Bintel Blog

The Jewish-American Lexicon

By Elissa Strauss

American Jews speak their own language. This is the thesis that Professor Sarah Bunin Benor is working under as she gathers up phrases and words for her project “Jewish English: Distinctive Lexicon.”

I spoke with Benor recently and she explained that while it is not like Yiddish or Ladino, American Jews have a specific vocabulary and unique linguistic ticks that make it distinctive. She compared it to Judeo-Greek.

The lexicon, which complements the recent Survey of American Jewish Language and Identity that she recently conducted with sociologist Steven M. Cohen, features phrases that come from biblical Hebrew, Israeli Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Aramaic, biblical literature, and liturgy. It also includes English phrases such as “nice Jewish boy” and “matzah pizza.”

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