the drift


Thursday, September 16, 2004


luftmensch \LOOFT-mensh ("OO" as in "foot")\ noun

: an impractical contemplative person having no definite business or income

Example sentence:
"The son ...," wrote American author Irving Howe, "is leaving to be a luftmensch - a starving poet, a painter without pictures, a radical leader without followers."

Are you someone who always seems to have your head in the clouds? Do you have trouble getting down to the lowly business of earning a living? If so, you may deserve to be labeled a "luftmensch." That airy appellation is an adaptation of the Yiddish "luftmentsh," which breaks down into "luft" (a Germanic root that can be tied linguistically to the English words "loft" and "lofty"), meaning "air," lus "mentsh," meaning "human being." "Luftmensch" was first introduced to English prose in 1907, when Israel Zangwill wrote "The word 'Luftmensch' flew into Barstein's mind. Nehemiah was not an earth-man .... He was an air-man, floating on facile wings."


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