Word of the Week: Chutzpe [ˈxʊt͡spə]

Noun. Audacity, nerve, boldness, outrageousness. Orig. A loanword from Yiddish which has also made its way into the English vernacular (particularly around New York), albeit more commonly spelled as “chutzpah.”

As with many expressions, its precise meaning tends to shift according to context: When used appreciatively, Chutzpe is synonymous to “guts,” “moxie,” “spunk” and cocky self-confidence. However, when uttered darkly, it connotes “impertinence,” “disrespect” and general “shamelessness.”

One recent example of the latter comes from Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who defended himself from allegations of cronyism in Parliament on Mar 30, 2021 by calling out the the Social Democrats (SPÖ) in particular for “a certain Chutzpe,” as they were themselves involved in the decision process they were now criticizing. And furthermore, the Chancellor went on, they have a rather extensive track record of appointing party loyalists, in-laws and insiders to lofty positions. But hey: It’s all in the family!

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