BALLS, NERVE, AND חוצפה – Marilyn Armstrong

“You’re one tough broad,” my friend told me. I recognized this as a compliment. Maybe you have to come from New York or New Jersey to “get it,” but I got it. “Tough” includes brave, determined, and hard to kill. A survivor with חוצפה  (chutzpah).

I’ve heard “moxie” used in old British and American movies, mostly from the 1930s or 1940s, but it’s not what people say nowadays. In New York, if they don’t call it chutzpah, they would call it “nerve” or more accurately “noive” as in:


“Eh, buddy, you got a lot noive on youse.”


Another way to put it might be:


“That’s some set of balls ya got!”


This could as easily be referring to a woman as a man. “Balls” is no longer an inherently masculine attachment. I’m pretty sure I’ve got bigger balls than a lot of guys and whaddya wanna make of it, huh?

The best word is chutzpah (חוצפה). You need a good solid guttural on the “Het” (Hebrew: ח) because it’s a sound the English language lacks. Or, as we used to say back in ye olde Jerusalem:


“How’s your ח?


A good “het(ח) is half a throat-clearing with an “et” following the consonant. It’s where the letter “H” came from before English lost its gutturals. Words like “knight” used to have a guttural and the GH was pronounced as (ח). Look it up. English was a Germanic language loosely mixed with Celtic (which has gutturals) and French, which probably had them, but lost them to that back of the tongue rolling R.

Chutzpah doesn’t merely mean (as per the dictionary) “the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage, or aggressive energy and initiative.” It also means a willingness to stand up to potential danger and step out of your normal comfort zone and put it all out there, To not care whether or not you offend someone. Although it is not necessarily offensive, it is gutsy, determined, forthright, and assertive. And just a bit Jewish.

You do not need to be Jewish to display chutzpah but it helps. It certainly helps in the pronunciation. Some people are just like that.

It is an attitude, y’know? You got that?

So if you need to return that thing to the guy who did that other thing and you absolutely want your money back — no stupid restocking fees, either — moxie might do the job. But if you seriously need to get the job done?


Chutzpah. Gotta have it.


Trust me. I would never lie to you.



Categories: Humor, Marilyn Armstrong, Words

Tags: , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. It may be crude, but it’s always “balls,” or some other euphemism for that part, when I’m referring to chutzpah. When my cats have the audacity to annoy me when I don’t want to be annoyed, I tell them “you’ve got a lot of balls!” Which, of course, is very cruel since they are both neutered males…

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  2. Thanks for the lesson in fortitude. “Fortitude” might be the Mormon equivalent of chutzpah, without the same edge. I personally think a lot of women (older women in the majority, but there are young ones in there too) have bigger and brassier balls than any guy around. Just ask a guy. The older guys will quickly agree. 😛

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  3. Wow, what a lesson on this Saturday! I love the word chutzpah, hear and read it often and know exactly what it means, but it’s nice to READ it too, written in such an easy to understand way.
    And that cartoon – AND the text – mirrors 100% what I just wrote to the dealer who sold me all 29DVD discs of Brothers and Sisters and ALL of them are corrupted, a total theft, none is lisible and visible. And I gave them 5* for the quick sending to me…. but that’s not enough. Upon my complaint with photos and all, they ask me to return them to the sender in France, who would then send it to the English counterpart, which would then (maybe) pay me back the money I paid for this rubbish. The shipping costs would have to be claimed separately when the product FINALLY was credited and I again would have to write to them for the re-imbursement….. I was SO mad that my HH took the whole pack to the garbage dump this morning, just so that we don’t have to look at this aberration any more…. Money lost, nerves frayed, no chutzpah left.

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  4. No problem with the gutteral here. It seems to me that Swiss German is built on gutterals. The Germans would say “kein Ahnung” meaning no idea, but the Swiss “chei Arnig” with a gutteral Ch and “G” at the end of Arnig. We need a hell of a lot of saliva to speak the dialict.

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