Mumme Loohshen, An Anatomy of Yiddish, by Joseph Witriol

Mumme Loohshen, Joseph Witriol’s book on Yiddish, is now “published” at The Yiddish recorded in the book is that spoken by his mother, mumme loohshen (mame loshen being one of several more usual transcriptions). In the few instances where this deviates, or seems to deviate, from “printed” Yiddish he still records what he heard his mother speak. It was the first linguistically oriented book on the Yiddish language as a whole to be written in English.

For non-linguists, his discussion of Yiddish proverbs and sayings and words and idioms would undoubtedly be more accessible than the meaty, text-book like chapters on the HebrewGerman and Slav elements of the language. Many examples that he uses to illustrate words and expressions reflect his own circumstances and experiences as a Jew growing up in London in the 1920s and 1930s as well as his later life as a teacher, husband and father. The final chapter entitled The Tragedy of Yiddish is a moving one, albeit with a concluding opinion that some would reject.

A quote from one of his letters to a publisher:

…[Mumme Loohshen] is a comprehensive survey of the Yiddish language [with] a strong linguistic bias. The book is discursive in style and, I hope, makes pleasurable reading. Inevitably, however, there are a few parts which are of a text-book nature. The book contains a great deal of solid linguistic information which I believe can be found in no other English book, certainly not in Leo Rosten’s Joys of Yiddish or Lilian Mermin Feinsilver’s The Taste of YiddishGermanisten, in particular, would find the description of the links joining Yiddish with Archaic German and Middle High German of great interest….



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One thought on “Mumme Loohshen, An Anatomy of Yiddish, by Joseph Witriol

  1. Pingback: Joseph Witriol’s Journal Part 11: The writer’s ego | Joseph Witriol's writings

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