Heard on TV

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Sep 5 02:20:14 UTC 2011

On Sun, Sep 4, 2011 at 9:34 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> Spoken by the voiceoverer of a 2004 movie called Saved,
> "Cassandra Edelstein was the only _Jewish_ to attend [our "christian"
> sleepaway camp,] American Eagles."
> I don't know whether this occurs in the *real* wild. My first thought
> was that _Jewish_ was being used like _colored_ in similar
> environments, which is new, IME. But, on second thought, maybe it was
> being used as a "euphemism" for _Jew_.

Here's another puzzling usage of "(the) Jewish", seemingly as a
collective noun, from a notorious speech by Charles Lindbergh, "Who
Are the War Agitators?" (Sep. 11, 1941):

The three most important groups who have been pressing this country
toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt
The second major group I mentioned is the Jewish.
If any one of these groups--the British, the Jewish, or the
administration--stops agitating for war, I believe there will be
little danger of our involvement.

In all three cases, "the Jewish" could be elliptical for "the Jewish
group", but the coordinate structure of the first and third sentences
discourages this reading -- since "the British" is easily construed as
a collective noun and "the (Roosevelt) administration" seems to be a
free-standing NP, not attributively modifying "group".

Lindbergh doesn't supply an unequivocal use of "the Jewish" as a
collective noun elsewhere in the speech, so I'm not sure if I'm
off-base here.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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