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Kapish? Options
pjharvey
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 5:18:14 AM
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I was just reading Hope1's last answer to rogermue's post "on one's own", and was hit by the word "Kapish".
Hope1 or anyone else, can you please explain where it comes from?
It makes me think of a parody of Italian: in Italian we say "capisci?" meaning "do you understand?" and the sound is very similar to the English pronounciation of "Kapish?".
In German it would be "verstehst du", or "verstanden", right?
But it is "Kapish?" that I am curious about.

And please, do correct any mistakes of mine, I would very much appreciate it.
Ray41
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 6:47:16 AM

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Kapish or Kapeesh is the Anglicized [AE] form of "do you understand" as used by the Italian/Sicilian community[Mafia?].
So, pjharvey, you are correct in your thinking that it came from "capisci".

kapish;
kapish is formally spelled as capisce (pronounced as cah-peesh) which is derived from the Italian word capire "to understand" and from Latin capere "to grasp or to seize".

It is now used in American slang to say "got it" or "understand."

common alternative spellings you might encounter are capice, capicé, capiche, capeesh, capisch, capishe and coppish.

EG: teacher: everyone shut up otherwise you will all be in detention, kapish?
*********************************************************************************

Your post is well written, I can see nothing that warrants correction,Applause
pjharvey
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 7:04:15 AM
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Thank you, Ray41, your answer is very comprehensive.

But again, it makes me reflect: why is "kapish" formally spelled as "capisce" and not "capisci", which is the original (Italian) spelling?

And - do Americans take it as coming from German, and not Italian? I ask this because of some of the spelling forms ("capisch", and "kapish" itself), which resemble the German spelling and not the Italian one, and also because Hope1 used it in replying to rogermue.

In any case, I didn't know about this expression before (I have no contacts with Americans except on this forum) and I find it very interesting.

Is it so common in British English too?
thar
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 7:28:48 AM

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the spelling is (I think) making a joke of the fact that you are using an Italian word while you are not Italian, cannot speak Italian and are not a gangster. Sort of making fun of yourself before other people do.

An American of Italian ancestry (mafia or not) could use or be written as using the Italian spelling. The point is, as it is used here, it is not an Italian word, it is its distant, bastardised, mispronounced relation, so it has to be spelt differently. That would be my opinion.

Not very commonly used, in BE (certainly not fashionable) but it would be understood.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 7:29:13 AM

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It's probably fairly common among people who watch gangster films, or have contact with others who do.

I've heard it in films, I think mostly spoken by someone with an American-Italian background, always pronounced "capisce" (kapeesh). I've only ever heard it as a questioning ending to a statement.

"You do what I say, or you die. Capisce?"
srirr
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 7:36:29 AM

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Sorry to derail the thread, but when I saw the title I taught it to be absolutely Indian.
Kapish or Kapeesh means God of monkeys or God with the face of a monkey. It is synonym of great Hindu God Hanuman.
Ray41
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 7:57:50 AM

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I think that the reason for the spelling is that to a non Italian speaking person, capisce would be spelt as it sounds, phonetically.
So we get 'cah-peesh' pronounced as 'kapeesh', spelt as 'kapeesh'. Kapeesh? Eh?


Saw the Indian version awhile back srirr when looking up, of all subjects, 'baby names and their meaning'. The person thought 'Kapeesha' was a good name for a little girl,Anxious and no, they didn't use it for their daughter.
Marissa La Faye Isolde
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 8:14:16 AM
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I wanted to say that the word is Yiddish because I recall hearing it spoken by Polish people I knew who used many Yiddish words and phrases. But after looking it up, I didn't find any references to this. Being that, at the time I am speaking about, there were many small ethnic neighborhoods next to one another, and the Italians were 'next door' to the Poles, I can see how their words 'co-mingled.' I thought everyone's explanations were very interesting. I especially liked srirr's Indian definition because of the link between the words God and man.
pjharvey
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 8:59:42 AM
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Then maybe it is an Italian-derived word used first in Germany (and that would be a reason for some of the spelling forms, and also for the fact that it might be used in Yiddish) and then imported into the US by the emigrants?

I wanted to point out that the Italian pronounciation is different from how an English-speaking person can imagine it: we, like the Germans, do pronounce the final vowel ("capisci" could be spelled kapeeshy in English, but I wouldn't know how to spell the final "e" in "capisce", I can think of no similar ending sound in English - perhaps someone can?).

And - thanks to you all for your interesting answers.
Hope1
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 9:33:52 AM
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When I have time, I enjoy watching the comedians Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar on 'The View', a program on TV. (If it is a topic I am not interested in, like reality TV, I just fast forward the recording). Joy Behar is Italian and she uses 'Kapish' all the time. That is where I picked it up. It just wrote itself in the thread to Roger. I must have seen it written somewhere because that is how I spelled it.

Joy Behar is also married to, I believe, a Jewish man. But I am pretty sure she said one day 'Kapish' is Italian. (She makes a neat gesture with the back of her hand under and out from her chin too, in Italian fashion. I believe it is equivalent to our third finger?)
pjharvey
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 9:46:15 AM
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Hope1, the Italian equivalent is "capisci?" ("Do you understand?") and it is pronounced "kapeeshy?".
She is NOT Italian!
And also the strange gesture - it is strange to me too, I am not even sure if I understand your explanation of it.
The Italian equivalent to the third finger is closing your left fist and at the same time folding your left arm so that arm and forearm make a right angle and violently hitting your left elbow hollow with the palm of your right hand. Do I make myself understood? Do you do the same?
But we often use the third finger too (especially when driving, because the other gesture would be too dangerous Dancing ...).
leonAzul
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 11:07:33 AM

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Hope1 wrote:
When I have time, I enjoy watching the comedians Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar on 'The View', a program on TV. (If it is a topic I am not interested in, like reality TV, I just fast forward the recording). Joy Behar is Italian and she uses 'Kapish' all the time. That is where I picked it up. It just wrote itself in the thread to Roger. I must have seen it written somewhere because that is how I spelled it.


It is definitely Sicilian in origin. A feature of that dialect is that many endings are dropped in speech. I believe it entered the general vocabulary in the USA as "capisce" during the 1930s in reference to mafiosi.

Google Trends indicates that the spelling "kapish" is a relatively new development and in the minority compared to "capisce"

Hope1 wrote:

Joy Behar is also married to, I believe, a Jewish man. But I am pretty sure she said one day 'Kapish' is Italian. (She makes a neat gesture with the back of her hand under and out from her chin too, in Italian fashion. I believe it is equivalent to our third finger?)


That expression "from the throat" is a similar expression of contempt, but not as strong. It is conjectured to have originally meant "tweak your beard".

Several gestures showing the back of the hand, including a solo index finger and a "reversed V," are equivalent to "the fickle finger of fate".
leonAzul
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 11:29:40 AM

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pjharvey wrote:

The Italian equivalent to the third finger is closing your left fist and at the same time folding your left arm so that arm and forearm make a right angle and violently hitting your left elbow hollow with the palm of your right hand. Do I make myself understood? Do you do the same?


Aha, il braccio, a very ancient expression of contempt seen in many cultures. Variations include slapping the upper arm (humerus), or even the shoulder, and "opening the hand" for greater "impact".

Its significance might euphemistically be expressed in the following riddle:

What would you have if your onager ate the claws off of my rooster?
Hope1
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 11:48:21 AM
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Why do you say Joy is not an Italian American?, pj?

I have heard her say many times she is. She talks about her Italian family, and aunts and uncles. She brings her special Italian recipes to the set.

She also has said many times people think she is Jewish. (She could be both but is not Jewish.) She just married her sweetheart of almost thirty years and he is a Jewish retired teacher.

Leon has described the gesture I meant for you.

I really know nothing about Italian spelling. I am from Canada and would spell it whatever way I would have seen it written. Or maybe I just spelled it as it sounds- kapeesh.

There is also a software company called Kapish.
Hope1
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 11:51:10 AM
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Leon -


What would you have if your onager ate the claws off of my rooster?

What WOULD you have?


rogermue
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 12:12:22 PM

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pjharvey wrote:
Thank you, Ray41, your answer is very comprehensive.

But again, it makes me reflect: why is "kapish" formally spelled as "capisce" and not "capisci", which is the original (Italian) spelling?

And - do Americans take it as coming from German, and not Italian? I ask this because of some of the spelling forms ("capisch", and "kapish" itself), which resemble the German spelling and not the Italian one, and also because Hope1 used it in replying to rogermue.

In any case, I didn't know about this expression before (I have no contacts with Americans except on this forum) and I find it very interesting.

Is it so common in British English too?

---
We have no Kapish in German. I think the various spellings, especially the one with k are used to cover up that it is imitating Italian. They are so quick in taking hold of something foreign, in the States and elsewhere.

PS By the way, I understood Hope1's Kapish immediately, though I have never heard it in English. But I have a basic knowledge of Italian and know 'capisci?'.
jcbarros
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 12:30:11 PM

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Make it look like an accident, capisci? ;)
leonAzul
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 1:33:35 PM

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Hope1 wrote:
Leon -


What would you have if your onager ate the claws off of my rooster?

What WOULD you have?



Hint: What is now inside the onager?
GeorgeV
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 4:09:16 PM
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Spelling and pronounciation may not adhere to the original in word borrowed from the plethora of languages of immigrants. The occasional spelling of kapisch was probably more exotic/foreign to the first speller in that form.

At one time I was infuriated when seeing the names of foreign dishes misspelled on chalk-written boards featuring Daily specials (or even printed menus) in restaurants. "They should not serve it, if they can't spell it." Eventually I realized that it is unreasonable to expect everyone to to be familiar with the spelling rules of every language.

Then bruschetta became a standard to N. America. The sch combination has been already recognizable from German,
so brew-SHet-ah is the way it's pronounced.

Fine. One can't expect the original - outlandish - pronounciation of foreign words.
But asphalt has been around for ages, and sweeping pronounciation is ash-falt!
So, Dear Readers in Foreign Land, don't ask why.

Even official versions of foreign words could be questioned in different countries, but there obviously was a specific consideration to decide according to local standards. Why, in Italy the standard transcription and pronounciation is Eltsin, while it should be Ieltsin. (If only they had asked me at the time.)
excaelis
Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 8:45:43 PM

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George, as a former restaurant owner I absolutely expect that menu items be spelled correctly. Attention to detail is a duty.
thar
Posted: Saturday, May 5, 2012 12:57:31 PM

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Of course, in the cause of serendipetous interlinking of threads, the alternative spelling would be "geddit?"
jacobusmaximus
Posted: Saturday, May 5, 2012 1:48:45 PM

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I always thought that 'kapish' came into our language from British soldiers in WW2 who fought, captured, or were captured by the Italian Army in the African Desert. 'Shufti' came from the same theatre.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, May 5, 2012 11:07:14 PM
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Jacob -

I think you'll find Coop could help more with the derivation of 'shufti'!
rogermue
Posted: Sunday, May 6, 2012 2:47:44 AM

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I had to look up 'shufti' as I have never heard it. TFD doesn't have it. But UrbanDic (recommended by Romany, I think) has it - and it's a very good entry.

It's Arbic and 'shufti' means 'Look!' - an expression used by Arab peddlars who tried to sell dirty pictures to soldiers.
The artice in UrbanDic is worth reading.

UrbanDic: Shufti!

PS I think the UrbanDic should have the note: dated. I don't think that 'Shufti! today is understood by everyone.
pjharvey
Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012 4:16:06 AM
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Sorry, Hope1, if I answer only now, but I have no access to this computer at weekends.

I said that Joy Behar is not Italian - I meant that the gesture she makes is not Italian and that her pronounciation of "capisci?" is not Italian.
But she may very well be of Italian origin, as far as I know.

Only I'd be very curious about her Italian recipes. Won't you mind to write down any?

Romany
Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012 5:46:17 AM
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Roger - I don't think shufti is dated - especially if it appears in the UrbanDic! A quick sufti round the office here revealed that BE speakers from ages 23 to me all understood, and occasionally use, the word.

ps. Yeah, I was just being daft when I said that Coop could probably help. What I meant was that it had been cited above as Italian but Coop, who is (are?) Arabic speaking, would be able to understand it better than pjharvey, who is Italian speaking.
Romany
Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012 5:46:23 AM
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Roger - I don't think shufti is dated - especially if it appears in the UrbanDic! A quick shufti round the office here revealed that BE speakers from ages 23 to me all understood, and occasionally use, the word.

ps. Yeah, I was just being daft when I said that Coop could probably help. What I meant was that it had been cited above as Italian but Coop, who is (are?) Arabic speaking, would be able to understand it better than pjharvey, who is Italian speaking.
rogermue
Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012 2:50:55 PM

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Thanks, Romany, for the additional information about 'shufti'.
Well, I thought that an Arabic word used in WWII for drawing soldiers' attention to something, might be known among soldiers. But the war ended about 60 years ago and I guessed that such a special expression would have become obsolete in the meantime. So I'm really astonished that a lot of people still know the word 'shufti'.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 12:56:09 AM
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Roger - it might have been popularised in WW2 but it was in use before that. Just as the reaches of the British Empire (please stand to attention and sing Rule Britannia) brought into popular use words such as potato, shampoo, Boer, etc. so did shufti enter the language.

Many words which entered English via WW2 did stay permanently. Consider flak,goon, tannoy, ammo, intercom, black out,clueless,goon...that's just off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's really tons.
rogermue
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 1:35:55 AM

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Oh, Romany, you have drawn my attention to a very interesting vocabulary niche. I'm going to study those words I don't know. - I like especially the word 'shufty' because of its exotic story (as told in Urban Dic) and the funny
association with German (Du Schuft), which has a totally different meaning (rogue, villain).
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 3:21:37 AM
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Yes - it's fun exploring those unusual little backwaters that often go unoticed in the vast stream of language, isn't it?

Glad to have been able to pique your interest.
Ray41
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 7:04:09 AM

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The biggest problem is that the 'words' and 'language' my father picked up from WW2 overseas service would be considered either racialist, or politically incorrect in this day and age,Think
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 11:46:00 AM

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You mean things like "punkawallah" - though that's not really racial, more a class thing.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 1:04:47 PM
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'ere - who you calling class-conscious, matey?

I grew up surrounded by punka wallahs and dhobi wallahs and I can't remember ever thinking that 'wallah' was a derogatory term. It just was another word for 'bloke' as far as I was concerned.

I find it rather fascinating though to recollect that miles away, across the oceans in Port Moresby (PNG)I subsequently made friends with the punkah wallahs in Steamships large department store! Air conditioning wasn't installed there until the 70's after I'd left school. Having been familiar with punkahs since infancy I never understood why the passengers from American tourist ships used to come and take photos of them and thought it was because of the florid (and rather crudely executed) pictures of elephants and tigers etc. that were painted on them.(Elephants and tigers, of course, do not exist in PNG).

Wasn't until years later that I realised how retro it must have seemed to visitors from other worlds! And also ruminated on how on earth Indian punkahs made their way to Papua New Guinea - and kept their name and the designation of the young boys who used to slump against the walls pulling their ropes.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 1:20:18 PM
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Roger -
here's another Arabic one that might interest you. Another thing I grew up thinking was that "fellow" wasn't a good word to use. This was because I was convinced it was the short form of "Fellahin" (sp?) the Arabic word for people technically but, more specifically, peasant people. But of course, much later I learned that "fellow" has a completely different derivation dating back to the 16th century.

But one day when I was laughingly dismissing my childish thoughts to my father he told me that, in WW2, many of the Allied troops did, deliberately, pronounce the word with that BBC accent as "fellah" when they were referring to the Arabic population as a kind of a subtle insult. And that the local population, who were not stupid, took umbrage.

All I can say is that it was an earlier age and racism was rampant back then.
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