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 Some (then) unpublished works may now be available, and so on.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 77: Monday 8th May 1961, 9 pm

Bad, bad. I did hold on till May 1st, when Dr Pallot said as the “biff” he had given me hadn’t done the trick I would have to have the “whole shooting match”. He gave me a letter to a hospital. Eventually, I fixed up an appointment at the Whittington…Meanwhile I had mislaid Pallot’s letter. I went to him this evening. He enquired, and on my telling him that the pain was now concentrated in the ankle, abandoned his slipped disc diagnosis.

There is much talk of “striking” in the staff-room. It does seem that teachers are more determined on a sizeable increase than they have ever been before. All I can think of is this blasted ankle…Philip and Max delightful, ken en hora [Yiddish –without the evil eye], the weather fine, snug in our mass-produced three-bedroom semi-detached; even the job, in spite of 3R, could be far worse – I’m sure that if I were only fit I could cope in my stride, and there’s good company in the staff rooms. Went on a one-day course the other day at Woodberry Down. Excellent talk by the HM of Owen’s (I think), one Borrough. A propos of something or other he quoted an epitaph on a still-born child:

  Since I was so quickly done for,     

  I wonder what I was begun for.

It will be interesting to read this entry in a couple of months’ time. I’m thinking in terms of it getting no worse…

Took the kids to Boobe Esther [My mum’s mum] yesterday. Tried out a new scheme: Alf [my mum’s brother] came back with us. Cannot help thinking this quite a good idea, eased the strain considerably. Actually, yesterday wasn’t so bad as weather was good, and Philliboy had to be carried only at the Nag’s Head change-over [i.e. bus change]. But the three of us would mean that Alf and I could take a kid each, and Edith the other impedimenta. Feel sorry for E, who is quite splendid; only hope I shall be able to make it up to her.

NB: I recently received an email from an ex-Hasmonean pupil which refers to an event in 1967, which is already online at the excellent melchett mike blog here where my dad’s Journal entries relating to his time at the school can be found. 

I hope I have reached the right person …Philip Witriol the son of a very loved teacher, Joseph Witriol, of Hasmonean fame.

I was in the 4th form when he arrived at Hasmonean, and was amongst the mischievous ones who concocted the idea of an induction for him as form master. I was not the type to be disrespectful, but was imaginative and helped with many of the ideas, leaving it to the fearless troublemakers to execute the plans. As I remember it we were somewhat unsure how to treat him. Until then we had been exposed to 3 groups of teachers, the Adas frum frum, the secular, and those that were not Jewish. Even among the students there were more of the frum children of refugees and the culturally Jewish but not very observant, than the United Synagogue traditionals.

Anyway we saw that he felt a genuine sense that Jews must be loyal to each other, and that he was charmed and fascinated to be in a school which offered daily davening. We were genuinely impressed that he agreed to lead Mincha on that day!

Reading his diaries was a treat, after having left England many years ago. I was saddened to know that he was somewhat depressed and considered himself a failure, he was a really well liked person, and I am sure that every student who reads the diaries will be charmed by his honest reportage and [his] faithful rendering of the personalities and buildings brought back fond sentiments.

Best wishes
Avrohom A. (Arthur) Marmorstein
New York City

He also noted that he transferred to Hasmonean in the middle of 3rd form, from William Ellis, so was keenly aware of which things ran differently in non-Jewish schools.

 

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  2. Part 76: Tuesday 24th April 1961, 6.25 pm Leave a reply
  3. Part 75: Thursday 13th April 1961, 12.15 pm 2 Replies
  4. Part 74: Sunday 19th March 1961, 9.45 pm Leave a reply