THE JOYS OF YIDDISH by Leo Rosten
Kirkus Star

THE JOYS OF YIDDISH

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Leo Rosten does for the Yiddish language what Cezanne did for the apple--gives it a body and soul, and typically he adds an affectionate and witty vision. This is both a partial dictionary and an appreciation, with the language interpreted as evolving from a unique ethnic experience. Rosten journeys into both the sober reaches of religion and the bawdiest of the secular to plumb the distinctive character of each. Anecdotes--some of the funniest stories around--combine with helpful ventures into pronunciation, spelling, the nuances of meaning which introduce or explicate. The first entry ""Adonai"" and its cryptogram ""Adoshem"" (defined by religious practice, legends) is followed by ""Aha!"" pronounced with a note of sudden comprehension of triumph."" This is illustrated by enlightening examples and a jolly tale of Mr. Sokoloff and the Waiter. In the entertaining, informative preface, Rosten regards the salutary incursion of Yiddish words and phrases into English; linguistic devices (""fat-schmat"") and most amusing of all, the inventive use of a question to answer a question with shift in word emphasis (""Two tickets to her concert I should buy?""/""Two tickets to her concert I should buy?""). There is also a tussle with pronunciation, and an appendix with further notes on religion, custom, etymology. Rosten sums up his admiration for Yiddish (""irrepressible""), its observational nuances, psychological subtleties, an insight that ""became a substitute for weapons."" Money-schmoney, a copy of this you should buy.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1968
Publisher: McGraw-Hill