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A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms

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A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms

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A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms
By Fred Kogos
Citadel Press, 2000
ISBN: 0-8065-0347-5

Reviewed by Simon Bonim - November 4, 2008

Ever wonder what Meshugeh, K'vetch, Schnook, Toches, Kibbitzer, Frum, Shiva, Shlep, or Oi, gevald mean? Wonder no more! You can find the meaning of these, and numerous other Yiddish words and terms in A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms, by Fred Kogos.

For hundred's of years, Yiddish has been the lingua franca of European Jewry. When European Jews began to immigrate to North & South America - and other locals around the world, they brought Yiddish along with them, creating vibrant communities where Yiddish newspapers, books theater, and social groups flourished. For a brief moment in time, it began to look like Yiddish was beginning to fade away, but a new Yiddish revival is under way. Yiddish is being taught in Colleges. Yiddish movies are finding a wide audience. A desire to learn at least a few Yiddish words and sayings is wide spread among both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences.

If you are interested in learning a little Yiddish, or if you are already familiar with this vibrant language, you'll want to get a copy of A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms. This concise dictionary provides access to not only common usage terms such as: glass of tea (glezel tai), brother-in-law (shvoger), and Keep quiet! (Shveig!), but also a wide range of taboo and naughty words (nothing too dirty). Such words are marked with the notation - taboo - so you don't have to worry about using such a word in the wrong situation. The bulk of the book is devoted to single words and short phrases, including numerous slang terms and idioms. A wide variety of witty sayings are also included. Some of the marvelous sayings that you'll encounter in this book include: This handy little dictionary provides a brief overview of the history of Yiddish and tips on how to best us this book. The book is divided into a Yiddish-English section, and an English-Yiddish one. Yiddish words are spelled phonetically, and entries are paired with their Yiddish or English translation.

Normally, Yiddish is written using Hebrew letters. This can make it difficult for those interested in acquiring just a taste of Yiddish, or are trying to look up the meaning of a word or phrase they heard or read. Kogos has made the Yiddish tongue accessible to all English speakers by presenting the Yiddish in English transliteration. Be forewarned, after reading A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms, you'll want to continue your Yiddish education. To that end, I'd recommend that you contact your local Workmen's Circle (they provide Yiddish classes around the country) or check with your local college. If you cannot find any courses locally, you can always begin to study Yiddish on your own. To that end, I highly recommend the following Yiddish textbooks:
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