Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Born To Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods Hardcover – August 25, 2005
|New from||Used from|
Featured resources in history
Explore these featured titles, sponsored by Springer. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Fortunately, despite its title and cover photo, this is not a kitschy book about a folksy language spoken by quaint, elderly Jews. It is, rather, an earthy romp through the lingua franca of Jews, which has roots reaching back to the Hebrew Bible and which continues to thrive in 21st-century America. Canadian professor, translator and performer Wex has an academic's breadth of knowledge, and while he doesn't ignore your bubbe's tsimmes, he gives equal time to the semantic nuances of putz, schmuck, shlong and shvants. Wex organizes his material around broad, idiosyncratic categories, but like the authors of the Talmud (the source for a large number of Yiddish idioms), he strays irrepressibly beyond the confines of any given topic. His lively wit roams freely, and Rabbi Akiva and Sholem Aleichem collide happily with Chaucer, Elvis and Robert Petrie. Academics, and others, will be disappointed at the lack of source notes, and a few errors have crept in (the fifth day of Sukkot is not Hoshana Rabba, for instance). Overall, however, this treasure trove of linguistics, sociology, history and folklore offers a fascinating look at how, through the centuries, a unique and enduring language has reflected an equally unique and enduring culture.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Wise, witty and altogether wonderful…. Mr. Wex has perfect pitch. He always finds the precise word, the most vivid metaphor, for his juicy Yiddishisms, and he enjoys teasing out complexities. "
---William Grimes, The New York Times
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
And Michael Wex is a whole lot funnier than Maurice Samuel. You will be laughing uncontrollably (WARNING: may cause embarrassment if you read this on the subway in the morning, as I did) while you learn more than you ever wanted to about the Talmud, the yiddish word for toilet paper and the REAL meaning of kvetching.
Don't hesitate, buy it today and be cursing your friends in yiddish tomorrow.
This is what Lambert has to say about the lead idea of the book.
"Yiddish, Wex argues, is most comfortable when it's complaining. It's "a language that likes to argue with everybody about everything." He explains this as consistent with the Mishnaic scholars (who "disagree 99.8 percent of the time") and the principle of "aftselakhis"-"the impulse to do things only because someone else doesn't want you to." The kvetch, or complaint, is thus the basic unit of Yiddish thought, as developed over hundreds of years of Diaspora living: "kvetching becomes a way of exercising some small measure of control over an otherwise hostile environment."
It is rare when we find a book which not only enriches our thought but makes us laugh outloud.
There is so much wit, wisdom and brilliant insight in this book that I am in awe of Wex's accomplishment. I have lived with Yiddish since I was a child. Wex has a very deep grasp of the neshomeh, the soul of the language and of Ashkenazi Jewry. I laughed so hard as I read and reread passages from Born to kvetch. The laughter of recognition.
Often I would find myself stopping and shouting, Ot azoy! ( Right on!) Finally, someone has not only gotten it but has the seykhel to put it on paper in a coherent and truly hysterical fashion, one which really represents the best in Yiddish humor. What is this humor? It is a presentation of the facts in a way that reminds us of the absurdity of life. Wex has gotten the Ashkenazi Jewish psyche down pat. Go no further. This is it.
But I digress.
Yiddish is ( yes, it's still very much alive in spite of what some paskudnyaks have written) one of the most exciting, self-deprecating, honest modes of communication around. If you like to laugh this is your language. If you want to cry ( and possibly kvetch a bit, too - it wouldn't hurt) climb on board. The literature of Yiddish ( much of it untranslated) rivals the best in the world. I used to listen to the news on a NY radio station, WEVD, read in Yiddish. It was hilarious. Jon Stewart, eat your heart out. This is where it all started. Jewish comedians grew up immersed in Yiddish.Notice how many there are and were - Marx Bros, Three Stooges, Jack Benny, Seinfeld, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, etc.- not only often often use Yiddish phrases but their entire world outlook is taken lock, stock and bagel from Yiddish.
By the way, Wex yearly gives classes in which he expounds on many related themes, all of them from his unique and authentic Yiddish background, at the Klezkamp gatherings in NY. Well worth the price of admission.
I learned more about the psychology of the Eastern European Jewish world ( ie. most American Jews) from this book than anywhere else. I also recognized my relatives.
And, yes, Wex is the real thing. He grew up in a Yiddish-speaking Canadian home. His Yiddish is not university Yiddish, le-havdil, but the language that Ashkenazi Jews used to eat, laugh, perform carnal acts, and curse. You think that our parents and grandparents weren't human? This book will show you just how human they were .
Wex has put the Yid back into Yiddish.
Examples of sayings and expressions are given in (transcribed) Yiddish, translated into English and thoroughly discussed. It is accessible to a reader not knowing Yiddish but it should be interesting to fluent speakers as well, because of the links between culture and language. A real treat for anybody interested in the relations between the two. Beautifully written with a lot of often sarcastic humor.
Mr. Wex has done Yiddish a great service and has written a book that avoids both of these pitfalls. Beneath the humor - and this is a very funny, well written book - is a very serious examination of Yiddish as a language inextricably tied to its religion. Very few people could have written a book as insightful as this one and still made it entertaining. Mr. Wex has the background - a Yeshiva bocher turned secularist - and mindset to carry it off with aplomb.
Some people might complain that the examination of Yiddish language and culture in this book is too harsh and well... kvetchadik. But there is pride for a language and culture long gone throughout this book. More than any book on Yiddish that I've read, this one rings true. The description of the culture of Chasidic education of children is particularly unflinching and mordantly accurate. Footnotes would help this book a great deal. But this is a fine achievement. Now if only they wouldn't have put someone else's photo next to the NY Times review. ;)