N.Y. Observer: "shyster" is anti-Semitic slur

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Apr 17 00:47:59 UTC 2003

>The phonetic similarity of "shyster" and "Shylock" is merely coincidence.
>And in spoken usage I do not see "shyster" as limited in any way to
>just Jewish lawyers. Dishonest lawyers/businessmen/etc. of *any*
>confession may appropriately be termed "shysters."
>    "Shyster" is such a forcefully expressive word that it would be a
>shame to see it marginalized by misapplied political correctness.  ....
>    So, leave "shyster" alone. Our language will be poorer (and
>unjustifiably so), if the term is ruled inadmissable in print or
>vigorous speech.

I agree. I have never perceived "shyster" as having any ethnic/religious
connection, and I've never heard anybody suggest such a thing. A better
argument could be made for "shylock" = "loan-shark" although in my
experience this too lacks any Semitic or anti-Semitic character in popular use.

-- Doug Wilson

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