Mumme Loohshen by Joseph Witriol

Mumme Loohshen was typed up in 1974/5 by my father Joseph Witriol (1912-2002).  The 200 page manuscript was subtitled ‘An Anatomy of Yiddish’. In the preface my father wrote:

 “This is the first linguistically oriented book on the Yiddish language as a whole, as opposed to monographs on specific aspects of Yiddish linguistics, to be written in English.”

I want to give some background and context to the book. I have changed as little as possible as I do not want to alter a work that reflects his style and personality. This was obviously researched and written in the pre-internet and PC era with consequent limitations.

There are technical aspects; some references will be dated, for example referring to the Ukrainian SSR. Some (then) unpublished works may now be available, and so on.

He sometimes used complex and lengthy sentences which need careful reading. This is particularly true – and perhaps harder to avoid – when discussing the interplay between three or more languages.

He also uses ‘difficult’ words and recherché foreign words and tags. This was not an affectation, but a natural aspect of his impressive vocabulary and literary knowledge. And they can be rather wonderful words like borborygmus.

In part intentionally, partly for practical reasons, the work was written only in English so neither Yiddish nor Hebrew words are written in Hebrew characters.

Some of his articles and reviews are here and I have uploaded his Also Lived  – Autobiography of a Failure, covering the years from his birth in 1912 to about 1952.

 I am now uploading his Journal, kept from 1957 to about 1997,  which gives insights into the mundane and not so mundane.

My brief background to my father’s autobiography is here

Mumme Loohshen can be found at http://mummeloohshen.wordpress.com/ and it is also online in the form of a single document here.

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Part 74: Sunday 19th March 1961, 9.45 pm

Many, many years ago I read Freud’s Traumdeutung. I don’t remember much of it, except that he said that if you dreamt about water you would wake up to find you had been wetting the bed. I believe I checked the truth of this empirically —  or, at any rate, the water-dream went with an urge to empty one’s bladder —  but I couldn’t see in this sort of thing the signs of one of the master-minds of modern times. Anyway, I have frequently wanted to set down my dreams, I have an average of three a night, but have never been able to remember them.  One of the things I was impressed by was Freud’s setting down, at night, his dreams as he had them.

Anyway, here is the blurred memory of one of last night’s dreams: I inserted an advertisement for a schoolmaster to occupy some such post as I might conceivably occupy myself: say, French with an allowance of £90. The idea was to see what sort of “field” the advertisement would attract, the potential competition. Afterwards, I realised – I couldn’t advertise, I wasn’t the employer. Repercussions were not long in following. I was had up on the carpet, and I remember saying I had two children. Later on I dreamt kids were reading out their marks in a test I had given them, and they all seemed to have marks of 11 or 14 or so. The “Interpretation”? — and I don’t remember Freud’s being more profound — I dream about my job.

Took the kids to Dinmore House [in Hackney, where Edith Witriol’s mother, Esther, and brother, Alf, lived]  to-day. A tough operation, six buses mounted. Kids now sleeping soundly, one relaxing in dining-room (in which we have placed one of the three-piece suite easy chairs and the tubular easy chair – the convector heater is more warming (note the incipient Spoonerism [i.e. letter m in more written like a w]) than the “Magi-glow” in the living-room). A good deal on the old plate. Richard’s [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] chassena [wedding] next Sunday, at which I am to act as best man/M.C, the school journey, Edith had a phone call from Thames & Hudson, and they were supposed to be publishing the Sinai book Marchwards anyway. [God’s Wilderness: Discoveries in Sinai by Beno Rothenberg]

But will now try to get half-hour’s quiet before turning in.

  1. Part 73: Thursday 16th March 1961, approx 9.10 pm 2 Replies
  2. Part 72: Monday 23rd January 1961, approx 9.30 pm Leave a reply
  3. Part 71: Sunday 1st January1961, 5pm Leave a reply
  4. Part 70: Wednesday 28th December 1960, 4.5pm Leave a reply