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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.
©2006 Michael Wex (P)2006 HarperCollinsPublishers, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"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
3 out of 5 stars
By Michael on 06-19-06

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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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Abigail on 08-30-07

Enjoyable, but for the narrator

I quite enjoyed this book. It was full of interesting facts and tidbits along with an interesting and witty take on Jewish culture. The narrator however, has a way of elongating the last sound of the last word in a statement, or emphasizes this sound in place of punctuation (such as commas). If you cannot ignore this inflection it may get on your nerves. It is not subtle. Even so, it did not bother me greatly and I found it a fun listen, perfect for daily commutes in the car (entertaining but wont make you late because you had to sit in the parking lot to hear what happens next).

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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