Yiddish word of the week | Hock–האַק


Rabbi Ben Newman, Special to the Jewish Light


Literally: Don’t knock a tea kettle.

To bother incessantly, to break, or nag from “hokn a chaynik”– “to knock a teakettle.”

Hock mir nisht kein tshainik-  האַק מיר נישט קיין טשײַניק

Aside from the metaphor of the subject of the epithet, making meaningless noise as if he/she were banging on a teakettle, the phrase gains from the imagery of the lid of a teakettle full of boiling water “moving up and down, banging against the kettle like a jaw in full flap, clanging and banging and signifying nothing”; ironically, the less the contents, the louder and more annoying the noise.

The phrase became familiar to many Americans without contact with Yiddish speakers by appearing in two popular Three Stooges short films. In one, Moe announces he is going to the hockshop and Larry replies “While you’re there, hock me a tshaynik“; in the other, Larry, disguised as a Chinese laundryman, pretending to speak Chinese utters a stream of Yiddish doubletalk  ending with “Hak mir nisht keyn tshaynik, and I don’t mean efsher (maybe)!” The phrase has become relatively common in English in half-translated forms such as “Don’t hock my chainik”, to the point where shortened versions of the phrase, such as “You don’t have to hock me about it!” proliferate on TV and the movies, particularly where the speaker is intended to represent a resident of NYC even if not Jewish.

e.g.- Q: “Ben, did you take the garbage out yet?”

A: “This is the hundredth time you’ve asked me that– don’t hock me a chainik!!!”