Vocabulary Word of the Day: Kibitzer
A word for Jews and card players alike
Back when I had ambitions to be eloquent, I started receiving Word of the Day e-mails from one of the many online dictionaries out there in the electronic firmament–that’s a synonym for the heavens…I think.
Years later, the e-mail still arrives every morning and I still immediately delete it because I am always too tired to care about self-improvement in the morning. But last week, I actually opened one because I wanted to see what the site had to say about the word kibitzer.
Kibitzer is a word I’ve ended up using a lot, mostly in the verb form, and so I was a little curious to see what the entry said. Here’s how it was defined:
kibitzer \KIB-it-ser\, noun:
1. A giver of uninvited or unwanted advice.
2. A spectator at a card game who looks at the players’ cards over their shoulders, especially one who gives unsolicited advice.
3. A person who jokes, chitchats, or makes wisecracks, especially while others are trying to work or to discuss something seriously.
Kibitzer entered English first in America in the 1920s. It comes from the Yiddish word kibetsn (equivalent to German kiebitzen) meaning “to look on at cards.”
As a person who personally and professionally fits the first and third definition, I knew them well. But I had never heard of the second definition, which involved playing cards and from which the word is derived.
A quick sojourn across the
electronic firmament internet led me to a figurine (pictured above) from an expired eBay auction.
Listed as “Vintage Japan Bisque Figural Match Holder Ashtray Kibitzer Card Players,” which is one ridiculously chalky description, the item itself was shipped from a place called Zionsville, Indiana.
What would someone pay for such a thing? You don’t have to be a kibitzer to find out. $31 plus five bucks shipping. A perfect double chai.