Word Association Football: boundaries blur over yids, yiddos and Spurs fans

Yid army flag

By Andrew Warshaw

February 13 – In a move that has split opinion among the Jewish community and fans of Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, the Oxford English Dictionary has changed its definition of the word Yid to include a “supporter of or player for” the north London club.

The word has long been used as an anti-Semitic offensive term both culturally and by rivals teams of Tottenham, which has a strong Jewish following.

Spurs have frequently been targeted with foul anti-Semitic language yet conversely the words Yid and Yiddo have historically been adopted as badge of honour by sections of Tottenham’s own fan base as a way of collectively supporting the team and welcoming new players to the club.

In the new dictionary definition, the term is described as “a Jew. Also in extended use: a supporter of or player for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.”

The OED, regarded as the leading dictionary of British English, has also added the word “yiddo” to its latest edition, saying its use is “usually derogatory and offensive” but can also mean a Tottenham supporter or player.

The dictionary’s publisher, The Oxford University Press (OUP), explained in a statement: “We reflect, rather than dictate, how language is used which means we include words which may be considered sensitive and derogatory. These are always labelled as such.”

Even though the terms are deemed highly offensive and derogatory by many in the Jewish community, as well as chanting ‘Yid’ and ‘yiddo’, Spurs fans can also be heard singing ‘Yid army’ and ‘the thing I like most is being a Yid’.

Crucially, however, these are used as rallying manifestations of pride and identity rather than the opposite and as an attempt to reclaim the term from its racist usage by opposing fans.

Tottenham as a club has never condoned such chanting or featured any such language on its official merchandise but have labelled the new dictionary definition as “misleading”.

“Our fans (both Jewish and gentile) have never used the term with any intent to cause offence,” said a club statement, adding, importantly, that the Oxford English Dictionary failed to distinguish the contexts in which the term is and is not offensive.

Even among Jewish groups, opinion is split.

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, which represents many British Jewish community groups, was quoted as saying: “This is a term of abuse with malicious anti-Semitic overtones.

“If the OED wishes to include such an expression it must make it abundantly clear that this is a despicable term of abuse.”

But the editor of the highly respected Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, said the word was “not controversial among many of the Jewish supporters, such as myself, who are proud to be Yiddos”.

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