[Ads-l] member of the Tribe = Jewish

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 6 21:28:04 UTC 2022

In “The Mysterious Jewish Roots of Yosemite Sam” (https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/yo-semites-yosemite-sam-jewish-roots <https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/yo-semites-yosemite-sam-jewish-roots>), Schonfeld writes, "But who knew he was a member of the tribe?”

On 3 July 2002 (http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2002-July.txt <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2002-July.txt>), Mark Mandel wrote: ‘...I had heard *of* self-referential "MOT"*, standing for "member of the tribe", but I had never heard it and thought it was obsolete till just this past week, when another Jew used it to me.'

Wilson Gray wrote on 1 June 2004 (http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2004-June/038580.html <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2004-June/038580.html>): 'I've never heard anything of this type proposed by any black person, with the sole exceptions of "phat(t)" and "mot," meaning "member of the tribe.”’

Probably a mere coincidence, but this was about the time I first heard the expression “member of the Tribe” as a way that Jews refer to each other. I believe "Are you a member of the Tribe?” and “ Are you of the Tribe?” are used to mean “Are you Jewish?"

The OED has a meaning related to the Jewish tribes under “tribe”:

A group of people forming a community and claiming descent from a common ancestor; spec. each of the twelve divisions of the people of Israel, claiming descent from the twelve sons of Jacob.

Among the other handful of dictionaries I looked at, none came closer than this to meaning “Jewish.”

Benjamin Barrett (he/his/him)
Formerly of Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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