Home / Book Review – Yiddish for Dogs: Chutzpah, Feh!, Kibbitz, and More: Every Word Your Canine Needs to Know by Janet Perr

Book Review – Yiddish for Dogs: Chutzpah, Feh!, Kibbitz, and More: Every Word Your Canine Needs to Know by Janet Perr

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I grew up in a New York Eastern European Jewish household where Yiddish was spoken interchangeably with English. We never ate chicken gizzards, and I would pale at the thought of eating stomach, but I loved the "pupick". 

When something was bad a simple "Oy!" would do, but if you heard "Oy vais mir" you knew things were really bad.  Instead of glowing with joy we would "kvell".  And people were never crazy, just "mishuggeneh".

So much Yiddish has entered into typical American English vocabulary that it makes sense that our dogs, even strays from a "goy" background, would still understand the words. 

I mean, what dog likes to "shlep" her owners around?  And who wants only kibble when there is a "mishmash" of food in the trash?  Why be on a diet when we can "fress"?  And how can a dog not start barking or "plotzing" when lots of people come over the house? 

This is a short picture book written from the viewpoint of dogs.  So we have fat fireplug of a dog saying : "What can I say about FRESSING? Obviously my favorite activity. And believe me, I'll eat anything that you put in front of me."  And we have a "shlemeil" cigarette smoking dachshund sitting in front of a "no smoking" sign.  

If you are Jewish, a dog lover, or both you should buy this book.  Short, hysterically funny, and the pictures are just too cute!  Keep it out for company, show your friends, look at it when you're in a bad mood, and don't forget to keep speaking Yiddish to your dogs lest they lose the tradition!

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About Lynda Lippin

  • Shaurain Farber

    I just wish that reviewer Lynda Lippin and probably writer Janet Perr knew more Yiddish and didn’t massacre the language. The word “mishuggeneh” means a crazy female. To be crazy is to be “meshuge”. When you transliterate Yiddish into English there are no double consonants (gg and ll) and no “ck”, only “k”.

  • Shaurain,

    Omein, v’omein!

    Kenmen veren meshuge fun de yidenes ver vissen nisht kein mameloshen un haktmen a chainyik az v’yakhnes tiyen. Vey iz mir!

  • [breaks fourth wall, looks directly at camera, thinks about saying something, opens mouth, gives up, exits left shaking head]

  • Oy! I am an American Jew and, like it or not, American Jews created what is known as “Yinglish” when they brought the Yiddish language into the new country. Words such as “meshuggeneh” are the Americanized versions of the Yiddish terms. Transliterations are notoriously malleable and I have seen “pupick” used before, like in this phrase from Ellen Shapiro’s article, “A Pupick In the Pot”, “When we were kids, much the way other children fight over the toy at the bottom of the cereal box (we did that too,) we fought over the pupick in the pot of chicken soup. We would run to the pot muscling and maneuvering to get the pupick for our bowl, and I, the youngest, was right in there with my brothers fighting for the right to the pupick. So my father added extra pupicks to the pot. ‘It adds flavor,’ he’d say. When we got older and learned what the pupick was, the fights over the chicken’s ‘belly button’ ceased.” As for “Oy Vais Mir”, it is a shortened version of “Oy Vai Is Mir” (woe is me), and is quite frankly how I remember hearing it as a child. I don’t think this book or my review massacres Yiddish, especially since it is written as a tongue in cheek language book for Dogs!

  • I too, was born in America. I know all about Yinglish, and know all about mixing wine with seltzer to get “chumpain”. It tastes eppes like wine and eppes like seltzer and not at all like champagne.

    I learnt the real thing, Yiddish from my father, and from the mother of a girlfriend I had many years ago.

    It’s better to drink the real thing, Lynda. Hence my comment.