Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture In All of Its Moods
Kvetching is to the Jewish soul what breathing is to the Jewish body.
For Jews, kvetching is a way of understanding the world. It is rooted, like so much of Jewish culture, in the Bible where the Israelites grumble endlessly. They complain about their problems, and complain as much about the solutions. They kvetch in Egypt and they kvetch in the desert; no matter what God does, it's wrong.
In Yiddish Jews found the perfect language for their complaints. In kvetching they made complaining into an art form.
Yiddish was the main spoken language for Jews for over a thousand years and its phrases, idioms and expressions paint a comprehensive picture of the psychology that helped the Jews of Europe to survive unrelenting persecution. In Born to Kvetch Michael Wex looks into the origins of this surplus of disenchantment, and examines how it helped to create the abundance of striking idioms and curses in Yiddish.
Michael Wex takes a serious but funny look at the language that has shaped and was shaped by those who spoke it. Featuring chapters on the Yiddish relationship to food, nature, God, death and even sex, he allows his scholarship and wit to roam freely from Sholem Aleichem to Chaucer and Elvis Presley.
A treasure trove of linguistics, sociology, history and folklore -- an inspiring portrait of a people, and a language, in exile.
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Review: Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its MoodsUser Review - Daniel Watkins - Goodreads
I suspect the book was really designed for people who grew up around Yiddish rather than those curious about an unfamiliar language. I'm glad I know German, since otherwise the many Yiddish phrases ... Read full review
Review: Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its MoodsUser Review - Susan Marcus - Goodreads
This book has so much promise. It's well organized and comprehensive, rich in phrases and historical context, but I would have appreciated more on-the-spot definitions, not just the glossary at the end of the book. Read full review