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From what I read …. it looks like Pa isn't anything like the nebbish Ma is always making him out to be…. Sounds like poor Pa got a bum rap, at least according to a 1951 book review that appeared in The New York Times. The unfortunate Pa unwittingly demonstrates much about the etymology of nebbish, which derives from the Yiddish nebekh, meaning "poor" or "unfortunate." As you might expect for a timid word like nebbish, the journey from Yiddish to English wasn't accomplished in a single bold leap of spelling and meaning. In its earliest English uses in the 1840s, it was spelled nebbich and used interjectionally as an expression of dismay.
Origin of nebbish
Yiddish nebekh poor, unfortunate, from Czech nebohý
First Known Use: 1907
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