Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Eugene Volokh is wondering why some people say "Jewish people" instead of "Jew", and believe that just saying "Jew" is somehow rude. He doesn't understand it.

I think that I might. When I was writing my last post in response to something he wrote, I actually found myself vaguely uneasy about using the term. I stopped and actually thought about it for a few seconds, and then went ahead and used it. I just didn't see any reason not to. The question lingered at the fringes of my thoughts for a couple of days, and the answer (and I believe it is the right one) finally came to me.

The reason is that there isn't a derogatory term in wide use for Jews. "Kike" just isn't used much at all. I think the first, and possibly only, time I've ever heard it was in the movie 'Porkies'. And what else is there? Contrast that with other groups who can be called "nigger", "coon", "spic", "fag", etc., etc., etc. There are probably other unpalatable terms for Jews (Hebe? I may have heard that somewhere.), but likewise none are widespread. If you hear someone who is anti-Semetic talk, it seems that they will almost always say Jews, as in, "The greedy Jews are running the country, etc." From my admittedly limited experience, they just generally don't use another term. And if that's the term that bigots use, then ordinary people will unconciously assume that it is a "bad word", and try to find an alternative.

PS I did think of the words "Zionist" and/or "Israeli" as derogatory terms, but they aren't really the same.