A couple of months after Born to Kvetch came out, Wex was asked to be on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air show on NPR. This interview has been replayed many times – we hope you enjoy it too. Click here to hear the interview in its entirety.
Most children watching “The Three Stooges” didn’t realize it, but an understanding of Yiddish was required to get a lot of the jokes. In one episode, when Larry hears that Moe is heading to a hockshop, he says, “While you’re there, hock me a tshaynik.” What must have sounded like pure nonsense to most viewers […]
It’s been called folksy and quaint. It’s been labeled a dialect and dismissed as “jargon.” Even its defenders tend to admit that it died 50 years ago. Yiddish, nebekh, has suffered so much defamation of character that it could probably win a libel suit. If Yiddish ever does sue, its first expert witness will be […]
In Born to Kvetch Wex straddles both the high and low end of that spectrum in a work that manages to be simultaneously entertaining and erudite. Wex explains Yiddish culture by unraveling, in great detail, the words and phrases used by Yiddish speakers in the various areas of their lives. In doing so, he draws […]
Let others be born to be wild, born to run or born under a bad sign. According to Michael Wex, Jews were Born to Kvetch. Wex’s tome is more than just the standard-issue listing of the 97 ways to say “idiot” in Yiddish. It’s a reverse-engineering of the spirit of Eastern European Judaism via the […]
…In contrast, Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods (St. Martin’s Press, 2005), by Michael Wex, among the finest living translators of Yiddish literature and a humorist to boot, is, well, a hoot. If you can stop laughing long enough to finish it, Wex distills enough idiosyncratic insight about Yiddish […]
If you asked me whether I enjoyed Michael Wex’s hilarious and learned book, Born To Kvetch, I would find myself in an impossible quandary. To admit the rare pleasure I derived from reading it would be to violate what Wex argues is the very essence of Yiddish sensibility: a stubborn, cynical and often maddening refusal […]