Jewish Epithets and Slurs In the 19th Century American West

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Jack Judah

Lost somewhere on the Nile
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2015
Messages
861
Reaction score
195
Location
Colorado
A yiddish cowboy here in need of some help!

I'm currently writing a Western, set in the 1870s-80s featuring an Irish/Jewish Gunfighter (true story). To say the guy suffered from a sense of alienation would be a bit of an understatement. I'm having a hard time finding period and regionally correct epithets to put in the mouths of his antagonists. "Kike" is a gift of Ellis Island, so it's out. So far, that's left me with "sheeney" and the old, go-to "shylock". I've been getting mixed signals about whether "jew boy" was in circulation or not.

Any alternatives would be welcome. The more flavorful the better. There are at least two scenes where my MC needs to be goaded into shooting by such taunting, so the language has to be fairly toe-curling. Any help would be much appreciated.
 
Last edited:

frimble3

Heckuva good sport
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 7, 2006
Messages
8,768
Reaction score
1,433
Location
west coast, canada
I'm assuming that if 'cowboy' and 'farmboy' are in use, 'jewboy' would seem a natural extension. And, if you want toe-curling and likely-to-goad-into-shooting, I doubt you could do better than that old standard: 'Christ-killer'.
 

Jack Judah

Lost somewhere on the Nile
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2015
Messages
861
Reaction score
195
Location
Colorado
I'm assuming that if 'cowboy' and 'farmboy' are in use, 'jewboy' would seem a natural extension. And, if you want toe-curling and likely-to-goad-into-shooting, I doubt you could do better than that old standard: 'Christ-killer'.

Thanks, frimble3. You know, I had not actually thought of using Christ-killer. So I'm glad you mentioned it. Fits well in a bit of dialogue I've been having trouble with.
 

frimble3

Heckuva good sport
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 7, 2006
Messages
8,768
Reaction score
1,433
Location
west coast, canada
Heck, I had doubts about writing it! But, if you want something serious, not just 'you dad-blamed sheep-nosed greedy bastard', but really over-the-top, not only 'fighting words', but words that would imply that the one saying it was working his way up to justifying violence, those would be the words.
By the way, I read your sample in SYW, and really enjoyed it. If the potential father-in-law is, as his name suggests, Germanic, you've looked into Yiddish insults he might hurl at your MC?
 

Jack Judah

Lost somewhere on the Nile
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2015
Messages
861
Reaction score
195
Location
Colorado
I read your sample in SYW, and really enjoyed it.

Thanks! I'm a bit edgy about it -- lots of talking but not much action -- so hearing you enjoyed it is a welcome morale booster.

If the potential father-in-law is, as his name suggests, Germanic, you've looked into Yiddish insults he might hurl at your MC?

He is indeed. I'm glad you asked actually, because I have him using quite a bit of Yiddish throughout. He's also a pretty tough character, so his is not the most genteel of speech patterns. I didn't think that would be an issue, till I got to the cussing. Problem with learning a language from your grandmother is you tend to miss out on the more colorful phrases. About the bluest she ever got was schmuck, putz, and mamzer. But I don't want Freudenthal sounding like he's doing standup in the Borscht Belt.

So I would definitely be open to suggestions!
 
Last edited:

Featured Book