Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods

Version: Unabridged
Author: Michael Wex
Narrator: Michael Wex
Genres: Foreign Language Titles
Publisher: HarperAudio
Published In: March 2006
# of Units: 8 CDs
Length: 9 hours, 30 minutes
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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.

Reviews (2)

A very good read

Written by William Kurry on January 10th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This is a very funny book. It is well researched and should certainely to be considered an academic achievment. Non-Jews may be put off my some stereotyping in Yiddish expressions describing gentiles.

Born Identity

Written by Mandi Chestler from Lake Oswego, OR on December 19th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Yiddish is a foreign language to me. Even so this audio book was often funny, sometimes shocking, always interesting. I can't believe 8 disks about a fading tongue kept my interest, but it did. Author Michael Wex's narration takes some getting used to, but his voice inflections definately added to the entertainment value. The reader/listener comes away with a better sense of how this language created an distinct identity for European Jewery.

Author Details

Author Details

Wex, Michael

Michael Wex is a novelist, a professor, a translator, a lecturer, and a performer of stand-up and one-person shows. Wex has been hailed as "a Yiddish national treasure" and is one of the leading lights in the current revival of Yiddish, speaking widely on Yiddish and Jewish culture. He lives in Toronto.