This post in a thread about Joe Biden brought up his use of ‘Shylock’. IMHO most people who use that word consider it to mean ‘loan shark’ without any association with a religion and not the Shakespearean character or reference to Jews negatively or otherwise. There may be some cross-over anti-semitism among the people who use the word to mean a loan shark, but it’s a word used more commonly by people who aren’t literary scholars.
Does this word work as an anti-semitic slur with anyone but the literati anymore?
Are you trying to get Biden off the hook, because you’re not going to convince me that he had no idea about the history of that word. For other folks, if you’re not familiar with it, how would you even have heard it? Maybe I’m just incapable of un-knowing what I know, but I can’t remember any time when I heard someone use the word without it having some negative reference to a Jewish person. You don’t have to be familiar with the Shakespeare play to know that it’s got negative connotations.
I grew up (California, 1980s) thinking that Shylock meant Jew, and only meant loan shark insofar as Jews are associated with money lending. Furthermore, I never heard anyone use it while growing up except to give us an example of words we weren’t supposed to use because they were racist.
I mentioned this over in the original thread. Shylock has long been used as an example of the Evil Jews and was a favorite image of the Nazis.
Shylock would have been common slang for Jews back when Biden was a youngster but it was always understood to be a negative portrayal (although Shakespeare’s intentions with the character are more complex).
I’m not asking about Biden. I have no agenda here.
I don’t hear this word in conversation except from on the seedier side of town from people who wouldn’t have a clue who Shylock was. I don’t think it means any more to them than loan shark. I think the term is used more often that way than when public figures stick their foot in their mouth or in discussions about Shakespeare or anti-semitism.
I now recognize that Shylock is an offensive term. But ISTR once thinking it was just a synonym for loan shark. Didn’t the book/movie Get Shorty refer to Chili Palmer as a shylock, without intending anything antisemitic? I only saw the movie, and I recall it being used that way. Maybe the book used it differently.
Anyway, Shylock strikes me as a fairly uncommon term, and I don’t think it’s implausible that someone would encounter it in reference to a loan shark and be unaware of its antisemitic baggage.
Yes. Not Italians specifically, but mob activity. It’s a term of art for the underclass. The people using this term on a regular basis as far as I know are just referring to loan sharks and related financial scams, as in the Chili Palmer reference above. I’m sure ‘Shylock’ is used far more often in that sense than any literary reference.
It makes me squirm, but so does the whole damn play. And the fact that I have met people who think “a pound of flesh” comes either from the bible or the Talmud-- ie, that some kind of clause about being about to extract a pound of flesh as a repayment for a debt was a standard and codified Jewish practice.
A surprising number of people who have not actually seen the play are familiar with the “pound of flesh” thing. I’m sure that in a lot of people’s minds Shylock=“pound of flesh,” and also “pound of flesh”=Jewish thing. It doesn’t take much cogitation to get to Shylock=Jewish after that.
And yeah, “If you cut us, do we not bleed” might be a great speech, but it is topped by “The quality of mercy,” where Portia explains why Christians are better than Jews because they know how to show mercy. Portia clearly has not read the whole bible, or at least not very critically, but that’s neither here nor there, because her theology was pretty much that of all of Christiandom at the time the play was written.