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 Some (then) unpublished works may now be available, and so on.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 82: Friday 1st September 1961, 2 pm

In the event [right charge for a translation job, see Part 81] I charged for 4000 Hebrew words at the Institute of Linguists top rate: £10-17-6 per 1000 words. No cheque has come as yet, but presumably this is just a question of office routine. Still, I shall be happier when the cheque does arrive, money seems to be poured into a bottomless barrel here.

Made a successful get-away yesterday, to Stoke Poges, following a Fieldfare ramble [Fieldfare was the pen-name for an Evening News columnist who wrote guides to walks in rural areas of the Home Counties]…

The church at S.P. seemed uninteresting. I didn’t inspect the inside as it was so dark, and I wanted to press on. A defect of this particular ramble is that there is nowhere to take tea en route. I suppose one ought to be thankful there is no “Elegy” tea-house, although I could have done with a cuppa.

Gray’s memorial is surrounded by a ditch; one gains access to it, presumably, via some gardens for which an entrance fee of one shilling is charged. I didn’t go in. Perhaps I ought to go again…spending an hour in the church and gardens and identifying, or trying to identify, the rugged elm and the yew tree’s shade. I have interrupted this entry for a moment – the train of thought will be obvious – to try to track down “joy cometh in the morning” – I got out a P.G.W. book with this title. My big Hoyt’s encyclopedia of quotations doesn’t seem to give it, but I find from Cruden that it’s Psalms 30:5 – I ought to have known. E. has dumped Maxy on me while I’m writing this, but he’s crawling around without giving any trouble.

The day before y., while Aunt Debby [Deborah Coltonoff, my mum’s Aunt] stayed with Max, we succeeded in getting to the Finchley swimming pool. Philip not a water-baby, but perhaps this will come. The pool is an admirable affair, really; a large children’s’ pool, cascades, refreshments, deckchairs. If one could get into it when it wasn’t overcrowded with schoolkids it would be very pleasant.

  1. Part 81: Wednesday 23rd August 1961, 2.20 pm Leave a reply
  2. Part 80: Tuesday 15th August 1961, 9.20 pm Leave a reply
  3. Part 79: Thursday 27th July 1961, 8.10 pm 1 Reply
  4. Part 78: Sunday 14th May 1961, 3.25 pm Leave a reply
  5. Part 77: Monday 8th May 1961, 9 pm Leave a reply
  6. Chazonus v. Punk by Max Witriol Leave a reply
  7. Part 76: Tuesday 24th April 1961, 6.25 pm Leave a reply
  8. Part 75: Thursday 13th April 1961, 12.15 pm 2 Replies
  9. Part 74: Sunday 19th March 1961, 9.45 pm Leave a reply