Years ago, I was sitting in the park when I heard a woman chiding her little son quite loudly. The scene is forever etched in my mind: “There are only four words that you’d better remember,” she warned him. “‘Be good’ and ‘be-have!’”

If I had to choose only a couple of words to impart to my kids, I think they would be “far-gin.”

I’m not sure if there’s an exact English translation, and I am hesitant to pass on my inquiry to Asher V. Finn, the illustrious etymologist and poobah of the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to the English Language, as the word for “farginen yenem” might stump even him.
I don’t often use this column as a bully pulpit to harangue people about the proper treatment of others. It’s not that I don’t advocate these noble principles; it’s just that I am reluctant to preach about things that I myself may need to improve on.

To read more, subscribe to Ami