Language I HATE!!!!

20 03 2007

Ok, I wasn’t planning on writing this, however I’ve been getting a lot of search hits on these terms, and so I feel like I ought to say something about it, since then people will at least know my opinion.  And then hopefully, slowly, I’ll be able to change things. 

I hate (and I don’t use that word lightly) the following words: Shiksa, Shagetz and “The Goyim.” The first two are never excusable, there is never any reason to use those words, and more than there is reason to use the word “nigger” (which offends me just as much, but I don’t feel like I have to convince other people that that one’s out of line.  Everyone realizes how offensive that is.)  They’re both derived from the Hebrew sheketz, which my dictionary translates as “anunclean insect” (or a rake?  is that in the garden tool sense, or the not so nice guy sense? Who knows…), and historically they have not been used in nice ways.  I’ve never heard them used in nice ways in any context.  They’re not nice words, they’re discriminatory and racist.  No reason to use them, especially when “non-Jew” will work just as well in contexts where it’s necessary.  And if it’s not necessary information, here’s a radical idea, just leave it out!  Not every story needs to contain information about the religion of the person involved.   Follow Grice’s conversational maxims! You wouldn’t automatically include information about someone’s race, why would you do something different about religion? 

And about using “the goyim”:  Unless you’re using it in the biblical sense of “nation” (and speaking Hebrew) don’t use this.  Again, it hasn’t been used in a nice context, and it’s never flattering.  Just like with race, where it’s inappropriate to talk about “the whites” or “the orientals” it’s out of line to use this.  I’m not a huge proponent of using deliberately PC language, but why use language you know to be offensive?  Not going out of your way to use “PC language” (for example using their rather than his or hers when the gender of the person is unknown.) is one thing, and can often be about using language correctly, rather than incorrectly.  There’s a movement to use gender neutral pronouns in English that I think is just silly, and comes from people not understanding the meaninglessness of gender in language (there’s nothing particularly feminine about a table, or masculine about a house.)  It’s arbitrary, and I think people need to get over it.  But in this case, there’s a long history of the words being used in hurtful, derogatory ways, and there is no excuse for being hurtful when it is just as easy to choose another word.  

I think people are likely to let this slip by, since they regard the people who talk like that as bigots, and so they just ignore them.  While I think it’s completely true that most people who say those things are bigoted (and the ones who aren’t are simply ignorant of the history of the words, and stop once they’re asked to.), I think it’s not a problem that can just be ignored.  Yes, those people are bigots, but they’re visible bigots.  They provide people with near infinite justification for anti-semitism, and if the rest of the community does not step up and say (even more vocally) that they disagree, all those bigoted, offensive views will be credited to the whole community.  Just like we’re asking Muslims to stand up and denounce terrorism, we need to stand up as a community and denounce the racism we see in our community. 

*Steps down off soapbox*

In other news, the Hebrew past tense for run in 2nd person singular (At ratzta) sounds more like she sat around smoking pot and singing “Redemption Song” than that she ran.  I found it amusing. 

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7 responses

20 03 2007
Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)

I *completely* agree!

I’m so sick of the word ‘goyim’ i don’t even use it in Hebrew much of the time for its proper meaning, i substitute other terms for “nations” such as אומות or עמים

21 03 2007
alan d. busch

Dear Jew-ish,

I come to your blog by way of J-Blogs Central.

I was attracted to this piece when I saw it was about language.

I wrote a piece not entirely unlike yours with a bit more humorous twist, but I do appreciate your remarks.

I am,

Very Sincerely Yours,

Alan D. Busch
http://www.thebookofben.blogspot.com

p.s. If you are there, scroll down in the archives to “You Jew sure do talk phunni.”

21 03 2007
Emily

Steg- I’m so glad someone agrees. I feel like this issue falls on deaf ears a lot of the time. I agree with you about choosing not to use “goyim” even in conversationaly Hebrew but I think my postition is a much weaker if I try to argue that no one should ever use it in that case. For now I’m focusing on the REALLY bad uses, and then I’ll move on to the sort of bad. 🙂 Thanks for the support though!

Alan- That is an amusing post, although more things that make you think “What?” than things that are truly offensive. Hope you enjoyed looking around! 🙂

26 03 2007
Ozymandias

There are a lot of people who agree with you.

26 03 2007
Emily

Ozymandias- Good. I just wish more of them were more vocal about it.

21 04 2007
ani lo

I don’t go for the PC language because it just means some people mask their true feelings about ex- goyim and goyim in general. I prefer people to use the langauge they are comfortable with and then I know who I am dealing with.
I was called a “fat shiksa farm girl” by my “lovely, sweet” ex husband who presented on the surface a very PC face to all but made his real feelings known in private. It really hurt me at the time but once I realised it was his problem and his viciousness I became amused by it. Here was this person trying to be such a good hoser betzuveh but he was full of prejudices and anger against women in particular. I believe he is now a potentially gay person who could not come to terms with his feelings for other men and turned it into a hatred of women because he could not emotionally connect to them they way he would have liked. So poor guy!!
I rather someone come out to me and say “I don’t like you because you are an ex shiksa and now everyone considers you a Jew but you will never be a Jew to me because I believe that you have to be born a Jew. There is no such thing as conversion to Judaism.” At least it is honest and then I know where I stand with them and they can laugh all they want when I daven or say brochas or keep kosher because I know and understand my connection with Hashem and don’t need their approval and I can live without their approval or high regard.
Each of us has his own baggage to deal with and quite frankly you can rant and rave about PC language all you like but people are human and have flaws – sometimes they correct them and sometimes it is part of their makeup and who are you to pass judgement on them.
Be content with yourself and search for your own tikkun and know that you won’t change the culture greatly by your hatred of the words used in a language. You live with it and move on. After all they are only words uttered by mere mortals and they are not G-d.

21 04 2007
Emily

Ani- You’re right, I won’t stop people who are truly bigoted from using that sort of language. What bothers me is that other people, people who aren’t bigoted, let that sort of language slid, and as such, give a free pass to the ideas and attitudes it represents. Does that distinction make sense?

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