Born to Kvetch

Born to Kvetch

Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods

Book - 2005 | 1st ed.
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As the main spoken language of the Jews for more than a thousand years, Yiddish has had plenty to lament, plenty to conceal. Its phrases, idioms, and expressions paint a comprehensive picture of the mind-set that enabled the Jews of Europe to survive a millennium of unrelenting persecution: they never stopped kvetching ---about God, gentiles, children, food, and everything (and anything) else. They even learned how to smile through their kvetching and express satisfaction in the form of complaint.
In Born to Kvetch, Michael Wex looks at the ingredients that went into this buffet of disenchantment and examines how they were mixed together to produce an almost limitless supply of striking idioms and withering curses (which get a chapter all to themselves). Born to Kvetch includes a wealth of material that's never appeared in English before. You'll find information on the Yiddish relationship to food, nature, divinity, and humanity. There's even a chapter about sex.
This is no bobe mayse (cock-and-bull story) from a khokhem be-layle (idiot, literally a "sage at night" when no one's looking), but a serious yet fun and funny look at a language that both shaped and was shaped by those who spoke it. From tukhes to goy, meshugener to kvetch , Yiddish words have permeated and transformed English as well.
Through the idioms, phrases, metaphors, and fascinating history of this kvetch- full tongue, Michael Wex gives us a moving and inspiring portrait of a people, and a language, in exile.
Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, 2005.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780312307417
Branch Call Number: 439.109 W545
Characteristics: xiii, 303 p. ; 22 cm.


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Aug 20, 2015

This book is organized, but it could use with a bit more. The author has so much to deliver that at times it comes out in a torrent. That said, there is a lot of information offered in a relatively small space, much presented in a humorous manner. Not only is it a book about words. It also delves into traditions, customs, religious practices, history and faintly skirts the edges of Judaism's contact with Christianity. Most definitely worth reading. It might also be worth taking notes. Many details to remember!

eferry Jan 15, 2015

Wex brings both depth and vitality to his study of Yiddish. Many people don't realize the extent to which the humor often present in the language and culture of Yiddish-speakers shows up in modern culture and media.

A fun read- some sections get very intense, but you'll enjoy the book just as much if you skip a few pages.

May 30, 2010

Born to Kvetch is a well-researched, entertaining, subtly humorous, very well spoken recording about Yiddish and its religious and cultural foundations.

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