Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods

by Michael Wex

Book, 2005



Call number

435 WEX


New York : St. Martin's Press, 2005.


As the main spoken language of the Jews for more than a thousand years, Yiddish has had plenty to lament, plenty to conceal. Its phrases and expressions paint a comprehensive picture of the mind-set that enabled the Jews of Europe to survive persecution: they never stopped kvetching about God, gentiles, children, and everything else. In Born to Kvetch, Michael Wex looks at the ingredients that went into this buffet of disenchantment and examines how they were mixed together to produce an almost limitless supply of striking idioms and withering curses. Born to Kvetch includes a wealth of material that's never appeared in English before. This is no bobe mayse (cock-and-bull story) from a khokhem be-layle (idiot, literally a "sage at night" when no one's looking), but a serious yet fun and funny look at a language. From tukhes to goy, meshugener to kvetch, Yiddish words have permeated and transformed English as well. Through the fascinating history of this kvetch-full tongue, Michael Wex gives us a moving and inspiring portrait of a people, and a language, in exile.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
Rambling and confusing at times but overall a fun read.
LibraryThing member darwin.8u
Oy, this book is just too good.
Oy, this book is just too good.
Oy, this book is just too good.
Oy, I can't believe I've read such a good book.
LibraryThing member GoofyOcean110
OK, so some chapters were better than others -- but really, that's to be expected when you have an entire chapters devoted to cursing and body parts! Overall, this is hysterical and great to understand how Yiddish has really developed. So stop kvetching and read this book ;-)
LibraryThing member PaulaBC
Funny, educational, entertaining, revealing - I really enjoyed this book and even though I was familiar with Eastern-European Jewish culture (well as much as one of those "dangerous and alluring" Shikse can be), I learned a great deal in this little book and have a much deeper feeling for the
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culture, religion and people - past and present.
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LibraryThing member melsmarsh
A more serious version of some of the other Yiddish culture books I own. Personally, I think that makes it drier than it should be.
LibraryThing member _Zoe_
I read up to page 139 years ago, and never felt the urge to continue. I seem to recall that the author annoyed me at one point by being overly condescending in his assumption of what any real Jew would know or how they would have been raised. I'm still interested in Yiddish and will seek out
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another book on the topic eventually.
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LibraryThing member sarahlh
Actual rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. A bit of a lengthy read - I took a four year break (!!!) because the first time I tried to read it, it was too dense for me - but definitely a delightful look at Yiddish and a good taste of future reads in the same vein.

Original publication date



0312307411 / 9780312307417

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