with his kids, he's such a mensch. (good context).... he ended up doing the job himself because his employees didn't listen and he's too much of a mensch....

    here's another yiddush word that I use a lot:

    FARMISHT... basically means confused, or airheaded. In most cases, it really means "screwed up to the nth degree"

    he talks in circles, he's all farmisht.
    or he's really farmisht.
     
  8. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Wow, a new word for me. Always a good day when that happens! :tiphat:

    Randall, I went to school at University of Michigan-- where the campus paper was called "Michigas" (a play on "mishegas".

    I had to have it explained to me. :rolleyes:

    But that was my intro to a lifelong love of words from other cultures used in the English language.

    BTW, in looking up the correct spelling of "mishegas", I saw mensch spelled as "mentch".

    Is one more correct, or are both?

    -Russ H.
     
  9. Bobo
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    Bobo Bronze Contributor

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    Russ, I think we are all pretty much agreed that you are one as well :)
     
  10. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Thanks, Bobo. :tiphat:

    Hey wait . . did you mean I'm a mensch, or meshugana?

    ( I've been called both-- and happily answer to either one :) )

    As long as I'm not a putz!

    -Russ H.
     
  11. randallg99
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    randallg99 Bronze Contributor

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    even I learned something today. I never knew there was a difference btwn meshuge and mesheguner....
    Yiddish Dictionary Online ייִדיש װערטערבוך ×Âַפֿן װעב

    when it comes to spelling yiddish, you're asking the wrong guy- I have a hard enough time spelling english.

    BUT, I can tell you one of my peeves is the butchering of English by pure bred americans! and to alls of you'se:

    "cockamun!"

    teachers don't spend enough time differentiating these words:

    they're
    their
    there

    two
    to
    too

    here
    hear
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2010
  12. randallg99
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    randallg99 Bronze Contributor

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    by the way, I can't find "cockamun" anywhere in the yiddish dictionary. I'll do some investigating and ask around.

    but it basically means: go take a shit in the woods....

    nice ring to it, huh?
     
  13. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    kakn (to defacate)

    in (in)

    . . . that's where it ends. I can't find any references to "forest" that start w/ "m" (just wald and tayge)

    Could it be a derivation of Kockamayme?

    -Russ H.
     
  14. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    other language favorites:

    Had an English friend. Loved to use expressions from her locale. She'd say things like:

    "Went out last night and got squiffy. Woke up this morning and my head was like a box of frogs"

    (needs no translation!)

    Or:

    "Quit your wingeing!" (stop whining)

    I love language . . . :)

    -Russ H.
     
  15. Bobo
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    Bobo Bronze Contributor

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    Russ - get me drunk sometime. I have a whole dictionary of words that I invented for situations where the available descriptive phrases didn't suit my needs. You've seen a few :)
     
  16. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    I do admire the ones I've seen you use thus far.

    I'll see if I can bring some of that red stuff for this year's meetup (we seem to have a lot of it around here) :cheers:

    -Russ H.
     
  17. Rawr
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    Rawr Gold Contributor Speedway Pass

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    Great story.


    Here is the one I am trying to figure out.

    last names like Johnson, Petereson, the son part is fairly obvious.

    Now, how about Goldberg, Rozenberg - what is "berg"

    and now Russian - Ivanon, Petrov, "ov" - meaning what?

    does anyone know?
     
  18. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Not all the answers for Goldberg, but a start:

    German Surname Meanings & Origins - Last Names From Germany - Top 50 German Surnames

    "ov" is the Russian equivalent of "son" (Petrov = Peterson):

    Russian Russian Names Find Out Where Some Slavic Names Come From!

    -Russ H.
     
  19. Rawr
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    Rawr Gold Contributor Speedway Pass

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  20. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Rawr:

    You are Russian, so I would always assume that you know more about this than I will ever know.

    In fact, I've learned more today about Patronymics and the similarities of "ov", "off", "ovich", "ovina" than ever!

    Here's some more info. Not sure if it helps:

    Source:

    Names in the Russian Empire, Soviet Union and CIS countries - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    -Russ H.
     
  21. Rawr
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    Rawr Gold Contributor Speedway Pass

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    Ok here is what would make sense - the "ov" is not son per se, it is more of a possession type deal.

    where John-son obviously means son, -ev would imply ownership and -ov could be labeled under it as well. It could mean being a member of a clan (family) and thus they have the possession of your name so to speak.

    I will add that Ukrainian is a lot lazier language comparing to Russian, in a lot of instances what you say is the way you feel or sound you'd make, so it is "lazy" phonetically and complexity wise. Since everything started from Slavs (Ukraine area) it would make sense that this type of language would affect the origins of names.
     
  22. Cat Man Du
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    Cat Man Du Contributor

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    Back to topic.

    Since I’m the one who first used this word in the “ Mentor Thread” .

    I’ll tell you how I first heard this word and what it meant to me.

    Back in my gym days, I met one of our company's lawyers..... He was the typical type that you expect him to be.......................He looked just like a company attorney would.

    He was, also, one of brightest men I have known................and yes he was Jewish.

    While he was a wiz in business.........................He was a strike-out with the ladies.

    We use to go out together after work and socialize ................. He would get me to introduce him to the girls and help him land a date.

    As I say he was Jewish................and one night he told me that “ I was a mensch “ Well I thought that this was a derogatory term and called him on it.

    He explained the meaning...............same as stated previously.

    I asked him why he thought that this applied to me.

    He said that while I looked like I could be the beach bully.....................

    I didn’t have the kill-shot in me.

    Even though I could handle myself..................... I would never keep the upper-hand because I could not bring myself to push the dagger in for the kill.

    I wonder ............................ I wonder...............
     
  23. Russ H
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    Russ H Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    Which definition? The good one, or the "pushover" one?

    Not sure how the "good" definition connotes weakness (as your explanation above). It sure hasn't from the folks who have called me this-- they were businesspeople telling me I was a stand-up guy.

    (FYI, this thread was started back in Oct 2007. I just bumped it up when it came up in the Mentor thread) :)

    -Russ H.
     
  24. Cat Man Du
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    Cat Man Du Contributor

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    The good one.

    Not being able to use the KILL-SHOT doesn't mean you're weak...........It just means
    that you don't have that kind of personality.

    He did...................I watched him in meetings................. He could rip your guts out.....verbally.

    More damage than I could ever do physically.

    He was the kind of guy that would stomp your head in ...while you were lying unconscious.

    I missed that this was your older thread, Thanks, RUSS.
     

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