The English, the Swedish, the Jewish?

Why is it that nobody ever says “the Jewish” when referring to the Jews collectively, but people often say “The British, the Swedish, the Irish,” etc? As in, “the Irish have a great musical heritage” or something, but nobody would ever say “the Jewish have a history of (whatever)”.

Furthermore, we say a Dutchman, an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman, and a Frenchman, but never a Danishman, a Swedishman or a Jewishman. What is this?

It’s a language that was cobbled together from disparate parts and leftovers. Why would you expect to see hard and fast rules?

And I’d probably say “The Swedes” myself.

First problem: all of your counterexamples are nationalities, while Judaism is a religion. You wouldn’t be likely to say “the Christian” either.
Second problem: It sounds fine to me to say “the Jewish.” You’re more likely to hear “the Jewish people,” or something, but your phrase doesn’t sound too wrong to me.

Third problem: there is already a perfectly serviceable word for a Jewish person: “Jew.” Likewise “Dane” and “Swede.”

Not that simple. Judaism is a religion, a culture, and, to the extent it has a genetic component (it does), a race. Tay-Sachs disease, for example, is a genetic disorder more common among Ashkenazi Jews. So, can it be all those things and not be a nationality as well?

This seems like the real reason.

Oh, I thought this was gonna be a joke…

Carry on

Hmm… ‘The Brits’ has been in common use for some time.

Now, if we regard Jewishness as a race, and went for the ‘ish’ ending, then we would have the Blackish, the Chineseish …

If we regard it as a religion, we would have the Muslimish, the Christianish, which also sounds a bit wrong.

Possibly the ending used is simply the one that sounds least daft.

People must fail to miss a key point taught in 10th grade Social Studies, typically. There are nations, and nation-states. A nation is a group of people (i.e., a people) with a common culture or belief. A nation need not even own a piece of land, nor share a common land, to be a nation. A nation-state is really what we live within defined by political boundaries. Note that people in a nation-state can belong to various nations. This was more clear in biblical terms. It seems lost today because we’re all modern world-centric. Yet, it still exists.

There are very few hard and fast rules, when it comes to which words are nouns describing the people of a certain enation and which words are adjectives describing those people or their culture.

In common usage, “English” is a language, an adjective describing anything that comes from England, AND a collective noun for people from England.

People regularly say “the English,” “the Irish,” “the French,” “the Chinese,” “the Italians” or “the Arabs” when speaking about people of a given nationality. There aren’t really any other collective nouns for those groups.

But some ethnic groups/nationalities DO have multiple names." Some people may speak of “the Polish,” but more will speak of “the Poles.” Some may speak of “the Swedish,” but more will speak of “the Swedes.” A few will speak of “the Danish,” but more will speak of “the Danes” (when you use the word “Danish,” most Americans think of a pastry, rather than a resident of Copenhagen).

And while Glaswegians will insist that “Scots are people, and Scotch is a drink,” Americans are apt to use “The Scots,” “the Scottish,” and “the Scotch” interchangeably to describe Highlanders.

I don’t know of any compelling reason that “The Irish celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day” sounds fine while “The Jewish celebrate on Purim” sounds ridiculously clunky and wrong, but that’s how our language has evolved.