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What's A Nudnik?



What's A Nudnik?

The Yiddish word, nudnik, comes from the polish, nudzic, which literally means bore. But in American vernacular it has come to mean someone who can do nothing right – a nut, a bumbler. Whether it’s Howard Stern calling an inept member of his entourage a nudnik, or James Spada in his Barbara Streisand biography using the word to describe her as an awkward teenager, the word connotes ungainliness.

Our NUDNIK is much more than that, however. Our NUDNIK is the master nudnik. He is a Man against Things. He can’t do anything right, but he has a very funny time trying. When pumping up his bicycle tire, he jiggers the hose into his shoe so that his sneaker inflates until it explodes. When turning on the hot water facet, the handle breaks off. In trying to accomplish even the simplest task, NUDNIK sets into motion a series of disasters that can level a house or even an entire city block.

NUDNIK’s failures cause us to forget our own troubles, which will surely seem small by comparison. If we cannot program our DVD player, or download the latest software upgrade, let us not feel inadequate. NUDNIK cannot tie his laces without fastening his thumbs to his shoes.

In the clown tramp tradition, our rubbery faced hero tries his best to compete against the overwhelming problems of everyday life. NUDNIK stands for all of us caught up in today’s complex world of gadgets and dangers, with which we can neither understand nor cope. Just looking at him makes us feel glad we are not as miserable as he.

But NUDNIK is also the kindest, most cheerful, sincerest soul you’ll ever meet in this hostile world. He has adjusted to his life; he never loses hope, and therein lies his charm. NUDNIK does have successes, but they are never of his own doing – only a byproduct of his foibles. A lesson for us all.

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