What’s in a nickname?

On the 13th of September I tweeted a link to @TimesIndyEditor The Times/Independent Editor[Martin Buhagiar] ‘s ‘Opinion Piece’ on the use of the word “Yid”

YidTweet

To read the article (I suggest you do!) Click here

In hindsight, where I wrote “Brilliant” I actually probably meant “thought provoking”.

What followed was a tweet from @CllrRobertRams asking me “Why is it their [Spurs fans] decision to “turn a negative into a positive” what makes it their word?”

I spent that lunchtime deep in thought and reading a number of articles on the use of the word “Yid” in Society and especially in Nazi Germany…

[@CllrRobertRams Wrote a reply to the Times/Independent Editor which can (should) be read here]

History of the word “Yid”

As I sat there that lunchtime thinking things through… I decided to do some research. As a starting point… I thought I’d simply place the word “Yid” into Google. The result sent a chill down my spine.

YidOnGoogle
(I took this screenshot today – so the fixture is different… the idea is the same)

Before any mention of the meaning of the word, the Next Fixture for Tottenham Hotspur is blast onto my screen.

Interestingly, next to the latest Spurs fixture is a box from Wikipedia. My eyes are instantly drawn to the, last sentence.

 It is not usually considered offensive when pronounced, the way Yiddish speakers say it, though some may deem the word offensive nonetheless.

Ignoring the Spurs clutter, I click onto wikipedia. Instantly, my eyes are drawn halfway down the page. All I need to see is four letters for my heart to skip a beat. I feel cold. Instantly my mind jolts back to 2012. Stood in what’s now a museum but was once Synagogue, in a now “Jew-desolate” town in Poland. A Photo on the wall. Jewish people being rounded up to be taken to concentration camps. Upon their arms, a yellow band. Upon the band, a yellow star. Upon the star the word “Jude”. The term “Yid” comes from the German word “Jude”. Jew.  Proudly stamped by Germans on the race they sought to destroy.

Following the thoughts about the photos, I thought for a moment about the time I spent in Aushwitz-Birkanau. The place where the puddles are grey, where I felt constantly sick, where so many died.

To me the word Yid, was sealed in my mind. Discriminatory. DO NOT USE.

I read on through wikipedia especially the section “Usage in Yiddish”. This section explains with almost a surprised tone:

In Yiddish, the word “Yid” is neutral or even complimentary.

While it goes on to explain ” it is frequently used to mean simply “fellow,” “chap,” “buddy,” “mate,” etc., with no expressed emphasis on Jewishness”  My mind reminds me that the use of the term “Yid” in football, is not spoken in Yiddish nor is it meant as “fellow, chap, buddy or mate” ESPECIALLY when chanted with the “Hissing of the Gas Chambers”.

While all this festered in the back of my mind… I kept up with the general gist of news stories on the matter, but I’ve had a very busy two weeks, so thought less on the matter.

Not Just “Yid”

My concerns returned today when reading a tweet from Saira Kahn – A British Muslim who was runner up on ‘The Apprentice’ and subsequently I remember watching as a child her present “Beat the Boss” on CBBC.

 

"For all those who think Muzzie women can't run! Bite me!!
“For all those who think Muzzie women can’t run! Bite me!!

Instantly, my mind raced. “If I was to call someone a “Muzzie” what would happen to me?”

So I asked the question… I had nothing to lose. I was curious:

@steveeypips > @IamSairaKahn Tell me… If you heard a non-Muslim refer to Muslims as “Muzzies” Would you not be offended? #question

Her answer took me a moment to comprehend. It almost shocked, and at the same time amused me.

"my hubbie calls me Muzzie every day - I love it and think its cute"
“my hubbie calls me Muzzie every day – I love it and think its cute”

A little shocked, and a little confused, I took to google yet again. This time, Twofold.

1) Who is Saira Married to? (Just out of curio)

2) What does “Muzzie” actually mean?

 

Results were as follows:

1) Saira is married to a man called “Steve Hyde”. Whom I assume by the way she answered my question with “my Husband” is not Muslim.

 

2) “Muzzie” does not have as big and bold of a statement as “Yid” does… However the first link says enough.

The first link is Urban Dictionary, and the caption says: “A term used to reference a Muslim. Although not strictly a pejorative, usage in certain contexts may be considered offensive” Four out of six definitions on urban dictionary suggest “term for Muslim” and the ‘context sentences’ are shocking!! (Urban Dictionary Link)

Saira told me that “words don’t hurt me – I am above it, I just don’t see it as offensive” That’s easy to say when you call yourself it, but what if called it by others?

I looked back on her original tweet and I noticed that @djgaryr83 asked a similar question. Interested in an alternative view I put in a reply to one of his tweets. Saira replied “each to their own- I’m a Mussie and proud- I own it”

I thought for a moment…. “I own it”…this sounds familiar… I cast my mind back to something @CllrRobertRams asked me: “Why is it their[Tottenham fans] decision “to turn a negative into a positive” What makes it [“yid”] their word?”

I pondered, wondering how the greater Muslim population felt. Foolishly I asked:

“No offence to your fine self but I wonder how wider “Muzzie” population feel. (already regretting using “Muzzie”)”

BEFORE I sent that tweet, I already felt bad. The word had not been published yet I felt the need to apologise.

@djgaryr83 also replied asking:

"are we to assume as 'muzzie' is a shortened term for Muslim and acceptable. is the term 'Paki' fine for Pakistani"
“are we to assume as ‘muzzie’ is a shortened term for Muslim and acceptable. is the term ‘Paki’ fine for Pakistani”

 

When Saira replied to the question with “I’ll let you decide” I felt a little let down. Almost as if she’d accepted defeat for want of an “easy life”. I was eager to know if the word “Muzzie” is acceptable to Muslims so included the Muslim Council of Britian in my last reply.

 

I thought the situation through and possibly over thought it a little. But boiled it down to the following:

1. @CllrRobertRams asked me, knowing I do some voluntary youth work “if you heard a kid at brigade[Where I volunteer] use the word[“Yid”], what would you say them?

I answered Robert saying that for the older kids, I’d ask them if they knew it’s meaning, talk to them about it and ask them to stop.

THIS WOULD BE THE SAME WHETHER, I HEARD “YID” OR “MUZZIE”. I would not tolerate it’s use. (and for that matter any other word typically associated to be derogatory to others)

 

2. If I heard someone refer to someone Jewish or not jewish as a “Yid” OR refer to someone Muslim, or likewise not muslim as a “Muzzie” in whatever context, I’d have the same reaction. It’s simply not acceptable, in the same way as you wouldn’t refer to someone as a “Paki” or a “Nigger”, you wouldn’t call someone a “Muzzie” or a Yid”.

 

3. “Who owns words?” Really, truthfully, no one owns words. I own the words you are reading now, as a collection, on this screen… yet I do not own any individual word of my own. (I must add for the pedants, that patented words are slightly different, but “Yid, nor “Muzzie” is not patented”)

While words are “un-ownable” their meanings are not. By saying “I own it” does that mean that it’s ok for you to call yourself it? What happens if others call you by that word, and then if others call others by that word? All of a sudden things could grow out of hand becoming a pyramid effect, especially if the world has an ambiguous meaning.

 

David Baddiel launched a campaign to “Kick the Y-Word out of football” in 2011 which I feel personally was badly publiciesd as I was only made aware of it by @CllrRobertRams. The Campaign pages on Kickitout.org (http://www.kickitout.org/1307.php) also adds comment from a Jewish Woman who’s father experienced the Marches led by Oswald Mosely and the Blackshirts in the East End of London, a predominantly jewish area, 1936.

“My poor dad God rest his soul fought the blackshirts in the east end. He used to tell me stories of walking along with my mum with these Jew haters walking behind him calling him a ‘yid’.”

I don’t think I need to clarify that they weren’t referring to the football club he supported.

 

I could write all night and all day about the topic, interjecting my point of view into what I feel right, or wrong, and how I feel we can stop/change the habits of people.

I know that it will be difficult to change the views and actions of those around us. Racism is everywhere – Every individual person has their own views, influenced by other people that they interact with…

But personally, I feel that, in the same way I wouldn’t call a randomer a “Paki” or a “Muzzie” Whether they feel they “own the word” and accept its use or not… we should’t allow Tottenham Hotspurs fans to be called or call themselves “Yids” just because they now ‘feel’ they own a word, used by so many others to oppress a people.

 

I’d really appreciate hearing the views of others. Comment on here, Tweet me: @steveeypips or Email me: admin@stevenphillips.me.uk

 

Steven