Blessings, Curses, Hopes, and Fears Psycho-Ostensive Expressions in Yiddish by James A. Matisoff

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English & Transliterated Yiddish text

In this delightful book, the author enumerates and classifies the formulas Yiddish speakers use to express their emotions. It is a rarity among scholarly books, for it brings joy while it teaches; it makes us smile, sometimes roar with laughter, while it develops the most rigorous linguistic argumentation. The author analyzes the many kinds of Yiddish "psycho-ostensives"—ranging from blessings and thanks to lamentations and curses. To a person who mentions something horrible you can say: Zalts dir in di oygn, fefer dir in noz! ("Salt into your eyes, and pepper into your nose!"). Or to a child you might tenderly murmur: A gezúnt dir in yeder éyverl! ("A health to all your little body-parts!"). The author illustrates how these formulas can be used to fulfill social conventions, to keep away evil, to show off—or even to deceive the listener.

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