The Jewish Eye
Born to Kvetch
Born to Kvetch
Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods
By Michael Wex
Harper Perennial (2006)
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - September 25, 2008
Kvetch means, in simplest terms, to complain. However, in reality it is a time-honored art form, and a real master can complain nonstop for days about, well, anything! In Born to Kvetch, Michael Wex takes readers on an educational and entertaining journey through the vagrancies of everyday Yiddish that explores not only terms such as kvetch, but also the historical and cultural aspects of the Yiddish language. Within the pages of this delightful book, Wex follows the development of Yiddish from it creation in Eastern Europe to the current resurgence in interest in Yiddish language and culture. Most important, Wex examines the role that Yiddish has played in both Jewish and Western literature, art, and popular culture.
Born to Kvetch is a must read for anyone with an interest in Yiddish, Jewish history and culture, linguistics in general, or who are simply looking for a humorous and intriguing book with which to wile away a few hours learning about an eccentric and vibrant language. It is also an ideal book if you want to learn how to amaze your friends and coworkers by sprinkling your everyday conversation with Yiddish idioms and curses. Be forewarned, my mother used to curse people in Yiddish, figuring that it would let her let off steam without offending the victim of her tirade. It worked like a charm until she tried her insults on someone who actually understood what she was saying!
The information within this book covers a diverse range of topics ranging from sex and food to curses and religious terms. Throughout, Wex's writing is humourous - often verging on the hysterical. Wex is a Yiddish translator, academic, lecturer, and a prolific writer who has written extensively about Yiddish. He brings his years of experience and expertise to this wonderful and insightful book, creating a book that you will want to read over and over again!
Other books by Michael Wex include:
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- I Really Love Yiddish, by Emanual S. Goldsmith.
A Mini-Course in Yiddish based on 30 gems of poetry, folksong, and humor. This course consists of a booklet and an audio cassette.
- A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms, by Fred Kogos.
A concise Yiddish-English, English-Yiddish dictionary filled with numerous Yiddish terms and phrases, as well as a wide selection of slang words and idioms. All Yiddish words are written in English transliteration.
- The Worlds of S. An-sky, by Gabriella Safran and Steven J. Zipperstein.
A Russian Jewish Intellectual at the Turn of the Century. A collection of sixteen essays on An-sky, written by scholars in a diverse range of fields including history, literature, anthropology, Slavic and Jewish studies. Includes a music CD containing Russian and Yiddish songs.
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