Social Question

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

How offensive is the term "to jew someone"?

Asked by MyNewtBoobs (19026points) June 11th, 2010

Do you consider the word to be extremely offensive, or sort of ‘eh’?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

50 Answers

loser's avatar

I’m offended.

FutureMemory's avatar

The word or the phrase?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

The phrase. I have to start stopping all e-communication after 10pm. I keep making an a** of myself.

Jeruba's avatar

I would not use it, ever, and anyone I heard using it would instantly sink in my estimation, probably too low for any further association.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Jeruba What if it was a family member or a life-long friend?

gemiwing's avatar

I’m having trouble describing how offensive that is. Words fail me.

Buttonstc's avatar

Yeah it’s really offensive. Not even borderline, just really offensive.

Just for contrast, take the instance of a Mom trying to induce “Jewish guilt” by saying “but you never call me”.

The phrase about Jewish guilt has been oft used by both Jews and non-Jews alike and is even sort of analogous to “Catholic guilt”. It’s mor like an observation on the universal foibles of human nature.

I suppose there might be a Mom or two who might take offense so I’d be a bit cautious about the context in which it’s used. But, by and large, it has an endearingly humorous quality about it without any harm intended.

But the example you cited just plays into the worst of perjorative stereotypes. There is nothing humorous or the slightest bit endearing about it. It’s just an ugly expression of prejudice. Period.

Jeruba's avatar

@papayalily, if it were a family member, I would have to say, “You know, it really bothers me to hear you use that expression. How about finding another way to say that?”

It couldn’t be a lifelong friend. I couldn’t have had a friend with such an insensitive attitude for very long without its coming out somehow. That person would never become a friend I’d want to keep for life.

DominicX's avatar

I think it’s pretty offensive. Funny that you mention this because my friend today told his sister not to “jew him”. I couldn’t help but cringe a bit.

Doesn’t seem to bother me when Cartman from South Park says it, though…

augustlan's avatar

Extremely. And sadly, younger people who use it today probably have no clue why it is offensive.

zenele's avatar

I can’t think of many things that automatically offend me. That’s one of them. Kike is rarely used nowadays – sort of like the N word fof Jews. Then calling Israelis treatment of the Palestinians = Nazis. Then jew me, sue me, kick me kike me – as the late Michael Jackson sang. Yep – it’s right up there.

meagan's avatar

It isn’t “offensive” but it is distasteful.

knitfroggy's avatar

In my area, there are few to no Jewish people. I’ve never knowingly met a Jewish person. The term is commonly used and I doubt many people have enough sense to know it’s offensive. I can recall going to a garage sale as a child and there was a sign that said “No Jewing” hung up. My grandma explained to me what that meant. There is a scrap metal yard where people sell scrap metal and pop cans and people say they are going down to “The Jew” to sell stuff. I know it doesn’t make it right, but here in my Mid-West hell not many people will get offended.

ipso's avatar

Everyone is right, of course (the use given is distasteful/vulgar/rude/ignorant), but wow: @knitfroggy – keepin’ it real.

Shows there is a lot of work to do.

Funny how social norms of this nature protect and bolster mostly the minority; like a mother hen. Seems to me “Mic” or even “Drunken Mic” is actually considered endearing or funny (in the U.S.) – not derogatory. If it weren’t for the wars, I doubt if any Germanic derogatory term would stick either.

Buttonstc's avatar

Which Germanic derogatory terms did you have in mind ?

I’m racking my brain trying to think of some and drawing a blank.

perspicacious's avatar

@ipso What is a mic?


Well, I looked it up and it is derogatory for Spanish speaking people or those of Irish heritage. Which were you talking about?

Jeruba's avatar

I can think of derogatory terms from World War II for Germans (if that’s what you meant by “Germanic,” @ipso) and also for Japanese.

As a matter of fact, since most of my growing up was done (to the extent you can say it’s done) well before the advent of political correctness, I can think of derogatory names I’ve heard for members of just about every group. Except—you know what? I can’t remember ever hearing one for the Swedes. For any Scandinavians. Surely someone must have wanted to derogate the Scandinavians, but it’s never occurred in my hearing.

ipso's avatar

@Buttonstc I guess that kind of proves the point. Jerry-rig is the only one I can even think of. Maybe Hun, Fritz, Kraut. None of them really stick (in my clan/circles/experience). And I guess that makes sense since in the U.S. the overwhelming largest ancestral pool is of Germanic heritage – and has been for a majority of our history – so it makes sense to me that it’s of no general concern.

Since the second most influential heritage in the U.S. is Irish, (Mic = Michael = a supposed derogatory term) it is actually endearing (in my clan/circles/experience). Again, no concern. I proclaim it is not really derogatory. (Sure you can find contrarians to that.)

I got the impression the OP was wondering if “Jewing” was kind of the same thing – perhaps almost endearing – one of the boys. But since Jews are what? 5% to 10% of the U.S. population – they instinctively “have to be protected” by the current social norms.

Please note that I’m not saying that is wrong. Just reading through the posts I found it interesting.

My great grandfather gave me some sound advice regarding slander back in the day. He said: “Boy – it only hurts if it’s true.”

and yes I realize that most Jews are from Germany, which just makes it even more interesting to think about.

Buttonstc's avatar

I’m not quite so sure about most Jewish people being from Germany. Plenty are from Poland, Russia and a whole lot more of Eastern Europe.

And let’s not forget the Sephardics either.

ipso's avatar

@Jeruba – I lived in Japan for quite a few years. I found it interesting that in America “Jap” is considered derogatory but to every Japanese person I talked to (in Japan) they could not understand it. I was told, “Is calling a Jewish person a Jew derogatory?

Eh.. good point. Why is that?

As a rather sturdy 6”5” red head I had a fair helping of racist discrimination given to me in Japan. But somewhere along the line someone gave me dignity such that it really doesn’t matter what someone else says. I get… queasy when people (read: Liberals) start banging the gong for someone else. Give people the dignity to fight their own battles.

(Open game: to get bashed for being an insensitive, naïve, and perhaps even a cowardly bastard)

@Buttonstc – sorry. Zero facts on this end. I was told by a very good friend of mine that a majority of U.S. Jews actually came from German. I have no idea if that is true or not.

Trillian's avatar

I don’t go around looking for things to be offended about. I don’t use racist terms, but I don’t freak out when someone else does. I may change my mind about associating with them, but I don’t try to tell others how to speak. This is the most recent example of people looking for something to be offended about. It’s old, it’s boring, and people like this are, in my opinion, far more offensive and counter-productive to harmony and good will than ignorant racists.
@Jeruba I listen to Garrison Keillor a lot and also watch MST3k. Mike Nelson is Scandanavian, and the bot’s refer to him sometimes as a “big, dumb square head”. I’ve also heard Mr. Keillor use that term as a reference.

Buttonstc's avatar

I read through that link and I agree with you. Altho I can’t hear the audio, it’s clear that the text and artwork are totally consistent with Hallmark’s explanation.

To insinuate that the voices are saying hos rather than holes is totally out of context and ridiculous. How do they come up with this stuff.

This is reminiscent of the big fuss made over someone (I believe it was a college prof.) who used the word niggardly ( and quite correctly so).

The word means extremely stingy. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the N word at all.

If you trace the origins of the word, it has always connoted being penurious, probably long before the N word was even coined. The N word is a bastardization of the word Negro which lapsed into Nigra and so on.

The word niggardly has NEVER EVER been used in conjunction with African American people in any context or country ever.

But because some ignoramuses with limited vocabulary and and pronounciation skills couldn’t HEAR STRAIGHT either, a big fuss ensued.

Some people have way too much time on their hands.

casheroo's avatar

I use “jewed” as a word..but only jokingly. Like “Oh, I see you jewed it up a bit for the big date” said to my Jewish best friend. lol

perspicacious's avatar

@casheroo Did your best friend know what you meant? I don’t.

Jeruba's avatar

@ipso, I thought “mick” as slang for the Irish referred to all the names that start with “Mc.”

ipso's avatar

@Jeruba You got it.

I think it could also refer to so many of those green bastards being named “Michael” too. And who knows how many other things. Words travel fast. Meaning is slow to follow.

casheroo's avatar

This site is pretty intense
I’m totally calling my husband a McWop tonight, he’s 50/50.

meagan's avatar

@zenele Are you asking if I’m Jewish…? lol

zenele's avatar

@meagan Asking if you are Jewish is funny? I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, as I explained in your defriend thread. I guess you aren’t, and thus, are also insensitive to Jewish people being offended by the racial slur. You are only 21 – it’s never too late to learn something new. As I explained in your thread – if a whole race feels offended by a slur – African Americans, Irish, Muslims, Jews – and in the thread above it is well explained – then why would you dismiss it as funny and just distasteful?

Barely containing myself here.

meagan's avatar

@zenele How is “Jewish?” a question? I was confused. It isn’t funny that you would think that I’m Jewish. Are you just a fan of putting words in people’s mouths?
You really need to re-read all of this. I’m not making fun of anything.

zenele's avatar

“It isn’t funny that you would think that I’m Jewish.”

Are you offended by the thought?

meagan's avatar

@zenele YOU JUST SAID. “Asking if you are Jewish is funny? ” You really need to get offline. This is seriously messing with your head. Talk about talking in circles. And on that note, I’m unfollowing.

Buttonstc's avatar


Now I’m really curious. What exactly is the meaning of “jewed up” ? I’ve really never encountered that before (and I grew up in New York, which has more Jewish people than Israel) and also lived in Philly for 20+ years.

Obviously I’ve encountered “jewed down” but never “up”.

I’m totally guessing here, but is that sort of similar to “puttin’ on the Ritz” or comparable to the whole S. Philly Italian big hair, gaudy nail polish, and tons of makeup look ?

A good friend of mine in Philly wouldn’t even leave the house to run down to the corner store without the full nine yards. It took her 45 mins. or more for the makeup and another half hour for hair. We used to joke about it all the time. Yup, she was Italian and this is what everyone in her circle growing up did. There was no such thing as a spur of the moment trip anywhere for her. I always had to give her two hrs. notice :). It was really funny.

But I looked on that page you linked to hoping to pin down that phrase and was surprised to find neither jewing up nor down. That was a surprise.

Anyhow, please drop me a clue about the precise implications of jewing up, not that I have any plans on using it anytime :) I’m just curious.

I’m wondering if it’s more of a regional Philly thing or is it more common than I realize ?

casheroo's avatar

@Buttonstc She rarely dates other Jewish people, and the only times she has is when I would joke with her that she’s making herself “more Jewish”. She gets confused a lot for I think Puerto Rican or something, I’m not sure. It’s just a joke that I would never say to anyone that wasn’t a close friend of mine because I don’t want to offend.

Buttonstc's avatar

OK Totally different from what I was thinking then.

So I gather it’s more like just an in-joke between the two of you rather than in common usage anywhere ?

I really was puzzled. Thanks for the explanation. I was beginning to worry I was REALLY out of touch :)

Silhouette's avatar

From these answers it looks like many people are offended by that phrase, I am not one of those people. It ranks right up there with, indian givers, who like to welsh out on deals and go dutch on meals.

zenele's avatar

Here are two relatively newly minted expressions using the word Jew – for your linguistic pleasure:

Freshly squeezed orange jews

Big hairy ugly Jew? Jewbacca.

casheroo's avatar

@Silhouette They don’t even call it sitting indian style in schools anymore (in my area) It’s called “pretzel style” or something.

Silhouette's avatar

@casheroo That’s such nonsense, people are turning into mollycoddled whiners looking for and finding things to be offended over, the whole time pretending to be sensitive, respectful darlings and not bellyaching faultfinders.

Buttonstc's avatar


Check out the next one on the list. “Schleppin’ My Baby Back Home”. The photos are a riot, esp. all the fat kitties. Really cute.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@zenele That’s AWESOME.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I never heard anyone use that term until I was already an adult and yes, I think it’s offensive in the same vein as, “I got gyped”. Again, I was an adult before I figured out “gyped” was in reference to gypsies or that “nip” was slang for Japanese when Japan was still called Nippon.

ipso's avatar

Japan is called Nippon (日本), or less formally Nihon, or more formally Nippon-koku.

Don’t gyp your readers.

zenele's avatar

All I want for Christmas is some… Jews


ipso's avatar

Let’s not forget the Wagner conspiracy

zenele's avatar

lol @ipso for both posts

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