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Your Letters: Shvitzing; John Lennon

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Host Scott Simon defends a sacred practice and reads responses to our interview with David Sheff, who spent three weeks interviewing Yoko Ono and John Lennon shortly before Lennon was shot to death in 1980.


Time now for Your Letters.

(Soundbite of typing and music)

SIMON: Last week, we interviewed Sharif el-Gamal,�the main developer of Park 51, the Islamic cultural center planned for lower Manhattan. He said the center would include facilities for the entire community, including a gym. I suggested the locker room might include something akin to a Turkish bath. Mr. el-Gamal replied...

Mr. SHARIF EL-GAMAL (Developer, Park51): You're talking to a guy who loves to shvitz. And you know, in New York there's this institution called the Russian bathhouse and I am a regular there. I mean, shvitzing is part of my life.

SIMON: That brought this from Robert Byrne of St. Louis:�Even though you call yourselves National Public Radio, you are more and more displaying yourselves as East Coast Public Radio, and I could cite dozens of examples to document that accusation. But not now. For the moment, I ask your staff, who think that New York is the hometown of all 350 million Americans, kindly translate for me what shvitzing means.

Mr. Byrne, I'm from Chicago, which isn't far from St. Louis. We learned that shvitz, as a verb, means to sweat. Shvitz as a noun is a steambath, as Mr. el-Gamal said. A lot of other people learn Yiddish words from Woody Allen movies, Seinfeld, or Larry David, where they're not always explained but usually understood in context.�Shvitz has other meanings in different contexts, but my editor said if I tried to explain them, he would plotz.

Most of our mail last week was in response to our interview with David Sheff, who spent three weeks interviewing Yoko Ono and John Lennon shortly before Mr. Lennon was shot to death in 1980.�

Some of our listeners are so smart they actually contradicted John Lennon, and insisted that he, not Paul McCartney, wrote the line - I'd love to turn you on - in "A Day in the Life."

But Mr. Lennon himself told David Sheff...

Mr. JOHN LENNON (Singer, Songwriter): The bulk of the song was written entirely by me. Paul's contribution being that beautiful little lick going into his song: I love to turn you on. That melodic little piece there where it changes is his contribution.

SIMON: What did John Lennon know about the Beatles?

Most of you just welcomed the opportunity to hear his voice again.�

Scott's interview with David Sheff took me back to a schoolgirl slumber party when we tried to call London to speak to John or Paul, writes Kelly Sullivan Soley of Dubuque, Iowa. Although we didn't reach the Beatles, John Lennon lives on in the heart of this 58-year old. The story moved me to laughter and tears.

(Soundbite of song, "A Day in the Life")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) But I just had to look, having read the book. I'd love to...

SIMON: We welcome your comments. Go to, click on the Contact Us link. We're also on Facebook and Twitter @NPRWeekend. You can send me a tweet @nprscottsimon.

This is NPR News.

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