As a young boy growing up in a working-class family in a mostly Jewish neighborhood of Los Angeles, I learned that the word “chutzpah” had two different and opposite meanings. The positive one was a synonym for courage or moxie or fearlessness, as in the chutzpah to take on established authority. Think of Lenny Bruce, the great comic scourge of the establishment or of the cases recounted in Alan Dershowitz’s book called, simply, Chutzpah. The other meaning has a negative connotation, as in gall or nerve or effrontery, or perhaps even duplicity. Think of the example of the defendant who murders his parents and then seeks the mercy of the court on the ground that he is an orphan.
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