I have an obsession with words. By that I mean the sound of words, the vocal pleasure I experience as the syllables roll off my tongue. “Guatamala” – who can say that word and not feel a frisson of joy? “Belvedere Boulevard.” Try uttering that and remaining indifferent. “Bicyclette” – pronounced the French way: bee-see-klett. Come on, admit it. You enjoy saying these words, too. Obviously, not all words give equal oral gratification. “Styrofoam” leaves me cold. So does “accountant.” But “actuary” – say it slowly, ack-choo-airy – and your ear will discern the poetry in that word.
Language academics created an entire discipline – phonoaesthetics – to figure out what makes a word pleasant-sounding. “Idyllic” appears on that list, and so does “mellifluous” and “cellar door.”
Shvitz doesn’t. And I’m upset about that. Because it does belong on that list. True, it’s comprised of only one blunt syllable and no Ls or Ms to soften its passage. But… should the opportunity arise to utter shvitz, notice how Jew and non-Jew alike will say it not once, but twice, thrice, as many times as they can get away with. Why? Because shvitz packs a delicious punch. Say it and feel your vocal cords thrum with pleasure. Shvitz! Shvitz! Shvitz! Each utterance delivers its own sweat bomb like no other syllable. Relish how it fairly explodes in your mouth. Summer’s coming and shvitz is on its way.