A very wise man once told me: ‘You know, boychik, this world is full of kibitzers. All you can do is out-kibitz them.’

You don’t know what the Yiddish kibitzer means? I’ll tell you.

The word itself is derived from the German name for a bird, the kiebitz, a lapwing or peewit. These birds are by reputation noisy and inquisitive and are known, colloquially, as Kibitzer.

However, in German, the verb kiebitzen means to spy over the shoulder of a card player.

So, a kibitzer is someone who kibitzes — that is, gives unsolicited advice or suggestions, in particular as a bystander/observer at a game; a ‘buttinski’; someone who’s always sticking his two cents into the affairs of others; a josher, a teaser, a flatterer; someone who patronisingly humours someone else along; a wise-guy who offers easy advice but doesn’t participate in the action; a second guesser; a… pain in the ass.

Literary criticism is something I used to do at college. Some people do it for a job: they’re all kibitzers; critics are kibitzers. Political commentators are mostly kibitzers; a minority of people who post comments on blogs are kibitzers.

My mother is a great kibitzer. In the car with my father she would always be back-seat driving. You know: ‘Watch out for the cyclist’, ‘There’s a red light coming up’, ‘You’re driving too fast’… She was once the subject of an article in our local paper because she took and failed her driving test fourteen times.

There are many kibitzers who frequent my local bar.

Recently, a Jewish friend of mine comes in. He tells me he’s won the lottery. All six numbers plus the bonus ball. The prize is in millions. This kibitzer overhears our conversation and asks my friend how he chose his numbers.

‘Well,’ he says, ‘5 is my grandson’s age. 64 is from the first two digits of my telephone number. 46 is the year I was born. 3 the number of years I’ve been divorced. 15 is my house number and 21 the age I’ll never be again.’

‘And the bonus ball?’

’63,’ the winner tells him, ‘it came to me in a dream. I dreamed I was in a theatre and on the stage was a chorus of sevens — eight dancers, each with the number 7 printed on the back of her costume. So I chose 63.’

‘But eight times seven is 56, not 63!’ cries the kibitzer.

‘So I’ve never been any good with numbers,’ chortles the millionaire. ‘Hey, bartender, get the mathematician a drink.’

What a kibitzer.

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