Judy Kay-Wolff

No Passing Fancy …

At first glance, it looks like a casual remark, but to me it means mountains more.   NO PASSING FANCY was the title of a popular book written  in 1977 by Sue Emery, Editor of he ACBL Bulletin for 24 years, a top flight regional tournament director and possibly the most popular person (male or female) employed by the League.

According to most who were privileged to know her, she had a unique array of attributes – besides being a good player, a writer of rare talent, a painstaking researcher and a fastidious analyst – her worldwide contact with bridge players qualified her as “encyclopedic” in her knowledge of bridge trivia!  Quite an impressive list of credentials.

Coincidentally today, plowing through more books in my storeroom (for junking, saving or passing on to my Unit), I happened upon the red and white cover and recognized it immediately.   It covers fifty years of bridge (1927-1977).   If you don’t have it, buy it; if you can’t buy it, borrow it.   It is really a bridge player’s delight.

As I glanced through the chapters, visions of the old-timers and  happy occasions raced through my head, but one particular caption hit my eye that I want to share with you   It  was captioned, “The Origin Of Kibitzer by M. J. Greenebaum, and I quote:

Several months ago, Rabbi Newman of New York wrote an article in which he mentioned the fact that so many words of Jewish origin find their way into general American speech, referring particularly to the term “kibitzer.”

Whereupon Rabbi Freehof of Chicago wrote him to the following effect:  “If it true that the green plover is a very inquisitive bird which likes to watch other birds building their nests, then the word ‘kibitzer’ is not of Jewish but of German origin, the German word for green plover being ‘kibitz.’  “ (See German Dictionaries).

Dr. Newman then took the matter up with the ornithologist at the Bronx Zoo who said, “It is quite true that the green plover is a very inquisitive bird and I assume that the word “kibitzer” virtually means ‘plover’ and is a German word referring to any inquisitive bird.”

So now you kibitzers know what you really are.

               (Taken from the Contract Bridge Magazine, October, 1933)

However, Sue, in her inimitable way, added:

The above article was perhaps the first to explore the origin of the bridge-related word ‘kibitz,’ whose etymology is now generally agreed.   Note this entry from Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary (1968):  kibitzer n. Informal.   One who meddles in the affairs of others; especially a spectator who gives gratuitous advice to card players.”

You see how we are seen by the outside world!   Seriously, if you are a bridge historian, you will just love reading No Passing Fancy!

1 Comment

ReneSeptember 12th, 2010 at 7:37 am


Sounds like a delightful accounting of bridge history before most of us came on the scene. I remember hearing that the pictures of the oldtimers are priceless. Am gonna try to find a copy.

Thanks for the referral.