December 10, 2009

From Roy Blount Jr.'s Alphabet Soup

Kvetch: In Born to Kvetch, Michael Wex tells us:
Not only do Judaism in general and Yiddish in particular place an unusual emphasis on complaint, but Yiddish also allows considerable scope for complaining about the complaining of others, more often than not to the others who are doing the complaining...The best response to a complaint is another complaint, an antiseptic counter-kvetch that makes further whining impossible for anybody but you.
Kvetching, then, is not just chronic but also intense, projective complaining. Standard dictionaries trace kvetch back to the Yiddish kvetshn, to squeeze or strain...Not just strain, but to 'strain at stool'; to make an effort to move the bowels...As Wex puts it, kvetch connects with its alimentary roots, "A really good kvetch has a visceral quality, a sense that the kvetcher won't be completely comfortable, completely satisfied, until it's all come out."
On the etymology of etymology:
From the Greek for 'the true sense of a word.' That goes back to when roots showed through a lot more than they do today. But just as you appreciate a vegetable more if you know how it grows, you have a better hold on a word if you use it in acknowledgement of its roots, its background, some of the soil still attached.

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