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The Joys of Yiddish

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  554 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews

Do you know when to cry Mazel tov -- and when to avoid it like the plague? Did you know that Oy! is not a word, but a vocabulary with 29 distinct variations, sighed, cried, howled, or moaned, employed to express anything from ecstasy to horror? Here are words heard 'round the English-speaking world: chutzpa, or gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, "...that quality enshrined in

Paperback, 576 pages
Published April 1st 2000 by Pocket Books (first published 1968)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I had never read this before! The perfect bathroom/bathtub book! Very funny! I hope to assimilate at least half of the words in here.
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was highly recommended by Rick Moranis on the Nerdist podcast, where he discussed its influence on his comedy and on his recent country album. It mostly takes the form of a dictionary, but the definitions vary. Some are very cut and dry. Others are humorous, or include humorous stories to illustrate the definition. And a few are more like wikipedia entries on a broad subject, like the brief history of False Messiahs. And then there is an entry, like the long passage on Shabbos, which a ...more
Oct 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Yes, it's a dictionary, but the best definitions ever! If you've ever wondered what the difference is between a schlemiel and a schlamazel, or the grades of 'oy' (oy, oy vey, oy gevalt!) this is the book for you. Lots of practical examples and real-life usages. There's even a few serious entries. A great reference to have around.
John Machata
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Love this book.
Ben Peters
Apr 06, 2011 rated it liked it
I tried to not enjoy this book but couldn't help myself. It is a romp of a good time rolled up into a reference book. A summary of Leo Rosten's points and a small sampling of anecdotes and aphorisms follow. 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.

A reference built for lovers of language, culture, and laugh-out-loud witticism, The
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
THE JOYS OF YIDDISH. (1968). Leo Rosten. ***.
The temptation to give this work four stars was great. I finally calmed down, though, and settled on four. It is a wonderful book that does its best to explain a language that has provided so many words and expressions to English that we don’t always know where it fit in. Yiddish is a combination of several other languages, that meant to provide a universal means of communication among people of – primarily – Eastern Europe, and of Jewish heritage. It
Jules Vilmur
May 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A dictionary to fall in love with: I never wished I'd studied Linguistics as badly as I did while reading this book. In the preface, Rosten writes "I think Yiddish a language of exceptional charm ... a tongue that never takes its tongue out of its cheek." and then he goes on to demonstrate that charm and cheekiness for 500 some-odd pages.
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very useful and informative book, especially for the uninitiated (enjoyable and colorful, too). Unfortunately one cannot read it without reflecting on the obliteration of the vibrant centers of Yiddish culture in central and eastern Europe in the middle years of the 20th century. Terrible loss for humanity.
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the only dictionary I have ever read cover-to-cover, and the only dictionary I'd call a must-read. I read it, and came to an earth-shattering conclusion: all the people I know who think they're Afrikaners are actually, secretly, deep in their bones, Yiddish. And the reverse is probably true, too.
The Library Lady
Apr 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The book I turn to whenever I am writing about Yiddish. Not only a language book--there are wonderful classic Jewish jokes here as well.
Marilyn Hartl
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Vat can I say...I was in love with a Vonderful Jewish man...I read everything I could to keep up with all the crazy things he said. It was a funny, fun book. It was a long time ago. Life goes on.
M Christopher
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, sociology
Many thanks to my dear friend and colleague, Rev. Steven Greenebaum, for loaning me his copy of this gem -- the "unreconstructed" version. A true delight as Rosten pairs lexicographical entries with marvelous anecdotes and the wit that has marked generations of Jewish storytellers. His occasional notation that persons in the world of entertainment know and use more Yiddish than they suspect is right on the mark. Whether it's through my long career in that industry, my interfaith work, or just be ...more
Richard Klueg
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
An older work (1968), given to me by a friend, I think because I like to study Hebrew. This book was a lot of fun to look through. I learned a lot about Jewish culture, and the jokes (there are a lot of them) kept me in hysterics. Plus, I learned a lot of words I can use to insult people without them knowing it. Unless they know Yiddish.
Arthur Gershman
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
No one can say it better than Leo Rosten whose subtitle to "Joys" reads: "A relaxed lexicon of Yiddish, Hebrew and Yinglish words often encountered in English, plus dozens that ought to be, with serendipitous excursions into Jewish humor, habits, holidays, history, religion, ceremonies, folklore, and cuisine, the whole generously garnished with stories, anecdotes, epigrams, Talmudic quotations, folk sayings and jokes-from the days of the Bible to those of the beatnik."
Written in 1968 and an inst
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've owned this book for about 20 years, and I still pick it up and browse through it periodically. With his fabulous sense of humor Rosten takes the reader through a history of Yiddish and common words and phrases, explaining them with in a really witty way. I can remember my grandparents and parents using some of these words and phrases, but as they were all born in America they weren't fluent speakers of Yiddish.

I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about Yiddish and incor
Rhonda Keith
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Whether you get the older or the newer edited version, if you like language you must have this on your shelf. Leo Rosten, the original writer/editor, lists Yiddish words and their definitions, but also adds cultural explanations, stories and jokes, to explain the sense of the words in depth. Essential for anyone who wants a better understanding of the contributions of Yiddish to English. You can dip into it anywhere to learn and enjoy.
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic book, filled with jokes and anecdotes that had me laughing out loud. Having studied some German, I thoroughly enjoyed all the linguistic trivia, as well as Rosten's decided opinions of which words should (or shouldn't) be used. The book took me much longer to read than anticipated since it reads a bit like a dictionary, but it was well worth it in the end.
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolute, funny and hilarious book. A joy to read. I couldnt stay away from reading the anecdotes, jokes and little stories. The famous humor from the Jewish people. Yiddish is a combination of German, mixed with Eastern languages and some Hebrew. Its a dying language. Highly recommended !
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Yiddish is such fun, bubeleh! And we use it all the time without knowing it.

Leo Rosten is hilarious but so snobby ("Mother would never...") and not
culturally-sensitive. Was it the '60s or just the way he was?
For some reason my parents, mid-western blue collar Catholics, enjoyed books about Yiddish and the Jewish experience. I remembered the joke about the moyel (moehel?) for about twenty years before I understood it. So I still remember it. Look it up.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable book about the Yiddish language which is a mixture of German and Hebrew. It was spoken by the Eastern European Jews (like Tevya in the Fiddler on the Roof), many of whom came to the U.S. We have fun words from this language like schlemiel and kitsch.
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fun-on-earth
This author is a man I like coming back to since my mum instoruced me to Mr. Kaplan who is just a brilliant man. Joys of Yiddish is filled with most amazing anecdote's that would just lighen up everyone even Snape perhaps.

Heather Maryson
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book whether you are Jewish or not. Funny and enlightening Leo Rosten's typically Jewish self depricating humour makes you laugh out loud and also gives insight into this culture.
Anyone with an interest in Jewish culture will enjoy I am sure.
Mar 13, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Boring it is not.
Robin Lionheart
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language
Not just a dictionary: Illustrates its words with entertaining jokes and anecdotes, making it entertaining light reading.
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, non-fiction
Excellent reference book with many entertaining examples.
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Part of the Jewish-American literary canon. Must have on every shelf.
The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten (1970)
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1967-1997, own
Somehow or other I've had a word or two or three of Yiddish become part of my vocabulary in a way which seems they were forever -- and I find myself adding more as years pass. And so -- this book.
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What's not to love?
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Leo Calvin Rosten was born in Lodz, Russian Empire (now Poland) and died in New York City. He was a teacher and academic, but is best known as a humorist in the fields of scriptwriting, storywriting, journalism and Yiddish lexicography.
More about Leo Rosten...

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“An official brought the chief rabbi of a town before the Court of the Inquisition and told him, “We will leave the fate of your people to God. I’m putting two slips of paper in this box. On one is written ‘Guilty.’ On the other is written ‘Innocent.’ Draw.” Now this inquisitor was known to seek the slaughter of all the Jews, and he had written “Guilty” on both pieces of paper. The rabbi put his hand inside the box, withdrew a slip of paper—and swallowed it. “What are you doing?” cried the inquisitor. “How will the court know—” “That’s simple,” said the rabbi. “Examine the slip that’s in the box. If it reads ‘Innocent,’ then the paper I swallowed obviously must have read ‘Guilty.’ But if the paper in the box reads ‘Guilty,’ then the one I swallowed must have read ‘Innocent.” 2 likes
“If God lived on earth,” goes a sardonic Yiddish saying, “people would knock out all His windows.” 1 likes
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