Jew's-harp (reference from yoga cloth swallowing article (re)posted 5/13/02)

I read with surprise Cecil’s refence to the “Jew’s-harp” as I’d always assumed that it was a derogatory term.

This seemed a little out of character so I did a little (emphasis on “little”) research and found some sources that seem to say “We have no idea where this name comes from but it doesn’t seem to be a slur”.


On the other hand, dropping a term that sounds offensive but really isn’t in order to lure someone into flaming him whereupon he could rebut and enlighten does seem like something Cecil might do.

So rather than go off half-cocked, I’ll simply ask, “Where does the name ‘Jew’s harp’ come from?”

(This smiley ;j seems appropriate but I just can’t figure out how to subtly slide it into my message and it’s killing me)

The The Jew’s Harp Guild offers several explanations. Quoting a certain Frederick Crane:

More theories can be found at the link.

Maven’s Word of the Day is the lovely etymology site for the Random House Dictionary people, although this site ended recently. But they give probably the best current source of info on word derivations.