Do you know when to cry Mazel tov -- and when to avoid it like the plague? Did you know that Oy! is not a word, but a vocabulary with 29 distinct variations, sighed, cried, howled, or moaned, employed to express anything from ecstasy to horror? Here are words heard 'round the English-speaking world: chutzpa, or gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, "...that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and his father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan." Then there's mish-mosh, or mess, hodgepodge, total confusion...and shamus, or private eye.
They're all here and more, in Leo Rosten's glorious classic The Joys of Yiddish, which weds scholarship to humor and redefines dictionary to reflect the heart and soul of a people through their language, illuminating each entry with marvelous stories and epigrams from folklore and the Talmud, from Bible to borscht belt and beyond. With Rosten's help, anyone can pronounce and master the nuances of words that convey everything from compassion to skepticism. Savor the irresistible pleasure of Yiddish in this banquet of a book!