merissanathangerson

The Original Yente, Please Stand Up

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2010 at 11:00 am

We have come a long way from the original yenta, "Yente Telebende," a comical gossip in 1920's Yiddishkite theater. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II, phiary.com/diary/victor.

With nods to Dr. Ruth, Dear Abby, heck even Delilah, I realized I was slightly off base when the real original Yenta came to me earlier this summer.  One thing left out of my first definition of a Yenta:  the coiner of the term here in America, himself.  After an AskYourYenta radio show, I received an e-mail from Mr. Yenta’s grandson with a quick history lesson on the word.

Yes, indeed, the term “yenta,” then “yente” was popularized by a humorist in the 1920’s and 1930’s by the name of Jacob Adler, pen name B. Kovner.  “Yenta Telebenta” (or “Yente Telebende”) was an off-Broadway play and the name of a comic gossip in his writings, which imprinted the “Yinglish,” Yiddish and English word upon the American public in New York.

In the age of Yiddish theater in the 20’s and 30’s, a “yente” started referring to a busybody or gossipmonger and then grew to a popular slang word.  In addition to being his wife’s name and being the title of a play, Yenta was also B. Kovner’s character in a fifty-year writing career for The Jewish Daily Forward.

For an example of Jacob Adler/B. Kovner’s humorist writing, click here.

Ask Yenta!  E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using www.send-email.org to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta
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