forty-five = Jew?

Geoffrey Steven Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Wed Oct 9 13:37:37 UTC 2013

My first guess was that it was related to Hebrew counting. As many of you know, every Hebrew letter has a numerical value, and 45 would be mem heh ('m', 'h'). But if that refers somehow to antisemitism I don't know how. 
The status of 18 as a lucky number in (at least) Ashkenazic Judaism is based on the fact that 18 is Het yud (ħ j), which spells 'life'. And there are other examples, but I can't make sense of this one. Maybe someone with more imagination can get somewhere. 

Geoffrey S. Nathan 
Faculty Liaison, C&IT 
and Professor, Linguistics Program 
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT) 

Nobody at Wayne State will EVER ask you for your password. Never send it to anyone in an email, no matter how authentic the email looks. 

----- Original Message -----

> From: "Stephen Goranson" <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 6:39:19 AM
> Subject: forty-five = Jew?

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject: forty-five = Jew?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

> From the N Y Times:

> In his book “Anglomania,” Ian Buruma writes about his grandparents,
> German Jewish immigrants who became British, felt British, loved
> Britain — and yet. He writes: “Instead of using the word ‘Jew’ in
> public we would say ‘forty-five.’ The origin of this odd phrase is
> unknown. When Bernard was refused a senior position in a famous
> hospital in 1938, he wrote to Win: ‘It is the old, old story —
> (45).”’


> I hadn't heard this before. In the book, the sentence before the
> quote above: "Like all families ours had its private expressions and
> code words." So maybe it was quite limited.

> Stephen Goranson

> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list