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Joys of Yiddish Mass Market Paperback – January 2, 1991


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Pocket (January 2, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067172813X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671728137
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #673,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Leo Rosten left a great legacy of Jewish culture with his classic informal lexicon of Yiddish. Rosten defines (by synonym, anecdote, and joke) the words that have made it into common parlance (like chutzpah, schlep, and schmooze) as well as a choice collection of less integrated but equally rich vocabulary such as schmatte (a rag, i.e. what a schmatte you're wearing), chozzerai (literally "pig food," now denoting crap or junk food), and hundreds more. First published in 1968, Rosten's aptly named compendium still sings with humorous erudition.

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Customer Reviews

This is one of the funniest books you will ever read, even if you aren't Jewish.
Joy Fleisig
I thought I was purchasing the hardback copy of this book, as shown in the photograph.
Vicky
He also uses "sounds like" spelling so readers can pronounce the words correctly.
G. J. Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Joy Fleisig on January 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
A mechaieh, as Mr Rosten defines it, is a `pleasure, great enjoyment, a real joy...invariably uttered with a smile, a grin, a patting of the stomach, a pleased cluck or shake of the head'. That term is a perfect description of this wonderful book, written not only with humor but real care, love, erudition and depth. It is not only a collection of marvelous words and unforgettable jokes and stories, but a perfect introduction to both religious and secular Jewish culture in all its glory. This is one of the funniest books you will ever read, even if you aren't Jewish. In fact, in the 40 years this book has been around, I'm sure it's inspired a few conversions!
Where else can you learn all the nuances of the 29 different ways to say `Oy!' (which, of course, is not a word, but a vocabulary), the 19 different meanings of `Nu?' and the 20 situations where `Feh!' is the most appropriate thing to say? Or when (and when not) to say `Mazel Tov!'?
For those who are unfamiliar with Yiddish - and there are probably very few of you because it has so thoroughly penetrated the English language - it is the mamaloshen (mother tongue) of the Askenazic (i.e German, Russian and Eastern European) Jewish community, with comprises roughly 85% of Jews worldwide. It is a mixture of German, Hebrew, English, and various other European languages - I am not sure of the exact percentages but it's about 70% German. Words such as chutzpah, yenta, schlemiel, kvetch and dreck, as well as prefixes such as `sh' and `shm' (as in `Oedipus-Shmoedipus, as long as he loves his mother') and suffixes such as `nik' (beatnik, peacenik, nudnik) all come from this marvelous language. So do various lingustic devices such as scorn through reversed word order (`Already you're discouraged?
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on March 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
A nebech is more to be pitied than a schlemiel because you can nevr dislike a nebech .. you can only feel sorry for him. Therefore, make a poor nebech smile with a gift of this charming book. My mother, aleha ha-shalom (may she rest in peace) loved this book because she, as someone fluent in Yiddish, knew how dead on right Rosten is in his understanding and explanation of the nuances of Yiddish. For someone like me, who is not fluent, but understands the flavor of Yiddish, this book is a gem because in a charming and humorous way, it increases the depth of my feeling for the mama loshen (mother tongue). If you were to just open this book for the jokes, it stands well as a great book of Jewish humor. Together with it's instruction on how to understand the flavor of Yiddish, this book is five star plus! This book is one that I open over and over again. It never becomes tiresome. I have literally been using it for decades and it seems as fresh and new as the day I first opened it. Oy ... a book that has been in print since 1968 must have something going for it. I recommend this modern classic.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Loren D. Morrison on December 30, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
THE JOYS OF YIDDISH is a delightful little dictionary of Yiddish words and expressions that have worked their way into the English language, or at least should have. I can't count the times I've heard people with no background in Yiddish use words like "mavin" (expert), or "shnuk" (a real pitiful character), or dozens of others.
Rosten's frequent approach is to take a word or expression, explain its pronunciation, define it as nearly as is possible, and give an anecdote or example of its use. When the word lends itself to humor, Rosten usually opts for a humorous anecdote.
For an example, I've chosen the word "chutzpah." It is pronounced to rhyme with foot spa, with the ch rolled in your throat to give the German gutteral "kh" sound, not like the ch in "choo-choo." The nearest you can come to defining "chutzpah" in English is unmitigated gall or perhaps brazen effrontery. An example of "chutzpah" is the man who, after killing his mother and father, asks the court for mercy because, after all, he IS an orphan.
There are hundreds of such examples in the book. There are also many more serious examples of words that do not lend themselves to humor.
At the end of the book there are appendices which discuss Jewish Traditions, Ceremonies, Religious Writings, Names, and more.
Rosten has evidently done his research to come up with the many hundreds of entries in the book. He has provided a valuable research document and a book that can be opened to almost any page and elicit a chuckle or two.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "rachamim" on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
You can learn a lot more with humor than by dry explanations alone. Rosten's classic is packed with Jewish wit, backed by solid linguistical and historical facts that explain, in a nutshell, how much common Yiddish came into existance. Only drawback: the "hardback" is really just a bigger paperback!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 17, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The most authoritative book on Yiddish expressions (for general readers) is Leo Rosten's "The Joy of Yiddish." It not only catalogues and defines Yiddish expressions and words, but contains illustrations and jokes that use Yiddish words.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Pawl VINE VOICE on May 13, 2007
I still remember getting in trouble in school, for bringing this book in and teaching the other kids swear words in Yiddish. Alas, I wasn't even Jewish. One of the words, in particular, still lingers in mind, has something to do with anatomy and....no, I won't ruin the book for you, by giving away definitions or dropping words that you shout out your car window as some shmuck cuts you off on the freeway.....oh dear, I think I just broke my promise, in that last sentence. Oh well. Well, some things can still be left to the imagination, right? I mean, have you seen this book? It's thick. I don't want to start kvetching to you about how much my back hurt, after schleping it around in my backpack. I think that's why it gave me such tzurris, and I had to eventually see a chiropractor! Oy vey....but, as she said to me, "Your back? My feet!" But, I digress. At any rate, purchase this book today. Spanish isn't the only passionate language worth speaking, and you will come to learn that after reading the great stories and anecdotes that go along with the numerous Yiddish terms listed in THE JOYS OF YIDDISH, so you get a sense of the context in which they would be most fitting. Don't take it from me...take it from Leo Rosten. I think he could teach Yiddish Studies at some major university and make a lot of people proud at this point. Well done!
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