forty-five = Jew?

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 9 16:05:11 UTC 2013

Soviet Jews had a group of common expressions revolving around "the
fifth", e.g., "hit the fifth", "got hit in the fifth", etc. Given "fifth
column", "plead the fifth" and "fifth degree", this may seem ironic, but
the origin is quite different. Soviet passports through roughly 1976
listed "Nationality" as the fifth line (all numbered). Passport
"modernization" reform in the mid-70s, removed the numbers but not the
Nationality entry. The full expression"piataia grapha"/"po piatoi
graphe" was often used, but then began being trunkated to just the
number. After the passport reform, the expression became more opaque but
might have actually become more common. It should also be noted that
passports were a mandatory form of ID.

It's possible that "forty-five" refers to a line on some bureaucratic
form that listed religion or ethnicity. Or it could be an oodball
euphemism similar to "Canadian" in IL/WI.


On 10/9/2013 6:39 AM, Stephen Goranson wrote:
> >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 -

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