Does “Bupkis” Mean What Pete Davidson Thinks It Means?

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By Webdesk

Pete Davidson is a former Saturday Night Live cast member whose most memorable bits on the show are him talking about himself on Weekend Update. He is also the star of the 2020 feature film King of Staten Islandabout a young man from the titular ward who lost his father as a firefighter at a young age, lives with his mother, and has Crohn’s disease – all of which extend to Davidson himself.

But these outlets, plus his own stand-up, clearly weren’t enough for Davidson to probe his own depths, as today Peacock debuts a new single-camera drama series in which Davidson plays himself in the most literal way yet: his character shares his name, his fame level, his famous friends, the details of his death (a firefighter father who died at Ground Zero on 9/11), and his disorderly substance use. But, a pre-title card warns us, we shouldn’t mistake it for a documentary.

Hi, Bupkis is also the title of the show! But what does it do mean that it’s the title of the show, especially in light of this disclaimer?

I’m not fluent in Yiddish, so I contacted Sophie Brookover, who describes herself as “an overeducated, nice Jewish girl/ex-librarian with a soft spot for print.” “As you may already know, there is almost nothing in this world that Jews have a common opinion about,” she explains. “So I’m very curious what others have to say about it!” That said, in her experience, bupkis is “used as a one-word phrase to mean less than nothing, the tiniest, insignificant amount of something.”

Leo Rosten’s Classical Lexicon The delights of Yiddish traces the word back to the Russian word for “beans”, confirming Brookover’s interpretation. “Something trivial, worthless, insultingly disproportionate to expectations” is Rosten’s first definition, and as I’ve always understood it as a slang term, “nothing.” (Rosten traces this back to the origin of the word as “beans”, comparing it to the English usage of “peanuts”.) “It is often used in reference to an insultingly small amount of money, but it can also be time or attention ,” adds Brookover.

So there are a number of ways to read the title of the show in the subject. For example, if Pete can’t get sober, he’ll lose everything and to have bukis. Or: all his achievements, fame and comfort Are bupkis compared to what his mother has (a noble career in a public high school; a true love in Pete’s father, though he is now lost).

In the second episode of the show, we learn that Pete is Catholic when he attends a family wedding – although we might have already assumed that after the series premiere, in which we see both Pete’s mother Amy (Edie Falco) and maternal grandfather Joe LaRocca (Joe Pesci) . I asked Brookover if, in light of this, she would find Davidson’s use of the term as his sitcom title appropriate. “I’d be annoyed if a non-Jew from anywhere outside the NYC area used ‘bupkis,'” she tells me. “But New Yorkers, especially those from families that have been New Yorkers for several generations, are getting more leeway — at least from me.”

She also agreed that tristate Italians and Jews in New York have a lot of cultural overlap: “Conditionally white ethnic people often feel related. Our mothers all love and cook and worry and yell the same thing at us. It’s very easy for us to hang out together.

When I told Brookover that my initial reaction to the use of “bupkis” in the show’s disclaimer was that it seemed to stand for “bullshit,” she said that could also be true and called it a lesser usage. Rosten, appropriately, has that feeling as his second definition The delights of Yiddish: “Something absurd, silly, nonsensical.” But Brookover explained she wouldn’t use the word that way, and doesn’t think the disclaimer does either. “I read it as a bit of self-effacing humor that doubles as an excuse,” she says. “We shouldn’t take it too seriously, because it’s pointless.”

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