Yiddish has donated some wondrous words and phrases to the English language, like schmuck, klutz and chutzpah (famously defined by Leo Rosten as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan").
While maven isn't among the better known Yiddish terms, it's pertinent here because a) it's often used in conjunction with language (eg, language maven, grammar maven), and b) I propose to do a little rant about said mavens. Did I say little? I mean big.
But first some background. Maven comes from the Yiddish meyvn, which in turn derives from the Hebrew mebhin; literally "one who understands".
Language mavens are those self-proclaimed experts on matters of good and correct language usage who then - almost invariably - proceed to tell everyone else what they're doing wrong (I realise I'm skating on thin ice here). Some, like the late William Safire, do it elegantly and, at times, with great humour. But regardless, there's an inherent problem, beautifully stated by experimental psychologist Steven Pinker. If you saw a dolphin playing in the ocean, you wouldn't correct its swimming technique. Yet language is analogous to a dolphin's swimming; it's an innate human skill (read Pinker's The Language Instinct for more). If you want to know how dolphins swim, watch dolphins. If you want to know how humans use language, watch (or listen to) humans.
Language mavens do not listen in order to understand how humans do language, but in order to critique. And it leads to ridiculous blog posts like this, which lists five so-called grammar errors, none of which is an error at all.
Worse, it gets perfectly capable human beings in knots about whether they're speaking or writing correctly. Result: people often end up writing ugly, stiff prose in order to adhere to rules that are not only not rules at all, but also frequently make no sense whatsoever. Seriously. I'm not saying they don't make much sense - I'm saying they make no sense.
Case in point, above blogger's admonition against using literally figuratively (for example, "If I eat another wafer, I will literally explode"). Well, Monsieur Blogger, people - including ignoramuses like Mark Twain, James Joyce and Louisa May Alcott - have been using literally figuratively for years, amd no one has been confused about what they meant. Who are you to tell them to quit, you pompous git? And here's another question: By what sequence of logic do you arrive at the conclusion that it's wrong to say "I'll literally explode", but ok to say of a sprinter (for example) "he's really flying"? Hmm?
I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you want to speak and write eloquently, worry less about grammar and/or correct vs incorrect usage and more about being as clear, interesting, compelling and (insert your own favourite adjective here) as you can be. It's way more productive.