Born to Kvetch

born_to_kvetch_3d_paperbackBorn to Kvetch was a New York Times bestseller in hardcover and a week after it appeared in paperback it once again appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction. Check out the promotional “talking boy” postcard created by Harper Collins for the paperback’s release (and find out who the voice behind the boy is). Why, even Bill Clinton has a copy!

The book has been described as: “A treasure trove… funny, erudite… a deep and brilliant work… highly recommended… a masterpiece…” – here are just some of the reviews.


“An earthy romp through the lingua franca of Jews…This treasure trove of linguistics, sociology, history and folklore offers a fascinating look at how, through the centuries, a unique and enduring language has reflected an equally unique and enduring culture.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“I can hear and smell it all again – a world of Yiddish verbal wit reclaimed! It’s as though I spent my childhood in the pages of this book. A deep and brilliant work!” Ben Katchor

“Written in a witty, readable style, this book is a must read for anyone interested in the language.” Jewdar at

“extremely funny and compelling” Sander L. Gilman

“From the inimitable, the erudite Michael Wex, famous for his monologues on the Yiddish language, his greatest monologue of all, Born to Kvetch. A celebrated figure of the ‘Yiddish avant-garde’, Wex casts a backward glance and wry eye on the Yiddish language. He makes each word open up like a flower and follows the roots in unexpected, often mischievous, directions.” Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, author of Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums and Heritage

“All the wonderful elements of Yiddish language and culture are humorously presented here. Highly recommended ….” Gene Shaw, Library Journal Review

“So, did I like this book, you ask? Let me tell you: ‘Mayne sonim zoln nisht hano’e hobn fun a aza bukh!‘ (‘My enemies should never enjoy such a book!‘)” Allan Nadler, Forward Read the full Forward review here

“…he’s stunningly, uproariously, laugh-out-loud- and-make-everyone-on-the-train-think-you’re-a-lunatic funny. Even forays into Yiddish esoterica that, by all means, should have resulted in the book being tossed out the window are must-read passages because you simply need to know what joke or amazingly apropos cultural reference Wex is going to make next.” Joe Eskenazi, J Weekly Read the full J Weekly review here

“Wex straddles both the high and low end of that spectrum in a work that manages to be simultaneously entertaining and erudite…The results are a joy to behold.” Jeremy Dauber, Washington Post
Read the full Washington Post review here.

“Even the most goy New Yorkers know a word or two of Yiddish – maybe from their schlep to work every day…Michael Wex looks at the history of the boisterous language, and the politics, sociology and folklore surrounding it. And even Elvis makes an appearance…” Billy Heller, New York Post

“In his extraordinary and important new book, Born to Kvetch, Wex debunks a century of misunderstandings about the primary language of Ashkenaz, and paints a startlingly unsentimental, erudite, and entertaining portrait of Eastern European Jewish life and speech.” Josh Lambert, Read the full JBooks review here

“…wise, witty and altogether wonderful… Mr. Wex has perfect pitch. He always finds the precise word, the most vivid metaphor, for his juicy Yiddishisms, and he enjoys teasing out complexities. ” William Grimes, New York Times Read the full New York Times review here

“Here’s MY “kvetch”: Till now I thought my book on Yiddish, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning Yiddish” was the very best book on the subject. Who told Wex to write such a funny, brilliant, erudite, insightful book – did I need this kind of competition? But I “fargin” him – and all you lovers of Yiddish out there. Buy mine if you can but DEFINITELY buy Wex’s masterpiece – I loved it!“ Rabbi Benjamin Blech, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning Yiddish

“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 to make any true admirer of its uniqueness kvell.” Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education Read the full Chronicle of Higher Education review here

“…for lovers of language… there are few things more entertaining than Michael Wex’s Born to Kvetch – essential reading for anyone in show business, and a lot of fun besides.” Gregory McNamee, Reuters/Billboard

“Wex, a Canadian writer, teacher, translator and performer, explores the linguistics, sociology, history and folklore of the language he spoke with family and friends growing up in Calgary and Toronto. A wonderfully funny read, and constantly amusing for browsing, whether or not you speak Yiddish.” H. J. Hirchhoff, Globe and Mail

The untershte shure (bottom line)? Besides being a pleasure for anyone, every Yiddish student should really — mamesh — have to read it.” Dovid Katz, Jewish Chronicle. Read the full Jewish Chronicle review here.

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