Meshuggenary: Celebrating the World of Yiddish

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Overview


Rumors that Yiddish is a dead language are greatly exaggerated. In fact, both the Yiddish language and culture are alive and well in America and elsewhere. English speakers take note: The Random House Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary both contain almost 100 Yiddish words that are now considered part of the English language. The impact of Yiddish culture is strongly felt in the films of Woody Allen, in Broadway shows like The Producers, and in television sitcoms such as The Nanny and Seinfeld in the ...
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Overview


Rumors that Yiddish is a dead language are greatly exaggerated. In fact, both the Yiddish language and culture are alive and well in America and elsewhere. English speakers take note: The Random House Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary both contain almost 100 Yiddish words that are now considered part of the English language. The impact of Yiddish culture is strongly felt in the films of Woody Allen, in Broadway shows like The Producers, and in television sitcoms such as The Nanny and Seinfeld in the tradition of the comic headliners of the Catskills. The world of Yiddish reaches out and embraces us in the literature of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Art Spiegelman, the culinary offerings of innumerable delicatessens, and the renewed popularity of klezmer music.

Yiddish is rich and soulful, thick with pathos, full of humor and self-deprecating wit and sarcasm -- as a language it uniquely captures the essence of what, or who, it describes. If you've ever noshed on a bagel, or yelled at the schmuck who had the chutzpah to cut you off at the traffic light, you've been enriched and empowered by Yiddish.

Beautifully designed and illustrated, Meshuggenary is a deeply researched and eclectic introduction to Yiddish language, culture, and history. It explores the basics of Yiddish vocabulary and grammar; proverbs, expressions, blessings, curses, and insults; and even the difference between Yiddish, Yinglish (Yiddish-origin words now part of English), and Yiddlish (words that sound Yiddish but aren't). There are chapters on Yiddish humor, literature, theater, and music; a who's who of Yiddishluminaries; and a captivating glimpse of the contributions of women to its literature and culture. So you shouldn't go hungry, there's a chapter on food with a tempting selection of family recipes. And if this little taste isn't enough to satisfy you, there's information on a host of books and Yiddish Web sites and Internet links.

Erudite, accessible, highly informative, and enormously entertaining, Meshuggenary is an irresistible pleasure.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Maven, schmooze, schlock, kvetch, nosh: they're just a few of the Yiddish-origin words that have made their way into American dictionaries. Tracing the history of the Jewish lingua franca not only from a linguistic perspective, but from a cultural, religious and societal viewpoint as well, this spirited and informative reference offers readers a foundation for understanding the myriad facets of Yiddish culture. (The title, the authors say, means a "crazy-quilt guide to Yiddish," not to mention a Yiddish bestiary.) There are entries on shtetl life, Yiddish proverbs and blessings, klezmer and Yiddlish (words that sound Yiddish but aren't), as well as traditional Yiddish recipes and a slew of Yiddish jokes interspersed throughout the more factual segments describing Yiddish theater, literature and music. The authors, who "love this strangely beautiful language full of humor and pathos," are enthusiastic guides, and this motley exposition is a fun and entertaining crash course in everything it means to be Yiddish. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743227421
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 9/1/2002
  • Edition description: Bilingual
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author


Payson R. Stevens has worked as an artist, designer, and writer for thirty years. He and his wife live in Del Mar, California.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
A Note on Yiddish Words x
General Jewish-English Glossary xii
Introduction: A Language, a People, a Culture 1
Shtetl Life 8
Hasidism and Kabbalah--The Yiddish Connection 11
A Yiddish Hall of Fame 13
Yinglish 101: Yiddish-English for Everyone 14
Instant Yinglish--Google.com's Top Hits 17
The Jaws of Yinglish 21
Y2B: Yiddish to Business 23
Jewbilations: Yidishe Nakhes from Things Jewish 29
Do You Schlep or Shlep--Schmooze or Shmooze? 35
Yiddishkeit and Yiddishism: What's the Difference? 39
S-Words of Yiddish: Put-downs Without Peer 40
Insulting Expressions 43
Insulting Names of People You'd Rather Avoid 45
Yiddish Curses 48
When the Mob Spoke Yiddish 50
The Genius of Yiddish Humor: A Schtick for Every Occasion 52
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match 59
Yidisher Kop: Goldwynisms and Other Mind-Benders 62
Yiddlish--Words That Sound Yiddish (But Never Were) 65
The Heart of Yiddish Vocabulary: What Every Lover of Yiddish Needs to Know 66
Misconceptions About Yiddish 70
Jewish Daily Forward: The Voice of Yiddish in America 76
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research 85
The National Yiddish Book Center 87
Weather-Prophets (Veter-Neviim)--A Glimpse of Contemporary Yiddish 90
Frumspeak: The Yiddishized English of the Orthodox 93
Yiddish Literature: Out of the Shtetl to World Renown 94
Glikl bas Yehuda Leyb--An Early Yiddish Woman Writer 98
Golem, the Yiddish Frankenstein 100
Fiddler on the Roof 110
The Yiddish Nobel: Isaac Bashevis Singer 116
Body of Golden Rings: Women Yiddish Poets 120
A Catskills Recommended Reading List 125
Yiddish Proverbs and Sayings: For Fools and Wise Mentshn 126
Yiddish First Names: From Alter to Yentl 134
Vishniac and Riis: Photographers of Shtetl and Slum 137
When the Labor Movement Spoke Yiddish--The Bund 142
Yiddish Expressions: Abi Gezunt! and More 144
Blessings in Yiddish 150
Tkhines--Yiddish Women's Prayers 158
A Modern Tkhine for Easy Labor 159
Yiddish Food and Cooking: For Noshers and Fressers 166
Bialy--the Other Kukhen 169
Hebridish: Yiddish in Israel 188
Se Habla Yiddish 189
The Story of Yiddish Theater: From Purimshpil to The Dybbuk 190
Dybbuks--Evil Spirits of the Shtetl 202
Ida Kaminska--Star of the Yiddish Theater 204
A Yiddish Bestiary 207
Yiddish Music: Klezmer and Beyond 208
Yiddish Radio in America 215
Klezmography 217
Yiddish-Theme Painters: Chagall and Soutine 218
Yiddish Movies 220
Reference Section 224
Yiddish Basics 224
Yiddish vs. Hebrew 225
The YIVO Transcription Scheme 227
Virtual Yiddishdom on the Web 229
Bibliography 237
Index 240
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2002

    The Masala of Yiddish

    I'm from India and I love this book because I love words. The Yiddish language with its potent and expressive words adds greatly to our human vocabulary and supplies those words that uniquely describe aspects of the human condition. MESHUGGENARY provides a marvelous and necessary ingredient to the masala of human expression. The book is rich in humor and offers a great introduction to Yiddish culture. As an English teacher from another country, I marvel at how language continually expands by incorporating words and expressions from other cultures. This is just what we need to create global village communication.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2002

    Get In on the Business Language of Today

    Nearly everybody in the business world uses Yiddish. This is because in the past most businessman were Jewish themselves or worked with Jewish people. Learn what terms businessman use so you don't look like a schmuk!!! Also learn about Jewish History and Yiddish History. They are not the same! This book is written by a real Mensch!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2002

    A Meshuggenary World

    The authors have produced an informative and very lively academic book (which may be an oxymoron expression). Early Yiddishists would marvel if they could now see what impact Yiddish (and Yinglish, etc.) have had and continue to have on America and American culture. Only in America could a language developed over a thousand years abroad and left for dead (until relatively recent times) be adopted and adapted to fit the American psyche and temper. Meshuggenary is a landmark success. In the years to come its depth, insight and completeness will not be easily challenged.

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