Learn how and when to remove this template message First edition publ. It was originally published in and written by Leo Rosten. The book distinguished itself by how it explained the meaning of the Yiddish words and phrases: almost every entry was illustrated by a joke. This made the book not only a useful reference, but also a treasured collection of Jewish humor.
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Lots of practical examples and real-life usages. A great reference to have around. It is a romp of a good time rolled up into a reference book. I find it personally odd that I had to leave New York for a year in Jerusalem before I discovered this book. One of my colleagues here said the volume was like sacred scripture for him growing up in Brooklyn.
He puts it: "Yiddish has long been beset by schism and fevers and ambivalences from within its own community. It has also been distinctly not the "sacred tongue" of the Torah and the Talmud, which has historically been reserved for male learners. Ever in tension with the market place, the street, and several other languages, Yiddish matured in a competitive linguistic environment, coming fully into its own only in the middle of the 19th century.
It makes sense, both historically and culturally, that the praises for a scrappy language like this would be well delivered in jokes and anecdotes.
Of course, the significance of Yiddish need not be only light-hearted itself: the writer I. Peretz once observed mournfully that "Yiddish, the language which will ever bear witness to the violence and murder inflicted on us, bears the marks of our expulsions from land to land, the language which absorbed the wails of the fathers, the laments of the generations, the poison and bitterness of history, the language whose precious jewels are undried, uncongealed Jewish tears.
Or as Isaac Bashevis Singer reminds us that Yiddish may be the only language on earth that has never been spoken by men in power. With that, here are some anecdotes and jokes that bear repeating, as recorded by Rosten edition. Some come up in the context of illustrating Yiddish terms in italics.
All rendered here just for the joy of it. And if I am only for myself, what am I And if not now--when? A most historic event!
A cablegram --of congratulations--from Trotsky! You are the True Heir of Lenin. I should apologize. Trotsky You can imagine what a roar, what an explosion of astonishment and triumph erupted in Red Square now! BUt in the front row, below the podium, a little tailor called, "Pst! Comrade Stalin. The tailor said, "Such a message, Comrade Stalin. For the ages! But you read it without the right feeling!
Come, Comrade Worker! Up here! You read this historic communication! You are the true heir of Lenin? I should apologize??!!!..
The Joys of Yiddish
Leo Rosten Quotes