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 Some (then) unpublished works may now be available, and so on.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 89: Saturday 3rd March 1961, 8.45p.m.

Sam [brother] is giving up his business. He has been pouring money down the drain into it for the last three years. He will be 56 in April, Lily is 53. What will they do? I went round there this afternoon. Lily says she realises she has got to earn her living. I said Mum ought to live with them, thereby releasing her flat at Moresby Road [Hackney], from which £5 a week net before tax could be got, but she says no – they will manage. “Your mother is difficult to get on with.” As my mother says, one prays to God for old age…

[Sam] is eligible for employment as a clerical officer by the L.C.C; starting at £575 p.a; but I am not sanguine about his chances of getting in. He is also entering a Civil Service over-40 competition, but here again I am pessimistic.

It’s galling; he’s done everything for me – coached me for my Junior County Scholarship, kept the family going, let me live like a lord when I was demobbed…All I can do is to hope they keep in good health, or healthy enough to go out to work each of them.

S.B. has walked out on his wife M. after twenty-five years of what Mum always described as a model marriage. They were her tenants – men hat nischt geherrt kenokker vertt fin zey. They had adopted a girl, now 14. S apparently is impotent, or at any rate sterile – perhaps they’re not the same thing – his seed is like water, says Mum. Mum had a fenster hartz off zey because they adopted V. and brought her into the house without telling Mum…Sam says it is possible M. may go to live with her Mum…If she went, I suppose I ought to give serious consideration to the possibility of our moving in…

Meanwhile, my own situation is such that I have borrowed £50 from the bank…I suspect that in about three months’ time I shall again be insolvent, or rather unable to maintain this house. In that case should I try to force the issue by moving into Moresby Road – perhaps M & V could free one of the two rooms they now occupy?

My article appeared – cut – in the Jewish Chronicle but has aroused no comment in the correspondence columns as yet. One Dr Ruth Cohen wrote to me from the German Hospital to say that an Irish ward sister had assured her that “neebeech” was Gaelic for frail, puny person. Coincidence, pure coincidence, as I wrote to Dr. Cohen.

An unexpected commission from D.F.Long – an article on man-made fibres in Israel to translate. Will net me about £6. O.K., so I had about £5 pinched from me the other morning at Camden Road. Zoll zahn de kupoora. Half my report books missing on Friday, doing my nut (thinks: everybody must think this chap Witriol is just impossible, he can’t hold a thing — I could have sworn I’d left ’em all in the staff-room, with the work-sheet inside the top book – Anderson’s – at 5p.m. on Thursday, 1st March — I could have sworn, but would I have sworn? No, I wouldn’t, honest Joe). About 3.15 p.m. Mrs Read presents me with the missing books – Martin, the woodwork man, had taken them home and just returned them to her. I am reduced to !**!

  1. Part 88: Sunday 31st December 1961, 9.45p.m. Leave a reply
  2. Part 87: Wednesday 27th December 1961, 10.30p.m. Leave a reply
  3. The 23 Enigma by Max Witriol Leave a reply
  4. Part 86: Monday 23rd October 1961, 2.30p.m. Leave a reply
  5. Part 85: Sunday 1st October 1961, 4.35p.m. Leave a reply
  6. Part 84: Wednesday 13th September 1961, 8.50p.m. Leave a reply
  7. Part 83: Thursday 7th September 1961, approx 11am 2 Replies
  8. Part 82: Friday 1st September 1961, 2 pm Leave a reply
  9. Part 81: Wednesday 23rd August 1961, 2.20 pm Leave a reply