Heard on TV

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 5 02:56:46 UTC 2011

There are some people who think--for whatever reason--that "Jew" is an
insult (kind of like "homosexual" has become a cold formality and thus an
insult--and thus preference for "gay"), but Jewish is ok. This does not
answer the question why they don't see that it's not a noun. But it does
explain why someone might use it as an alternative where another might say
"Jew". Ironically, this usage might be most common among social
antisemites--a hypercorrection, of sorts. So Wilson may be right--it's an
odd euphemism for "Jew", but one that actually serves an a red flag.

Another pointer is the fact that "Jewish" parallels "British", "American",
etc., in perfectly ordinary expressions--"He's Jewish", and the like. It's
only a small step to extrapolate from there. And if you already think that
saying "Jew" is somehow wrong, what better excuse do you need?


On Sun, Sep 4, 2011 at 10:20 PM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu>wrote:

> 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):
> ---
> http://www.charleslindbergh.com/americanfirst/speech.asp
> The three most important groups who have been pressing this country
> toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt
> administration.
> ...
> 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.
>  --bgz

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

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