Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Gustav, Sep 5, 2009.

  1. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    I think we're missing the construction that actually causes controversy around here, which is use of the term "The Jews" to refer to Israel. And the problem there isn't so much the implication that all Israelis are Jewish, but rather the implication that all Jews are part of an international Zionist conspiracy.
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    There's no way to stop people from misusing words in a democratic language like English, which has no academy or government agency to enforce "linguistic purity." But if you see anyone misusing the word "Jew" on SciForums, let me know. As the Linguistics Moderator I consider it part of my job to patrol the entire forum for sloppy or disingenuous language.

    To equate "Jews" with "Israel" is ridiculous, since about 60% of the world's Jews live outside of Israel. In fact as many live in the USA as in that country. (Wikipedia's statistics are as good as anybody's.)

    As for conspiracy theories, they're rampant, but I'm not going to get into politics here.
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  5. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Yeah. "The Jews" seems more to imply to me all Jews, as a group.

    "Those people called Romans they goes to the house."
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  7. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    So Jews without "the" does not refer to all Jews?
  8. fedr808 1100101 Valued Senior Member

    Its a touchy subject because the term Jew is also used as an insult.
    And it really is hurtful when the name of your own culture is considered an insult.

    You really cant get what it feels like unless your in our shoes.
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    No one can offend you without your permission.

    Try it.

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  10. fedr808 1100101 Valued Senior Member

    But it doesnt usually stop there, must i really cite the holocaust, the crusades?
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It's a matter of context. "Jews" without the definite article can carry the same implication, as in the common hyperbole: "Jews control the entire planet's banking system."
    From "Monty Python's The Life of Brian." The Latin graffito was Romanes eunt domum.

    As with most of many other references to Latin throughout the film ("My mother's name was Incontinentia Buttox"), it speaks to the fact that most of Monty Python's British audience probably had Latin as a required course throughout their school years, yet they couldn't really speak or write it very well.

    What they meant to say was "Romans, go home!" But Romanes is the accusative case, which would make that noun the object of the verb rather than the subject, so it doesn't make sense. Eunt is the third-person plural present indicative of ire, "to go," so it means "they go" rather than "Go!" which would require the imperative inflection. And domum is the accusative case, making "the house" the direct object of the verb (as in "I built the house") which makes no sense in this context, rather than a direction in which the Romans are, or should be, going. The precise translation in the movie was "People called Romans, they go, house."

    It was made clear that the grammar and syntax is so garbled that not only might one not catch the intended meaning, but one might not extract any meaning at all. Since word order is not important in Latin, this is not unreasonable. Go Romans home or Home Romans go would have the identical meaning if the words were properly inflected, and the identical lack of meaning if they are not. Note that we call Latin a SVO-syntax language, but that just means that Latin sentences have subjects, verbs and objects like our other Indo-European languages do (as well as Sino-Tibetan, Afro-Asiatic, and many other families). Because of mandatory grammatical inflections the syntax in any Latin sentence could be SVO, SOV, VSO, VOS, OSV or OVS, and the choice is strictly a matter of emphasis or euphony.
    As I noted, it's all in the context. Definite and indefinite articles are parts of speech which I have often pointed out serve virtually no purpose in English or any other language, except (like prepositions, another waste of breath) to identify foreign speakers. Do you breathe air or the air? Is Moselle good wine or a good wine? In every fourth November do we hold an election or the election?

    The Indo-Iranian languages don't have articles, am I right? So you probably carry a linguistic substratum that makes you scratch your head in bemusement over our fixation with these utterly useless syllables.
    As I noted earlier, I've never encountered a Jew, in my family or anyone else's, who reacted to the word as if it has any derogatory connotations. They all say "Jews" rather than "Jewish people." If your experience is otherwise, please enlighten me.
    If the verbal offense is backed up by institutionalized power, then perhaps they can.
  12. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Like blacks in America? Notice the President? While you may not be able to choose what other people do, what you choose to do with it isn't up to them
  13. fedr808 1100101 Valued Senior Member

    And now that i think of it, we never got an apology for the Holocaust, crusades, or witch hunts...
  14. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    It refers to them as a monolithic entity, especially in the usual context of some speakers. Fraggle's right in that any phrase can be altered to some other meaning, but "the Jews" still carries that monolithic nefariousness. Try having some directly descriptive positive phrases started with "The Jews". Then try it with a German accent.

    All right, all right, you don't have to hold a gladius to me throat!
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    As long as you keep illustrating your assertion with examples that contradict it, my objections can remain brief - and still be the brief.

    But what SAM is talking about is differences in meaning, connotation, and implication, not a puzzlement over a superfluous word.

    Concur. But an incident: my father grew up in the slums of Buffalo, and carries his childhood of course. So when he was talking about the wife of an acquaintance, while in the company of his adult children and their friends, and referred to her as "a Jewess", he was not prepared for the brief awkwardness at the table.

    No big deal - but we are in a sea change, and the moorings are not firm.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2009
  16. mike47 Banned Banned

    Jews are people and a race . They are bounded by their religion of course . If we can discuss Christinians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists....etc; I can not see why we can not discuss Jews in an open and honest way . Of course it will be very helpful for Jews to clarify things as they see fit . I am sure there are some Jews here who can take part in the debate .
  17. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Then you've been lucky. This, again, is all about context.

    To suggest an analogous experience: one could well spend years socializing with black people without encountering one who reacts to the word "nigger" as if it has any derogatory connotations.

    But all that means is that you'd be lucky enough not to be present when someone uses it in a derogatory way around one of them.

    I think, if you asked them, most Jews would tell you that the term can be used as a slur. There's an excellent episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadephia called "The Gang Goes Jihad" that deals with this issue, incidentally.

    Personally, I have little trouble visualizing the flecks of spittle flying from the mouths of certain posters here, when they employ the word "Jew."
  18. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I'll take Fraggles word over yours, thanks. I've seen how you use the word "muslims" [minus "the"] and your admiration of sources like Spencer and Hitchens on them. Your judgment is suspect.

    Meanwhile, from a Jew:

    Notice the absence of the definite article.
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    * * * * NOTE FROM THE MODERATOR * * * *

    Come on people, this is the Linguistics board. Please try to restrict the discourse to relevant topics. Don't make me start editing and deleting posts!
    There is absolutely no promise of symmetry in English vocabulary or syntax. The word "Jewess" is practically archaic. Especially since, at least in the USA, we've been compulsively gender-neutering our language. People call my wife a Jew, not a Jewess.
    But it's way more complicated than that, as I pointed out in my earlier posts. A person can be considered Jewish based on his:
    • Religion
    • Ancestry
    • Community identification
    • Cultural practices
    • Laws of his country
    That's independent of the choice of words. In my lifetime I've seen six terms evolve in progression for Americans of African ancestry (and that isn't even one of them). People can easily keep up with the politically correct terminology and the spittle comes right along with it.
  20. Gustav Banned Banned


    what about "he"?
    there are many rhetorical instances where it is more accurate to say he/she but it seems clumsy.
    i say "he" expecting others to implicitly understand the term is inclusive of both genders
  21. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Of course, she actually hasn't.

    Sam's banning leaves us unable to evaluate "how evil Geoff uses the word muslims". In point of fact, I don't use the word in any kind of group-guilt association context, as my posts will show, because I don't feel that way. (The scrabbling you hear is Tiassa, frantically searching for an example of me using "muslims" as Sam uses "Jews" or "the Jews". It will be a futile search, I'm afraid. But please do carry on. I look forward to his attempts.)

    Rather, I discuss legitimized or legalized discrimination against religious minorities, women and homosexuals - a heinous crime against Sam's religion, I'm sure.

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    Still, it's interesting to point out - given that this is the Linguistics subforum (nod to Fraggle) that a fanatical predisposition to one viewpoint sometimes renders the important distinctions of language completely unclear. If anyone has any doubt, I suppose I can only reiterate my position: I have nothing against muslims, but much against the conjoining of islam and politics/sociality where such linkages violate inherent human freedoms on the basis of gender, sexual, or religious discrimination. If at any time this perspective has been unclear, let it be clear now: Sam, pjdude, Tiassa, hypewaders, et al. It surprises me that I have to engage in this kind of statement from time to time. I certainly don't see the same from Sam.

    My apologies to Fraggle for the hijacking of his thread. If and when Sam recurs, I will escort her to the proper subforum for my denunciation.

    Your banning for bigoted trolling aside, no. The above illustrates the profound and extraordinarily sensible judgement for which I am often acclaimed. You will make of it what you can, of course.

    Making your assault doubly egregious. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell.
  22. Slysoon Registered Senior Member

    I do not care whether or not you use the word in "any kind of group-guilt association context", but I am curious: why do you refuse to capitalize the words, "Muslim" and "Islam"? Said trend has intrigued me.
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    We've been struggling to devise a gender-neutral singular pronoun for four decades now, with no success. "He or she" is still common in government documents and I'm often required to use it when writing for government agencies. It's okay once, but when you encounter it (as well as the equally cumbersome "him or her," "his or her" and "his or hers) twenty times in one paragraph it starts to become a teeny bit annoying.

    "S/he" was advocated in the 1970s, but it only works in writing since there's no way to pronounce it. Also it's an incomplete paradigm with no accusative or genitive form.

    Today the plural pronoun is taking hold. "If an employee finds that their password has expired, they must request a new one from their manager." We use that in government documents that are for internal use only and don't have the force of law.

    I look forward to seeing this passed down to our children. "Each child must wash their face before lunch."
    Most of our members are barely able to type. I'm usually content if they manage to spell most of their words correctly so I don't even look at their haphazard punctuation and capitalization. Does Geoff also write christian, buddhist, parisian, african and republican in lower case? A lot of people are too lazy to memorize the location of the SHIFT key.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2009

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