Michael Wex's bestselling Born to Kvetch is a deeply personal, wry and illuminating journey through the Yiddish language. This works especially well because Yiddish is a real kitchen language, an idiosyncratic collection of personal and familial dialects half-spoken by Jews around the world. My father's first language was Yiddish (he was born in a refugee camp in Azerbaijan and as his family moved from camp to camp, heading west, the lingua franca was Yiddish), and I attended secular Yiddish school at the Workmen's Circle on weekends for about eight years, coming away with an ungrammatical, half-remembered grasp of the language that is nevertheless sufficient to tell the occasional joke, to pretend to speak German, and to communicate with my Russian family in Petersburg (I don't speak Russian and they don't speak English).
Since my childhood, I haven't given much thought to the formalities of Yiddish, and that's where Wex's book comes in, an uproarious etymology of Yiddish with profane and irreverent examples that had me barking with laughter in public places. And as much as Born to Kvetch made me laugh, it also made me a little sorrowful at the thought of secular Yiddish dwindling away (Yiddish is still widely spoken among orthodox Jews, of course).
Of course, the real value in reading Wex's book comes in the new vocabulary words and concepts there for the taking, uniquely Yiddish and ironical notions like "Klipe" ("a common scold, Elvira Gulch crossed with Joan Rivers...a child klipe is clingy and demanding....the two types were considered mutually exclusive until Courtney Love came along"). More elaborate, the ironical use of "treasure" (oytser) to describe ill treatment, as in, "I'll bury him in the ground like a treasure" -- "so exquisite a hatred that you want to make sure he goes into the ground gently and deeply, without anyone but you knowing where he's buried." These back-handed insults are pure MAD Magazine -- "May his wardrobe be purchased from his father," meaning, his father should drop dead. Not to mention the purely visceral, "You should piss green worms, " a maniac should be crossed off the register of madmen and you should be inscribed in his place," and the purely delightful, "You should thunder in your belly and lightning in your pants."
Of all the notions I took away from Kvetch, my favorite is the "klots-kashe," the klutz's question, a question that is both pointlessly stupid and incredibly derailing -- the example that Wex gives is the person who, in a discussion of slavery, asks, "But is slavery always bad for slaves?" The klots-kashe has found its way firmly into online culture (it's the scourge of message-boards), but I'd never known its name until now.
Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods
Day Dreamers Limited — the artist collective of Kelly Tunstall, Ferris Plock, and creative studio Form & Fiction — are making an animated series starring Donald Trump’s Hair as the protagonist! From Hair to the Throne: Whenever the President drifts off to dreamland or is too busy Tweeting to notice, The Hair gets to work: […]
The Nerdwriter presents a fascinating analysis of why Louis CK’s jokes are funny.
Vince Weaver is reimplementing Portal — “the cake acquisition simulator released in 2007” — to the Apple II series of computers, bit by bit — inspired by the fact that the Apple II hires mode has “the perfect Aperture Science orange and blue colors.” He’s released a disc image of the game in Apple Basic, […]
Using my iPhone while it’s charging is always a hassle. With tucked-away outlets and the meager length of included lightning cables, comfortable scrolling while plugged in is annoying. These 10-Ft MFi-Certified Lightning Cables are super convenient and probably the best iPhone accessory purchase I’ve made.At over three times the length of normal cables, these reach anywhere you […]
With countless applications for modern life, artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most in-demand fields of study in tech. Beyond modelling human decision making processes and learning abilities, AI can be used to analyze massive volumes of data and create complex interactive systems.This Machine Learning & AI for Business Bundle made mastering these concepts possible for […]
Computer hacking isn’t just something happening to the DNC. Major software companies need white-hat hackers to ensure the security of their products and users, and I came across a Computer Hacker Professional Certification Package that conveniently teaches those advanced IT techniques online.This course package will prepare you for various computer security certification exams with over 60 hours […]