Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The label "shiksa"


This week, I return to my original mission--to post terms from Phil Herbst's dictionary The Color of Words. (See original introductory post here.) The term shikse is one I heard a lot growing up in a Jewish family, as is the case with several other terms I've posted about on this blog. It's yet another one of those words for "the Other" that seem to so preoccupy people in their private conversations, drawing lines and boundaries and suggesting differences of so many kinds: hair, clothes, food, religion, and so on. Here's Phil's definition.

shikse, shiksa, schicksah; shaygets.
Shikse is a sometimes derogatory Jewish usage (the Hebrew root word means "abomination") for a young fe­male gentile or for a Jewish woman who resembles or imitates a gentile. Rosten (1968) notes occasional use among Or­thodox Jews for a Jewish woman who is not Orthodox and not observant of Or­thodox customs.

"If you wait long enough, you'll marry a shikse . . . mixed marriages--the plague of the Jews" (a Jew to a young Jewish man in Paul Mazurksky’s "Enemies, a Love Story," an adaptation of a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer). The masculine form is shaygets or shagits.

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