Prior to the publishing of my Yiddish and Jive book, it seemed I spent every hour of the day at my computer dealing with and solving all sorts of last-minute problems related to my book being published. Just afterward, I suddenly began to feel anxious. I would sit at my computer and didn’t know what to do. I would wander around the house not able to concentrate. I asked myself was my problem related to writer’s block or even burnout?

Then, at a home gathering, I spoke with a woman friend about where I thought my head was. Laughingly, she said, “Herb, if you were a woman having just given birth, I would think you would be suffering from postpartum depression. Instead of giving birth, you finally finished your book.”

Since I was not too sure what postpartum depression was, I went to Wikipedia to do the research. I learned that some women after the birth of a child become anxious, have mood swings and concentration problems.

I also just came across this sentence from Walter Cronkite’s A Reporter’s Life about President Johnson just prior to his leaving the White House: “It was clear that he was beginning to suffer the severe postpartum symptoms that afflict most leaders who come to that day when they must step down to comparatively powerless obesity.”

I further learned that fathers can have postpartum depression, too. New fathers can feel fatigued, have a lack of concentration, and even be anxious. Reading about postpartum encouraged me to look back on my 50 to 60-year travail working on my finally published book.

Way back in the 1960s I had a contract to write a Jive Dictionary. Then, working on an advanced degree, employed at several jobs, like many Vineyarders, and being a new father, I did not have what was needed to fulfill my contract. I must admit that the gentleman who took over the contract produced a well-researched dictionary — a much better product than I could have accomplished.

I persevered, though, and eventually developed a Jive Lexicon Analogy Test that was used throughout the country with teachers working in inner city schools with black male students. For example, see how you do on these two questions:

SLACK is to SLIDE as MR. CHARLIE is to:

1) FAIR One




KICKS is to GATERS as SKY is to:





The idea for the test was to help teachers understand the vernacular or jive lexicon used by some of their students—not necessarily for teachers to use the language. The concept was for teachers to learn the jive talk used by some students, so that they would succeed in their students mastering Standard English. As I recall, around that time period, the Oakland School District in California passed a resolution declaring black English as a second language. The idea was for teachers to learn their student’s “black vernacular—Ebonics,” to form a bridge to the teaching of Standard English. Indeed, mastering Standard English was and still is the sine qua non for getting ahead.

Ergo, after researching and amassing hundreds of pages of Jive usage through the years, I gradually moved from an unfulfilled contract for a Jive dictionary to a book (not a dictionary) about Yiddish and Jive in everyday usage. As part and parcel of my research for Yiddish and Jive usage, I copiously recorded the Yiddish and Jive words found in any books/newspapers/magazines I read, and television programs or movies I saw. Hence, my subsequent book points out to those unaware, the mindful recognition that Yiddish and Jive are everywhere in our daily lives.

Speaking at various Vineyard venues about my new book, I believe was a catharsis that restored my initiative and spirit. That introspective discovery somehow helped me overcome the hypothetical “postpartum” problem that my woman friend spoke of when I told her where my head was at.

Now that my head is clear, I’m into my next endeavor with a co-author. Carl Holt, from MVTV, and I are researching and compiling a book or web page of all the historical plaques on the Vineyard. The idea for the book of the Island’s historic plaques is derived from Eliot Wigginton’s Foxfire books of years ago. Accordingly, Carl and I are on a quest to photograph all the Island’s historic plaques — some hidden and some observable.

(Answers to questions above: PADDY / BRIM)

Herb Foster is a Trustee of the Edgartown Free Public Library and his book Ghetto to Ghetto: Yiddish and Jive in Everyday Life was just published.