Born to Kvetch

  • by Michael Wex
  • Narrated by Michael Wex
  • 10 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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What the Critics Say

"This treasure trove of linguistics, sociology, history and folklore offers a fascinating look at how...a unique and enduring language has reflected an equally unique and enduring culture." (Publishers Weekly)
"Wise, witty, and altogether wonderful....Mr. Wex has perfect pitch. He always finds the precise word, the most vivid metaphor, for his juicy Yiddishisms, and he enjoys teasing out complexities." (The New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Listened to it twice so far!

Really enjoyed this book that I thought was about linguistics, but delivered so much more. The previous mentions of the harsh narration are right, and at first it is pretty hard to take, but I got used to it after awhile. And, there are times when Mr. Wex drops the extreme accent and reveals a pleasant reading voice. The choice not to use that all the time is rather baffling, but the book itself was so enjoyable that I got over it and I didn't even notice how much I was learning. I am still laughing about the place of the chicken in Yiddish culture. Terrific.
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- Margaret

Yiddish Self Defense Lesson

Having married into a Jewish family understanding a little Yiddish never hurt. It is a private language unto those who still want to keep the goyim on the outside of the circle. To get the full impact of Wex's book you must listen because it is about language. My wife's grandmother was a Russian Jew and for the first time I began to appreciate the historical and religous perspective of Yiddish and the world she left behind.

To keep it fresh Wex integrated all of this into everyday life. On the downside Wex has an annoying cadence in his reading and picks it up so fast as he continues that you can only comprehend a small piece of what he gives you. If you speak German (ich spreche ein bischen) or Polish or some eastern-European dialect, you will be able to follow. Warning to all goys...don't try Yiddish at home, leave it to the professionals.
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- Michael

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-15-2006
  • Publisher: HarperAudio