By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Kvetch is another Jewish word on the verge of making the big breakthrough into standard English. Most people have an idea that it means to complain in a way which is assumed to be particularly Jewish, but few realise what a versatile word it is.

Theetymology of kvetch is the key to understanding its range of uses. Kvetch is Yiddish from German, deriving in turn from the medieval French, esquasher. It is thus a cousin sharing a common lineage with the English word squash.

This shows why one can kvetch a bottle of tomato ketchup to get the last drops out, or kvetch a family with three kids into a Mini. It also helps explain why the rabbi can kvetch out his sermon for a whole half an hour, or why a kvetch can also be a stretched, forced or far-fetched interpretation, as in, its a good book, but the authors attribution of the poems to Shakespeare was really a kvetch, or, he managed to kvetch antisemitic implications from a perfectly harmless statement.

The more familiar uses of kvetch follow figuratively. Using it as a verb, you can say, our three-year-old kvetches to have tomato ketchup with whatever food you put in front of him. As an adjective, the baby was so kvetchy, we didnt sleep all night. Or as a noun, its not surprising that shes such a kvetch after the divorce and everything else shes gone through. With a bit of a kvetch you can even make it adverb: Just try not to talk so kvetchily, Ok?

Last updated: 12:31pm, March 6 2009