Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 09-10-2018, 04:11 PM
Inigo Montoya's Avatar
Inigo Montoya Inigo Montoya is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: On the level, if inclined
Posts: 14,642
What's the deal with Jews and color names?

Silver, Gold, Brown, Black, Green, Diamond for instance a often indicators of Jewish ancestry. Why is that? And how long has that been a trend as opposed to older Middle Eastern traditions of being identified by whom you are related to: Son of... Father of... Mother of... ?
  #2  
Old 09-10-2018, 04:18 PM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: pangolandia
Posts: 2,917
Most of those names were given to them by Gentiles. They are not Hebrew names like Cohen and Levi. Some (the ones with "gold" in them) were fully intended to be ironic and insulting.
  #3  
Old 09-10-2018, 04:20 PM
Alessan's Avatar
Alessan Alessan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tel Aviv
Posts: 23,331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post
Silver, Gold, Brown, Black, Green, Diamond for instance a often indicators of Jewish ancestry. Why is that? And how long has that been a trend as opposed to older Middle Eastern traditions of being identified by whom you are related to: Son of... Father of... Mother of... ?
Ashkenazi Jewish surnames date back to the 18th or 19th Centuries, and were imposed on them by the European powers of the time (before that, they were mostly "son of" and so on). Gold, Silver and Diamond are all professional names, originally given to jewelers and metalworkers (some may have been given ironically). Brown and Black aren't usually associated with Jews, IMHO - they both sound very WASPy to me. Green, I don't know.

Last edited by Alessan; 09-10-2018 at 04:21 PM.
  #4  
Old 09-10-2018, 04:23 PM
Nava Nava is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 39,183
Green is Irish and apparently "stereotypically Jewish" in Ireland, but why the heck did it become associated with Jews, also no idea.

Sephardim Jewish lastnames include some color-related ones, but AFAIK they're the same ones used by gentiles.

Last edited by Nava; 09-10-2018 at 04:26 PM.
  #5  
Old 09-10-2018, 04:31 PM
Inigo Montoya's Avatar
Inigo Montoya Inigo Montoya is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: On the level, if inclined
Posts: 14,642
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
Brown and Black aren't usually associated with Jews, IMHO - they both sound very WASPy to me. Green, I don't know.
Certainly not exclusively, but put it in German and add ...stein or ...man to it and the first best guess is "Hmmm, Jewish?"

And I could be totes ignant here, and am willing to entertain the idea that names like Grünbaum, Schwartzweiss, and Braunstein are fairly common among German Christians.
__________________
Y'all are just too damned serious. Lighten up.
  #6  
Old 09-10-2018, 05:32 PM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 14,371
Silver, Gold, Black, & White are occupational names: Goldsmith, silversmith, blacksmith, whitesmith (tin). Diamond is also occupational, referring to jewelry. Green could come from either greengrocer or greenskeeper, though I don't know if that is the origin.

Note that these are all service occupations. They are open to people who are forbidden from owning land. And common to many locations (so that when all the Jews are forced out of one country, they can still carry on this occupation elsewhere).
  #7  
Old 09-10-2018, 05:47 PM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri Colibri is offline
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 39,994
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post
Certainly not exclusively, but put it in German and add ...stein or ...man to it and the first best guess is "Hmmm, Jewish?"
But you were apparently asking about those names in English, not German. I don't think either one is thought of a Jewish name in English.

Schwartz/Schwarz, meaning black, of course is recognized as a common Jewish name, although it's also found in non-Jews. As a name, it would have referred to someone with a dark complexion.

I don't think that Braun is recognized as a Jewish name, however.
  #8  
Old 09-10-2018, 05:57 PM
Blank Slate's Avatar
Blank Slate Blank Slate is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 4,681
Is diamond a color?
  #9  
Old 09-10-2018, 06:01 PM
Inigo Montoya's Avatar
Inigo Montoya Inigo Montoya is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: On the level, if inclined
Posts: 14,642
I was oversimplifying, including the minerology with the colors, because I'm a sloppy person.
__________________
Y'all are just too damned serious. Lighten up.
  #10  
Old 09-10-2018, 07:54 PM
FinsToTheLeft FinsToTheLeft is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Posts: 417
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alessan View Post
Ashkenazi Jewish surnames date back to the 18th or 19th Centuries, and were imposed on them by the European powers of the time (before that, they were mostly "son of" and so on). Gold, Silver and Diamond are all professional names, originally given to jewelers and metalworkers (some may have been given ironically). Brown and Black aren't usually associated with Jews, IMHO - they both sound very WASPy to me. Green, I don't know.
My grandmother grew up as Brown, but arrived from Odessa as a child as Brunfenbrenner. Interestingly enough, her granddaughter (my 1st cousin) ended up marrying another Brown. I don’t know what the original version of his family name was.
  #11  
Old 09-10-2018, 08:00 PM
Ike Witt's Avatar
Ike Witt Ike Witt is online now
Friend of Cecil
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Lost in the mists of time
Posts: 13,888
My family name is Green and from what I have been told it use to be Greenspan or Greenspoon and it was shortened upon arrival in Canada.
  #12  
Old 09-10-2018, 08:18 PM
susan's Avatar
susan susan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Coastal USA
Posts: 8,979
I have Greens and Blacks in my Ashkenazi family, though in other languages.
  #13  
Old 09-10-2018, 08:28 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Greenbelt, Maryland
Posts: 14,012
Here's a long piece about Ashkenazi Jewish names:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_v..._surnames.html

Note that there's a link toward the beginning of this to a webpage with some corrections.
  #14  
Old 09-11-2018, 04:23 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Trantor
Posts: 11,998
I knew a Green who said his "maiden" name was Greenstein, a name that certainly sounds Jewish. And my wife has relatives named Brownstein (or maybe Braunstein, but a lot of the spellings were arbitrarily assigned at Ellis Island since they knew them only spelled in Hebrew letters. My family was similarly shortened by dropping -sky.
  #15  
Old 09-11-2018, 04:43 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 3,298
He doesn't have a colour name, but the name of the pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy has always struck me as a strange one, since i have no clue of its origin. (Though I can imagine it coming about similarly to Lochlann ["the Viking"] in Scotland, or Langlais ["the Englishman"] in France...)
  #16  
Old 09-11-2018, 05:02 PM
susan's Avatar
susan susan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Coastal USA
Posts: 8,979
Yes, there are -ski and -sky and -[nothing] in my family tree.

Not mentioned in the link above, but some Ashkenazi surnames are code names that reference Jewish prophets and biblical figures while seeming not to. "Eisenstein" may reference Isaac, for example.
  #17  
Old 09-11-2018, 05:45 PM
Alessan's Avatar
Alessan Alessan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tel Aviv
Posts: 23,331
Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidwithanR View Post
He doesn't have a colour name, but the name of the pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy has always struck me as a strange one, since i have no clue of its origin. (Though I can imagine it coming about similarly to Lochlann ["the Viking"] in Scotland, or Langlais ["the Englishman"] in France...)
It's a common surname among Sephardic Jews, especially from the Balkans (probably indicating an Ashkenazic ancestor). Maybe Vladimir's grandfather was Bulgarian or something similar.

Last edited by Alessan; 09-11-2018 at 05:45 PM.
  #18  
Old 09-11-2018, 06:28 PM
Surreal Surreal is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 2,161
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulfreida View Post
Most of those names were given to them by Gentiles. They are not Hebrew names like Cohen and Levi. Some (the ones with "gold" in them) were fully intended to be ironic and insulting.
How exactly is the surname Goldstein "ironic" or "insulting" to someone who works as a goldsmith? In what way are the names Goldberg (golden hill) and Goldbloom (golden flower) insulting?
  #19  
Old 09-11-2018, 07:12 PM
RealityChuck's Avatar
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 41,558
Add another color: "Roth" is derived from "red."
__________________
"If a person saying he was something was all there was to it, this country'd be full of rich men and good-looking women. Too bad it isn't that easy.... In short, when someone else says you're a writer, that's when you're a writer... not before."
Purveyor of fine science fiction since 1982.
  #20  
Old 09-11-2018, 08:27 PM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 14,371
Quote:
Originally Posted by Surreal View Post
How exactly is the surname Goldstein "ironic" or "insulting" to someone who works as a goldsmith? In what way are the names Goldberg (golden hill) and Goldbloom (golden flower) insulting?
Because it is ignoring their historic connection to the honored Levi or Cohen tribe, and reducing them to being named by their occupation.
  #21  
Old 09-11-2018, 10:13 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: U.S.A.
Posts: 33,813
There is apparently a myth that when Austrian Jews were forced to adopt family names, the name-granting officials accepted bribes for "better" names and otherwise gave insulting names.

This article seeks to dispel that myth —

"Did Jews Buy Their Last Names?"
https://forward.com/opinion/391341/d...ir-last-names/

There apparently were some genuinely insulting names assigned, but the vast majority of German-speaking Jews have non-insulting names:

Quote:
As legend would have it, these officials created lists in which the price corresponded to the names. “Beautiful” sounding surnames, like words for precious stones or flowers (think Goldstein, which means “golden stone,” or Rosenthal, which means “rose valley,” or Silberberg, meaning “silver mountain”) were the most expensive. Last names including the names of ordinary metals (think of Eisenberg, meaning “iron mountain,” or Kupferstein, meaning “copper stone”) were cheaper. Names like Adler, meaning “eagle,” and Schwalbe, meaning “swallow,” were free of charge. Finally, anti-Semitic officials assigned “contemptuous” names simply to spite their future Jewish bearers. These nsmes might include Niemand (“nobody”), Affengesicht (“monkey face”), Mausfall (“mousetrap”) or – perhaps most insulting of all — Wanzreich (“rich in bedbugs” or “kingdom of bedbugs”).

...

And yet there are not a large number of contemptuous anti-Semitic names in Galicia (fortunately, we don’t hesitate to add).

In my etymological dictionary of Galicia, there are about 37,000 surnames, and only a few dozen fall under the category of derogatory or ridiculous names. These include Deligtisch (“criminal”), Geschwür (“ulcer”), Katzenflügel (“cat’s wing), Krebsfuss (“crab’s paw”), Messerscharff (“as sharp as a knife”), Zeitlich (“temporary”), Sting (“stony”) and Zweighaft (“branched”), Falschberg (“false mountain”) and Sommerfeind (“enemy of summer”). Interestingly, numerous other “friends” also seem to result from mockery, although some of them form quite positive images: Bauerenfreund (“friend of peasants”), Weisenfreund (“friend of orphans”), Kinderfreund (“friend of children”), Judenfreund (“friend of Jews”), Bergenfreund (“friend of mountains”), and Rosenfreund (“friend of roses”).

Read more: https://forward.com/opinion/391341/d...ir-last-names/
  #22  
Old 09-11-2018, 10:41 PM
Lamoral Lamoral is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: Fenario
Posts: 1,989
How is "sharp as a knife", "stony", or "branched" derogatory? "Cat's wing" is just badass, although it is also ridiculous.

I'd like to know why, with how commonly names for groups of people have changed over the years, Jews haven't renamed Ashkenazi to something that doesn't contain the word "nazi." I know that name predates the German use of the term but still, you'd think in recent years there would be a push to rename that particular descriptor.
  #23  
Old 09-11-2018, 11:21 PM
Mumberthax Mumberthax is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Posts: 175
Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Add another color: "Roth" is derived from "red."
Perhaps you meant the German word Rot, which means 'red'?

Last edited by Mumberthax; 09-11-2018 at 11:22 PM.
  #24  
Old 09-12-2018, 03:46 AM
Alessan's Avatar
Alessan Alessan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tel Aviv
Posts: 23,331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim@T-Bonham.net View Post
Because it is ignoring their historic connection to the honored Levi or Cohen tribe, and reducing them to being named by their occupation.
And yet, Cohen and Levi are still the most common Jewish surnames.
  #25  
Old 09-12-2018, 05:14 AM
JKellyMap's Avatar
JKellyMap JKellyMap is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 8,961
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mumberthax View Post
Perhaps you meant the German word Rot, which means 'red'?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roth_(surname)

“Roth” is just a very close variant of “rot,” if you look at the bigger picture of Germanic languages over the past one or two thousand years. Look at the slightly bigger picture, and modern English “red” (and “ruddy”) is just another variant of what philologists would consider basically the same “word”. French “rouge,” Spanish “rojo,” etc. are close cousins.
  #26  
Old 09-12-2018, 09:12 AM
CarnalK's Avatar
CarnalK CarnalK is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 15,592
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim@T-Bonham.net View Post
Because it is ignoring their historic connection to the honored Levi or Cohen tribe, and reducing them to being named by their occupation.
Making them change their name is of course pretty insulting but the names themselves are not. As mentioned, the vast majority of these colour names refer to smithing and Smith is about the most common gentile name there is in the English speaking world.
  #27  
Old 09-12-2018, 12:53 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 3,298
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mumberthax View Post
Perhaps you meant the German word Rot, which means 'red'?
Roth is a very standard old-fashioned spelling of the same word, still well known today.

Rothschild means "Red Shield", not "child of Roth".
  #28  
Old 09-12-2018, 01:11 PM
drad dog's Avatar
drad dog drad dog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 5,522
Being assigned a name has at the very least a small insult baked into it no matter what.

Last edited by drad dog; 09-12-2018 at 01:12 PM.
  #29  
Old 09-12-2018, 02:08 PM
Eyebrows 0f Doom Eyebrows 0f Doom is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: NYC
Posts: 5,989
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lamoral View Post
I'd like to know why, with how commonly names for groups of people have changed over the years, Jews haven't renamed Ashkenazi to something that doesn't contain the word "nazi." I know that name predates the German use of the term but still, you'd think in recent years there would be a push to rename that particular descriptor.
Why is that a thing you think people would want? It's not even pronounced the same.
  #30  
Old 09-12-2018, 02:19 PM
RealityChuck's Avatar
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 41,558
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mumberthax View Post
Perhaps you meant the German word Rot, which means 'red'?
Yes.

Then apply Grimm's Law.
__________________
"If a person saying he was something was all there was to it, this country'd be full of rich men and good-looking women. Too bad it isn't that easy.... In short, when someone else says you're a writer, that's when you're a writer... not before."
Purveyor of fine science fiction since 1982.
  #31  
Old 09-13-2018, 06:14 AM
Johanna's Avatar
Johanna Johanna is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Altered States of America
Posts: 12,751
Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Yes.

Then apply Grimm's Law.
That's a joke, right? Grimm's Law applies to changes that took place circa 500 BC. Also, it had to do with changes in pronunciation, because the Germanic languages then were unwritten. Rot and Roth are pronounced exactly the same in German. I wonder what the h was even doing there in the first place, but to keep it in English-speaking countries is obviously preferable. Likewise, there are German women named Rut, but you better believe in an English-speaking country they'd be Ruth.

I once met a nice old couple from Hungary whose last name was Vitriol. I had difficulty comprehending how anybody could have that for their name, but then I learned about the malicious Austro-Hungarian registrars.
  #32  
Old 09-14-2018, 03:52 AM
clairobscur clairobscur is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Paris
Posts: 17,062
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna View Post

I once met a nice old couple from Hungary whose last name was Vitriol. I had difficulty comprehending how anybody could have that for their name, but then I learned about the malicious Austro-Hungarian registrars.

After looking up, it seems that, as already mentioned in this thread, the "malicious Austro-Hungarian registrars" story is a myth.
__________________
S'en vai la memoria, e tornara pu.
  #33  
Old 09-14-2018, 08:32 AM
Inigo Montoya's Avatar
Inigo Montoya Inigo Montoya is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: On the level, if inclined
Posts: 14,642
Quote:
Originally Posted by clairobscur View Post
After looking up, it seems that, as already mentioned in this thread, the "malicious Austro-Hungarian registrars" story is a myth.
I always suspected you were a Magyar-spewing Austro-Hungarian sympathizer.
  #34  
Old 09-14-2018, 09:57 AM
Akaj Akaj is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2018
Location: Chicago-ish
Posts: 192
I knew a Jewish kid at camp whose surname was Pope.
__________________
I'm not expecting any surprises.
  #35  
Old 09-14-2018, 10:22 AM
Apollon Apollon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: European Union, Austria
Posts: 336
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mumberthax View Post
Perhaps you meant the German word Rot, which means 'red'?
"Roth" was the standard spelling until the reform of 1876. It could still be found well into the early 1900s.
  #36  
Old 09-14-2018, 10:24 AM
Apollon Apollon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: European Union, Austria
Posts: 336
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna View Post
I once met a nice old couple from Hungary whose last name was Vitriol. I had difficulty comprehending how anybody could have that for their name, but then I learned about the malicious Austro-Hungarian registrars.
Vitriol isn't necessarily offensive. Besides sulfuric acid, it also means a type of colourful crystal.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitriol

Last edited by Apollon; 09-14-2018 at 10:26 AM.
  #37  
Old 09-14-2018, 01:32 PM
DPRK DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 1,847
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apollon View Post
"Roth" was the standard spelling until the reform of 1876. It could still be found well into the early 1900s.
Yes, I thought about mentioning this; specifically IIRC subsequent to the 1901 Orthographische Konferenz it is now strictly speaking "incorrect" to spell roth for rot, thun for tun, etc., whereas before 1876 many of the "th" spellings were standard or preferred. Note that the /θ/ phoneme is rather rare these days, in particular nonexistent in modern German and Germanic languages (English is one of the exceptions). As for the wisdom of spelling reform, that is way outside the scope of this thread.
  #38  
Old 09-21-2018, 01:56 PM
RealityChuck's Avatar
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 41,558
Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna View Post
That's a joke, right? Grimm's Law applies to changes that took place circa 500 BC. Also, it had to do with changes in pronunciation, because the Germanic languages then were unwritten. Rot and Roth are pronounced exactly the same in German.
Sorry, but Grimm's Law never went away; I've seen examples of it in the early 80s* and occasionally spot them even today.

*A dictionary of prison slang I read back then had "vic" as the interest on the loan. This is obviously derived from "vigorish" (interest on a loan, first showing up in the late 1950s), shorted to "vig," and then Grimm's took over.
  #39  
Old 09-21-2018, 03:02 PM
Ignotus Ignotus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 1,223
Tangentially related to the subject of this thread: family names on Grön- (Swedish for Green-), like Grönfors, Grönroos and Grönhall seem to be somewhat common among Finnish Roma families (yes, Swedish is an official language in Suomi too )!

Last edited by Ignotus; 09-21-2018 at 03:04 PM.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:25 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017