Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Eugene Volokh has this reasonable question:
Why do some people think that it's more polite to say "Jewish people" than "Jews"? I've heard some people say that "Jews" is somehow considered rude, and "Jewish people" is better, but I just don't see why.

Does anyone know the story here? People don't generally say "black people," "Catholic people," or "female people." Why should they call us "Jewish people" rather than just "Jews"? I don't quite get it.
I also note that when Lieberman was nominated, a fair number of papers used in their headline some variant of "First Jew on Major Ticket"; this was seen by some as offensive -- I imagine by the same people who cause Eugene to ask the question.

Anyway, quick, unfair answer: These are people who use "Jew" as insult, so to them it's an insult. Painting with less broad a brush, perhaps they've just spent time listening to those people, which would have the same result. Or, as the link above about the Lieberman headline suggests, they've confused "Jew" as noun -- nonoffensive -- with two other uses: as an adjective, as in "The Jew Senator"; and as a verb, in the lovely expression "to Jew someone down". (I've started to see the latter, online, as "chew someone down", which, whether it started out as a guilty bowlderization or a true miscomprehension, makes some sense on its own terms and may have legs.)

(I once read that Ed Koch was asked "Why is 'Jewess' considered antisemitic?" and replied "Because only antisemites use it.")

Finally, something in my head remembers that there's some PC thing about not using an adjective as a noun -- that is, say "gay people" instead of "gays". But this should only apply to real adjectives, which "Jew" is not...although that may be a little circular, since all that means is "Jew is a noun that should not be used as an adjective." Compare, in American politics, "Democratic Party" (correct) with "Democrat Party". (But to muddy the waters further, "Liberal Democrat Party" is apparently the correct name of that British party.)

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