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Kibitz Me Not

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More only very vaguely chess-related trivia. Watching the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, best known for being the first feature film with sound. (And for one of the best known of the countless excruciating blackface scenes in Hollywood history, when the star Al Jolson sings "Mammy.") It's still mostly in silent film format, with interstitial dialogue frames. If you didn't know, the film is about a young Jewish boy, a cantor's son, who becomes a famous jazz singer. When he bumps into an old man he knew as a boy, who recognizes him, he says, "Mr. Yudelson, the kibitzer!"

Of course anyone with a Jewish grandma knows that kibitzer is Yiddish for a busybody, a meddler who offers unsolicited advice. But it's mostly it's used only in the chess world today and hasn't really crossed over into mainstream English. A Google News search turns up just 25 hits. Sad for such a great word. At least it's more than "zugzwang."


Mig, I don't know if you've ever seen Neil Diamond's remake of "The Jazz Singer", but they used a (completely different) black-face scene in that, too. Played veeeerrrry differently, and very funny. (Neil Diamond's character is the butt of the joke in that version.)

Bridge too, no? I used to hear "kibitzer" with reference to bridge more than re. chess.

In general, usage of Yiddish- and German-based words in American English seems to have greatly decreased during my lifetime. In the '60s, words like "kibitzer", "ersatz" and "wunderkind" were frequent.

Yes, one of the pages I turned up in my searches was a bridge magazine called "The Kibitzer."

the jazz singer is racist, not as bad as "birth of a nation" but still racist. There was also some movie from the 80's that was really racist were some white guy dressed up in black face to try to win a college scholarship for african-americans.

I've heard the term used quite a bit at online Go servers, also. See this humor page, for example:


Just saw the Sneak Preview of the DaVinci Code. Predictably, there was a gratuitous use of a chess board and set as a prop in Grail Hunter Leigh Teabing's mansion.

Any guess as to what color square was in the lower right hand corner of the board? Even more interestingly, the pieces were set up on their home square--with one big exception. It seems that there were a couple of pieces with their positions reversed.

I'm guess that they didn't opt to spring for a Chess Consultant at the film set.


May 23 - A glimmer of life from chess outside of its typical forum.


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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 19, 2006 5:26 AM.

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