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 Some (then) unpublished works may now be available, and so on.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 67: Wednesday 2nd November 1960, 2.10pm

A week’s mid-term holiday. Apparently, we can get a week for each of the three mid-terms, in addition to six weeks in summer. I had thought one would get only two mid-term days in the secondary school. Presumably there will be very few, if any, “occasional closures.” Anyway, it’s just as well. Even the five days hardly gives one a chance to breathe and look around – another tiff with E. yesterday, caused, ultimately by my getting up late – 9.30-ish. To-day up shortly after eight, having fed and changed Max 6.45-7.20. Aunt Debbie [Deborah Coltonoff, my mum’s Aunt] and Boobe Yetta round. Edith off with Aunt Debbie and Max to clinic; Philip asleep in cot, Mum reading The Crossing Point by Gerda Charles in sitting-room, I writing this in study, breaking off to bring in washing. Sun has emerged, leave washing out for another half-hour or so, continuing this in sitting-room.

Prize giving at Archway Central Hall the other evening. Edward Blishen presented prizes. I enjoyed his speech, though his ad-libbing was not to the taste of Leece, the Eden Grove P.E. man. Blishen said he would start off with what he imagined must be a unique opening on these occasions “Revenge is Sweet”. He said Barnsbury was the first school he was sent to, after having presented himself at Divisional Offices, a dungeon wherein sat a number of pallid young teachers obviously trying to persuade themselves they did like children. Anyway, he’s certainly earned his revenge. Anybody who can “take” a modern secondary school and have enough energy left over to write a good book (Roaring Boys), numerous articles and to give numerous lectures deserves to get out, as he has done, and on to the BBC.

After some inward debate went to a meeting organised by the Jewish Quarterly at the National Book League’s premises to celebrate publication of Arnold Wesker’s Trilogy. I haven’t seen or heard any of the plays, though I’ve gathered they’ve had a great success. They haven’t made Wesker really wealthy, though, I don’t think; to get really into the money, you have to write “musicals” (Lionel Borden [sic]) or be a comedian with a gimmick (Bresslaw, gangling 6 ft. plusser, “I only arst”). I came after Sonntag, J.Q. editor, had started explaining the theme of the discussion. I didn’t quite know what this was, but it seemed to be, what is “Anglo-Jewish” writing. From the platform Frederic Raphael, young author of well-reviewed Anglo-Jewish novel, The Limits of Love, spoke and ? Lansdowne, well-known man of theatre. Raphael said he detected a tendency among Jews not to want to “leave the family”. Ruth Sternberg, née Schiff, spoke well from floor, though irritatingly saying her background was middle-class (unlike Wesker’s East-end working-class). Although at first hearing it might seem ridiculous to talk of Jewish “classes” (“so his dad came over on the banana boat before mine,” as Alan Spears used to say), they do exist: working class — pressers, cabinet-makers; lower middle-class  — small shopkeepers; middle-middle — wealthier shopkeepers and – pre-1939 – schoolteachers; upper-middle — doctors, lawyers, accountants, wholesalers; upper-class — Rothschilds & Co. Obviously these are very broad categories.

  1. Part 66: Sunday 2nd October 1960, 10.25 Leave a reply
  2. Part 65: 3rd September 1960, 10.15 p.m. Leave a reply
  3. Part 64: 8th August 1960, 11.45 a.m. Leave a reply
  4. Part 63: Monday, August 1st 1960, 10.15 a.m. Leave a reply