The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has published its list of new words for inclusion in its definitive guide to the English language in a January update.
Among the new entries are a disproportionate number of Yiddish words and phrases and others relating to Jews and Judaism, including: “anti-Semiticism”; “bagel”; “bochur”; “broigus”; “chicken soup”; “chrain”; “chutzpadik”; “farbrengen”; “Farkakte”; “futzing”; “glatt kosher”; “Japhetan”; “Jewdar”; “Jewfro”; “Jew-hating”; “Jewish American”; “Jewish-Christian”; “Jewish Christianity”; “Jew town”; “Jew York”; “Kvetching”; “kvetchy”; “Semiticist”; “Shabbat goyah”; “Shaliach”; “shticky”; “Unterfirer”; “yeshiva bochur”; and “yiddo”.
There are also numerous new sub-entries relating to Jews and Judaism, including “Hanukkah gelt”; “to make Shabbat”; and “shiksa goddess”, as well as new senses, including: “anti-Semite”; “bagel”; “chutzpah”; “kibitzer”; “kugel”; “kvell”; “kvetch”; “schlimazel”; “Semite”; “shtup”; “Yekke”; and “Yid”.
It is unclear why there is such a large number of words relating to Jews in this recent batch, and there is significant concern over the inclusion and definitions of certain words. In particular, there are concerns over the word “Yiddo”, which is defined as: “A Jewish person. Also in extended use: a supporter of or player for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.” This definition fails to take into account the controversy over the use of this word and its pejorative connotation when used by rival clubs. Including the term in the dictionary without context may suggest that it cannot be an offensive term and may retard efforts to control its use.
These concerns arise not only because of the practical implications for policing racism in football, but also because the dictionary must reflect the word’s actual use, which is often in a pejorative context. By omitting this detail, the definition is deficient. Other definitions do note that a word is “usually derogatory”, therefore there is no excuse not to include a similar disclaimer for “Yiddo”.
Other words are also questionable choices, such as “Jew York”, which is defined as “A name for: New York,” again with no context; and “anti-Semiticism”, which is defined as “Prejudice, hostility, or discrimination towards Jewish people on religious, cultural, or ethnic grounds; = anti-Semitism,” despite the dearth of evidence suggesting that it is anything more than a mispelling of “anti-Semitism”, which in any event is preferably spelled “antisemitism”.
Oxford University Press, which publishes the OED, said in a statement that the word “Yiddo” is being labelled as “offensive and derogatory” and says it “will ensure the context for this connection [with Tottenham Hotspur and the Jewish community] is very clear” in the definition.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The purpose of new entries in a dictionary is to reflect how words have come to be used. If the Oxford English Dictionary feels that it must incorporate a word such as ‘Yiddo’, it must also note that its use is controversial and can be pejorative, especially when used by the supporters of rival football clubs. Omitting this detail leaves an inadequate definition that does not fully reflect how the term is used. Moreover, why there are so many words related to Jews in this recent update to the dictionary, including other derogatory terms that are not marked as such, is also disturbing. Campaign Against Antisemitism shall be writing to the OED on all of these points.”