the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

According to Jackie Mason ("How To Talk Jewish"), the Yiddish word "kvetch" rhymes with stretch.  He adds, "As kvetches get older, they imagine more aches and pains. Since Medicaid they're all in hospitals or doctors' offices.  If they have no "strakhirung/farzikherung" (insurance), they just sit in the house ("dos hoyz") and complain.  But as soon as they find out they're insured, they're in doctors' offices day and night.  Every five minutes there's a different complaint.  "There's something on the bottom of my thigh ("polke").  Everytime I move my foot, it lands on the floor ("padloge").  Every time I pick up the spoon, Doctor, my mouth ("moyl") opens. I don't know what it is."

Everyone complains--Jews and non-Jews-- celebrities and non-celebrities.

In the Jan. 8, 1972, episode of "All in the Family," we share Edith's Problem.  Edith enters menopause; Archie calls it "mental pause."  Edith is giddily "freylech" (happy) one moment, screaming stifle and damn the next.  When Archie bends over backwards to understand ("farshteyn"), Edith decides he's stopped loving her because he doesn't care enough to yell.  Finally, he demands that if she's going to have a change of life, she'd better do it in "draysik" (30) seconds. This cures her for about two more minutes.

Teyve ("Fiddler on the Roof") kvetches: "Today I am a horse.  Dear God, did you have to make my poor old horse lose his shoe just before the Sabbath?  That wasn't nice.  It's enough you pick on me, Teyve, bless me with five daughters, a life of poverty.  What have you got against my horse?  Sometimes I think when things are too quiet up there, You say to Yourself: 'Let's see, what kind of mischief can I play on my friend Tevye?"

Paul Riser ("Babyhood") kvetches after his first child is born.  He makes a brief list of the things that can go wrong:

Yakov Smirnoff ("America on Six Rubles A Day") always kvetches about living in Russia. He writes, "Even when there was a lot of food, it was often difficult keeping it fresh. When I was a kid, most people couldn't afford a refrigerator.  To keep the food cold, we would hang it out of the window. The government used to brag that every kitchen in Moscow came equipped with an automatic defroster--it's called summer."

He continues, "As bad as it was trying to get something to eat at home in the USSR, it was even worse in the restaurants  Whenever I went to a Russian restaurant, I would always have reservations--but I would go anyway.  And you knew what kind of a dining experience you were in for because the sign in the window would say,           SORRY, WE'RE OPEN."

Smirnoff says, "One of the most popular Soviet meals is the bread sandwich. That is two slices of bread with another slice of bread in between."

And the final example of a kvetching individual:  Max Bialystock, in the B'way show, "The Producers."

"I'm drowning here!  I'm going down for the last time!  I... I...  I see my whole life flashing before my eyes!  I see a weathered old farmhouse...With a white picket fence... I'm running through fields of alfalfa with my collie, Rex.  No, Rex, not on the alfalfa. And I see my mother...I see Mama standing on the back porch...And I hear her calling out to me..."Alvin, don't forget your chores! The wood needs a-cordin' and the cows need a-milkin!  Alviiiiiin!!"...Wait a minute. My name's not Alvin.  That's not my life. Someone else's life is flashing before my eyes. What the hell is that about?  I'm not a hillbilly, I grew up in the Bronx.  Leo's taken everything from me...Even my past!"
Marjorie Wolfe agrees with Rabbi Benjamin Blech, who said, "a kvetsh" is first cousin to a krekhtser.  A kvetsh doesn't just moan, though.  A kvetsh is in a constant state of dissatisfaction.  A kvetsh will be given six choices of main dishes at a fancy wedding reception and complain afterward that they didn't have anything that he liked."


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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