"Color" = "information"?!

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 30 05:49:43 UTC 2007

I'm a PhD in linguistics-manque in linguistics and linguistics has
long been a Jewish - Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle, to drop only a
couple of contemporary names - thing. As a consequence, from about
1969 to about 1980, the overwhelming majority of my friends were

However, the "connection," so to speak, goes all the way back to
Marshall, Texas. When we went "uptown" to shop, we carried collapsible
collapsible tin cups, not every shop or store provided a drinking
fountain for blacks - only the "separate" part of "separate but equal"
was ever enforced. At Woolworth's, for example, we had to drink at the
janitor's sink (if this term is not universal, it's the special,
extra-deep sink typically used by cleaning for rinsing out buckets and
cleaning mops). However, when we went to the local department store,
Joe Wiseman's, they not only provided the colored with a drinking
fountain, but it was exactly the same as the one for whites. They even
located it in the front of the store, though on the opposite side from
the white fountain. (They may have been liberal, but they weren't
crazy.) At Marcus & Karriel (pronounced "Carol" or even "Cal,"
locally). the local Neiman-Marcus equivalent (M&K were cousins of
N-M), there was only a single water fountain and all customers could
drink from it, regardless of race, creed, color, sexual orientation,
or previous condition of servitude. Those who didn't like it were free
to shop elsewhere. Though there was no "elsewhere" in town and few
black families aside from my own could afford to shop there, it was
still a ballsy move, since white people who could afford to shop there
could also easily afford to go to The City, i.e. Shreveport, only 35
miles away, to shop.

Occasionally, the M&K families came to our house, bringing food which
they shared with us. I was less than five years old, in those days,
but, in hindsight, I reckon that this was as close as they could come
to inviting us to a seder, that being the day of stomp-down
segregation. We could have gone to their house only by going in by the
back door, under cover of bib ovahawls and maid's uniforms, even if
they had been WASP's who didn't have to worry about covering their own

In Saint Louis, we lived across the street from a large synagogue. The
Jewish kids never joined the other white kids in "turding" (stoning
with fresh horse-apples picked up with, amazingly, bare hands) us
colored kids.

Well, you get the picture. Of course, folks are folks. As a friend put
it, "Wilson, not all us Jews are nice guys." True. Some are assholes,
like the biggest slumlord - I can't bring myself to call him a
"ghetto-lord"; it's too weird - in Massachusetts. Of course, I don't
know him personally, as I know Donny (anglicized from "Dani," I guess,
otherwise, what kind of name is that for a nice Jewish boy?)

Is that guy [= Howard Lasnik, to name-drop] Jewish?
Who's that colored broad with him?
That's his wife.
Shit! I could NEVER marry a colored broad! Yada, yada, yada. (Yep, he
went on to belabor the point.)

But Donny's first cousin is my root-canalist and someone that I can
call at home, even on the weekend, for dental advice.

My Jewish boss at the L.A. Department of Water & Power, Glenn Herr,
tried to keep me from passing probation. But *his* Jewish boss,
Theodore Brook, made sure that I had no problems. And I'd always heard
that Jews stuck together!

The nice guys more than make up for the assholes.

IAC, to bring this bit of autobiography to a close, I've long had both
motive and oppurtunity to get behind things Jewish.


On 5/29/07, James Harbeck <jharbeck at sympatico.ca> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
> Subject:      Re: "Color" = "information"?!
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >They're a real mitzve.
> Is that a new entry in BE? That's one Yiddish/Hebrew borrowing I
> don't normally hear outside of Jewish religious contexts, although I
> have to admit it's quite apposite here.
> James Harbeck.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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