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Anglish / Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature

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Anglish / Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature

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Anglish / Yinglish
Yiddish in American Life and Literature, 2nd Edition
By Gene Bluestein
University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln: 1998
ISBN: 0-8032-6147-0

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - December 25, 2008

Yiddish is a language that has seeped into the English vernacular. In Anglish / Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature Gene Bluestein examines this phenomenon, and in the process provides an overview of Yiddish usage in American culture and literature. Bluestein is a professor emeritus of English at the California State University in Fresno. By the term Anglish he is referring to anglicized Yiddish words, and by Yinglish, he is referring to English worlds that have migrated into Yiddish.

In this entertaining and edifying lexicon, Bluestein has included a pronunciation guide and a detailed introduction to the Yiddish language, its place in American culture, and its influence in both American and Jewish literature. Bluestein's Anglish / Yinglish dictionary comprises the bulk of this text. Entries are organized alphabetically, with words and phrases spelled out phonetically and parts of speech are indicated. Following each word is a detailed analysis of its meaning, use, and when appropriate, how the word developed, how its meaning has changed over time, and its place in Yiddish literature. In addition, examples of how the word or phrase is used, is also included, as well as short excerpts from books that include the word in question. Anglish / Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature covers both common and uncommon words and phrases, as well as some derogatory or otherwise 'politically incorrect' terms, illustrating the full breadth and vibrancy of Yiddish.

The second edition of this book has been greatly expanded, and has been throughly updated. This is a book that you can read from cover to cover, or can easily skip around, hunting for new gems that will amaze and delight you. This is also an important reference book for academics interested in the study of Yiddish literature and how Yiddish has permeated the English language.

While this is, in many regards, and academic study, it is also a fun book to read and Bluestein's insights into the extent to which Yiddish has entered the American psyche are eye-opening. The book concludes with several informative essays, including Portnoy's Complaint: The Jews as American, The Revival of Klezmer Music, and A Note on Leo Rosten. Also included is a brief bibliography and discography that can be used as a stepping stone for further study on this intriguing subject.

Anglish / Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature is a unique and informative book. It will delight anyone with an interest in Yiddish language and literature, as well as in English linguistics and the development of language. This book is not only for general readers, but academics as well and it is well suited for use as a supplemental text in University level courses in Yiddish, Linguistics, English, Literature, History, and Cultural Studies.

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