Heard on TV

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Sep 6 13:47:24 UTC 2011

On Sep 6, 2011, at 4:29 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:

> On Sep 5, 2011, at 7:17 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> On Mon, Sep 5, 2011 at 9:08 PM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>>> Are black Americans not goyim?
>> They're niggers. Saying that blacks are "goyim" merely because most
>> are Christian is like saying that blacks are "Anglos" merely because
>> they speak English.
>> Who does that?
> According to my Mac dictionary and to what my Jewish friends have told me, a goy is a non-Jew; moreover, I am not a Christian, but my Jewish friends refer to me as a goy.
> Why you have to bring the n-word into this, I do not know, but if there is a reason for not classifying black Americans as goyim, I would be interested to learn about it.

It's essentially a pragmatic issue.  As explained to me by the late Ellen Prince, if there's a salient specific label for a (non-Jewish) group, they tend not to be called goyim, although that term *can* be used collectively as a superordinate (as when knives and guns are called "weapons", but you wouldn't tend to refer to a specific gun or group of guns as "weapons").  So black people, while not generally "niggers", are indeed not referred to as "goyim" but as "shvartses" (or "shvartsers"?), with the Yiddish (and German) word for 'black'.  Similarly, Chinese are not "goyim" in just that way, they're…well, whatever the Yiddish word for 'Chinese' is.    There's a very old ads-l post on this that I wrote once, informed by Ellen's judgments.

> I do appreciate the Anglo reference. I wasn't aware that Anglo had the meaning of white Anglophone.
Same sort of thing--it's not a question of meaning as such, but of usage.  "Finger" doesn't have the meaning of 'non-thumb digit' (we have 10 fingers, after all--or most of us do), but if you broke your thumb you wouldn't say you broke your finger.


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

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