Friday, October 7

Born to Kvetch

Born to Kvetch--no, it's not an unauthorized biography of your kids! It is a thoughtful inquiry into the religious and cultural substrata of Yiddish, the underlying harmonic structure that allows the language to sing, usually in a mournful minor key.

Yiddish is the language par excellence of complaint. How could it be otherwise? It took root among Jews scattered across Europe and evolved over centuries of persecution and transience. It is, as this book suggets, "the national language of nowhere," the medium of expression for a people without a home. " To be Jewish, in other words, is to kvetch. If the Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" had been translated into Yiddish it would have been called "I Love to Keep Telling You That I Can't Get No Satisfaction".

The book finds a second source of Yiddish's prevailing tone in the Torah and its attached Talmudic commentary. The Jews who transmuted German into Yiddish were steeped in Jewish law, whose style and phraseology made their way into the developing language and put down deep roots. Yiddish thrives on argument, hairsplitting and arcane points of law and proper behavior.

Click here for review.


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