Leo Rosten died
einstein at FROGNET.NET
Fri Apr 11 22:24:22 UTC 2003
Writer Leo Rosten dies; popularized Yiddish in U.S.
> DEBRA NUSSBAUM COHEN
> Jewish Telegraphic Agency
> NEW YORK -- Leo Rosten, who translated his mamaloshen into English and
> helped make words like "shlep" and "nosh" part
> of the American vernacular, has died at 88.
> Perhaps best known for his 1968 book "The Joys of Yiddish," Rosten was an
> amateur sociologist who also authored dozens of
> nonfiction and fiction titles, including mysteries.
> His first book, 1937's "The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N," which
> out of short stories he had published in
> the New Yorker magazine, affectionately recounted the struggles of people
> steeped in Yiddish culture and language who were
> trying to acclimate to life in America.
> Early in his career, Rosten used the pseudonym Leonard Q. Ross. He was
> apparently trying -- like many transplanted Jews --
> to go by a name that sounded to his immigrant ears more glamorous and
> American. Rosten was born April 11, 1908, in Lodz,
> Poland, to Samuel and Ida Freundlich Rosten. The family immigrated to the
> United States when he was 3.
> In Chicago, Rosten was raised in a working-class environment whose
> population of new Jewish Americans formed the setting
> for his later writing.
> His best-known character, Hyman Kaplan, was based on one of Rosten's
> students from night school.
> The warmth and humor with which Rosten wrote about his indomitable Hyman
> Kaplan struck a familiar chord with many
> people who were striving at the time to blend into the melting pot.
> Kaplan reappeared in two sequels, "The Return of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N,"
> 1959, and "O K*A*P*L*A*N! My
> K*A*P*L*A*N!" in 1976.
> Rosten possessed the same ear for humor and the same affection for his
> characters that Sholem Aleichem and Mark Twain had
> for theirs, said Sol Steinmetz, an authority on the impact of Yiddish on
> English language.
> Hyman Kaplan's "is a loving story, and throughout his life Mr. Rosten
> to convey this tremendous love of the language and
> culture," said Steinmetz, author of "Yiddish and English: A Century of
> Yiddish in America" and editorial director of the
> reference division at Random House. Steinmetz was recently quoted by New
> York Times language columnist William Safire as
> differing with Rosten over the origins of the Yiddish word "shmuck."
> Rosten "has made a lasting contribution to American culture and even
> culture. Jews who in the 1930s were ashamed of
> Yiddish, and throughout World War II felt funny about recognizing their
> Jewishness, learned through people like Rosten to feel
> proud of their Yiddishness without fear or shame," he said.
> Decades later, Rosten wrote "The Joys of Yiddish" and helped bring to
> America's farthest reaches a familiarity with Yiddish
> Rosten "helped popularize the usefulness and interest and humor of Yiddish
> as it influenced American English -- so people were
> not embarrassed, after his contributions, to use such words," said
> Today, even Dunkin' Donuts urges customers to try its new bagels through
> use of billboards reading, "It's Worth the
> Words such as "mensch" and "chutzpah," which with their multiple nuances
> have no precise English equivalent, and uniquely
> Yiddish sentence forms such as "Shakespeare it's not" and "Enjoy, enjoy!"
> are now used by Americans totally removed from
> any connection to the culture from which this language sprang.
> Today, "you can live in Minnesota and pick up a Yiddishism and not even be
> aware of what it is," Steinmetz said of Rosten's
> lasting influence.
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