Kim Pearson

© 2003-4. All Rights Reserved

 

HYMIE,hymie

1. n. A derogatory term for a Jew.

2. n. A derogatory term for a German (less common than 1).

Hymie is derived from the stereotypical Jewish name Hyman (originally Chaim), and the German name Herman. Hyman is commonly "shortened" to Hymie, and continues to be a common name among Jews, although its popularity seems to be waning. The slur hymie shares its genesis with the British slur Ikey Mo (for Isaac / Moses), or the Irish Mick or Paddy (c.f.), all of which descend from popular forenames. Although hymie is not as popular these days as the derogatory term kike, it has raised a few eyebrows in the last few decades. The most noticeable of these occurrences were Jesse Jackson’s hymietown incident of 1984 (see below), and political insider Edward Rollins’ 1995 gaff (see quotes, also below).

 

Hymietown, hymietown [1980s +] (U.S.) A derogatory nickname for New York City.

It is unclear whether or not the Reverend Jesse Jackson is responsible for this novel coinage, but the popularity of the term is unquestionably his doing. Apparently in 1984 Jackson referred to NYC by the handle Hymietown in off-the-record conversations with reporters. When he was initially called to task for this anti-Semitic remark he flatly denied having ever said it. Milton Coleman, a trailblazing African-American reporter from the Washington Post, insisted that Jackson had used the expression, and Jackson later admitted his "error," saying "Charge it to my head . . . not to my heart." The gaffe has since largely been ignored, but for several years it cast a pall over Jackson's career, badly damaging his 1984 bid for the presidency. The incident was even lampooned, in song, by comedian Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live.

The fallout from the hymietown incident has perhaps affected the reputation of Milton Coleman, the reporter who broke the story, far more than it has Jackson. In her 1993 memoir, Volunteer Slavery, former Washington Post reporter Jill Nelson refers to Coleman as the Post’s "spook gatekeeper." She characterizes Coleman as a race traitor for "derailing" Jackson’s 1984 campaign. "Afterwards, many in the black community considered him a traitor. Many still do. He is the only person I can think of who black folks – the most forgiving people on earth – refuse to pardon. The Post promoted him."

Nelson’s comments need to be seen in light of her own journalistic principles that have little in common with the older Coleman’s, but surely some citizens outside the black community would hail Coleman as a hero for acting upon his conscience in breaking this story.

It should be pointed out that "Jew York" or "Jew Nork" are terms with a far greater history, and Jackson’s "hymietown" reference is more of a variation on that theme than an original direction in racial language.

 

1973 S. ROTH Sand in Wind 81 What are you trying to do to MY MARINE CORPS, Hymie?

1984 Washington Post (Feb. 13) A5 In private conversations with reporters, Jackson has referred to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York as "Hymietown." (see discussion of Hymietown, below).

1984 T. WOLFE in Rolling Stone (Aug. 2) 19 Yo, Goldberg! You, Goldberg! You, Hymie

1985 Nat. Lampoon (May 16) I'd rather fight Parkinson's / Than that ugly Hymie.

1986-87 K.G. WILSON Van Winkle's Return 60 But great parts of society today will never forgive the use of an ethnic slurword such as nigger or hymietown, however inadvertent.

1987 C. STROUD Close Pursuit 227 What does he think about the Jews, Eddie? What about "Hymie Town"?

1990 CHETWYND So Proudly We Hail (film) Hymietown, here we come.

1995 New York Times (May 29) Rollins quits campaign over "Hymie" joke.

The Republican political consultant Edward J. Rollins was forced to step down just ten days after signing on as advisor to Bob Dole's campaign for the presidency. Rollins had referred to two California Democrats, Henry Waxman and Howard Berman, as "Hymie boys" at a roast held in San Francisco for Speaker Willie L. Brown. Rollins later sent letters of apology to Waxman and Berman, saying "I apologize profusely" for the "totally inappropriate remark."

1995 Daily Telegraph (June 7) Policeman driven out "by Jewish taunts."

A converted Jewish police officer in the Chiswick section of west London claimed he was driven to quit the force due to constant anti-Semitic comments made by his squadmates, such as "Hymie," "Yid," and "Jew boy." Paul Thomas, the insulted officer, claimed that his colleagues would wave bacon in his face at lunch, which so affected him that he developed the eating disorder bulimia.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Ayto, John. The Oxford Dictionary of Slang. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Green, Jonathan. Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. London: Cassell and Company, 1998.

Harap, Louis. Dramatic Encounters. The Jewish Presence in Twentieth-Century

American Drama, Poetry, and Humor and the Black-Jewish Literary Relationship. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987.

Lighter, J.E. ed. Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. New York:

Random House, 1997.

Liptzin, Sol. The Jew in American Literature. New York: Bloch Publishing Company,

1966.

Nelson, Jill. Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience. Chicago: Noble Press,

Inc., 1993.

Rosten, Leo. The Joys of Yiddish. New York: Pocket Books, 1968.

Spears, Richard A. Slang and Euphemisms. New York: Middle Village, 1981.

Thorne, Tony. The Bloomsbury Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. New York: Pantheon

Books, 1990.

Wentworth, Harold and Flexner, Stuart Berg editors, Dictionary of American Slang. New

York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/columnists/elder.

 

 

Copyright 2003 by Eric Wolarsky

 

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