Kvetching is to the Jewish soul what breathing is to the Jewish body.
Complaining seems to be Yiddish’s major claim to fame.
For Jews, kvetching is a way of understanding the world, as recognised by Michael Wex in Born To Kvetch. It is rooted, like so much of Jewish culture, in the Bible where the Israelites grumble endlessly. They complain about their problems, and complain about the solutions. They kvetch in Egypt and they kvetch in the desert; no matter what God does, it’s wrong.
Born To Kvetch is a treasure trove of linguistics, sociology, history and folklore – an inspiring portrait of a people, and a language, in exile.
In Born To Kvetch, Michael Wex looks into the origins of this surplus of disenchantment and examines how it helped to create the abundance of striking idioms and curses in Yiddish. Wex takes a serious but funny look at the language that has shaped, and was shaped, by those who spoke it.
Take a look at Michael Wex’s website to find out more about Yiddish language and culture.
“Wex…happens to be one of the finest living translators of Yiddish literature…He synthesises all his skills as a linguist, cultural historian and humorist in investigating the origins, uses and idiosyncrasies of modern Yiddish…A rich book from which one derives much pleasure and more than a little knowledge.”
“Here we find an impressive taxonomy of slapping, a vivid way to encourage haste… and a splendidly verbose curse…Wex evinces a great sense of fun as well as a high linguistic seriousness…I’d like to have found something to complain about here, but I couldn’t.”
“Renders him heir to Lenny Bruce, Leo Rosten and your favourite Yiddish teacher, all rolled into one…It is the embedding of thousands of years of Jewish lore in everyday situations that are inherently timeless…Besides, being a pleasure for anyone, every Yiddish student should really – mamesh – have to read it.”