This is not your bubbe's—or Leo Rosten's—Yiddish. Translator, novelist and performer Wex follows his witty and erudite Born to Kvetch with a colorful, uncensored guide to the idiomatic, use of Yiddish in such areas as madness, fury, and driving, mob Yiddish, insults and thirteen designations for the human rear (in declining order of politeness). Wex is knowledgeable about the biblical and Talmudic roots of some colloquial phrases; for example, he points out that tukhes (ass as he translates it) may be derived from Tuhkhes, one of the places where the Israelites sojourned on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. While most of Wex's discussions of words and phrases are brief, he provides lengthier sections on five key, highly nuanced Yiddish words: nu (Well?), shoyn (already, right away), epes (something, somewhat), takeh (precisely) and nebakh (alas). Wex's advice on the complex usage of these words can help even the greenest Yiddish speaker. The book could have given more attention to regional dialects and there are a few organizational quirks. Still, Wex offers both fun and instruction for the non-maven. (Oct.)
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