English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur says it’s unhappy that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has included an updated definition of the word “Yid” to include “a supporter of or player” of the club.
The word has inoffensive origins within the Jewish community, but it took on a new meaning in the 1930s — especially in the UK — when it was used as a derogatory term for a Jew or a person of Jewish origin.
A north London-based club, Tottenham is known for having a large number of Jewish supporters and Spurs fans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have adopted the words “Yid,” “Yiddo” and “Yid Army” as a proud self-identifiers in an attempt to nullify the derogatory meaning.
The club, however, has distanced itself from the term and does not support use of the term owing to its historically racist connotation.
“As a club we have never accommodated the use of the ‘Y-word’ on any club channels or in club stores and have always been clear that our fans (both Jewish and Gentile) have never used the term with any intent to cause offense,” said a Spurs statement.
“We find the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the word misleading given it fails to distinguish context and welcome their clarification.”
The Oxford University Press, which publishes the OED, issued a statement in response, saying: “As a historical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) records the usage and development of words in the English language.
“We reflect, rather than dictate, how language is used which means we include words which may be considered sensitive and derogatory. These are always labeled as such.
“The entry for YIDDO n. is labeled as offensive and derogatory and our reference to Tottenham Hotspur is a reflection of the evidence for the word.
“As we state at the closely related word YID n., Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is traditionally associated with the Jewish community in north and east London, and the term is sometimes used as a self-designation by some Tottenham fans.
“We will ensure the context for this connection is very clear in both definitions.”
Jewish groups have appealed to the club in the past to take action over fans’ use of the word, though other prominent members of the Jewish community, who are also Spurs fans, have differing views on the matter though.
Stephen Pollard, who is editor of the Jewish Chronicle, tweeted: “Not controversial among many of the Jewish Spurs supporters, such as myself, who are proud to be Yiddos.”
Writing in the Jewish Chronicle last year, Spurs fan Gerald Jacobs said: “In the mouths of Spurs fans, it is all positive. Once the crowd greets a player with the cry of “Yiddo,” he knows he has made the grade and/or had hero status conferred upon him.
“Quite apart from the fact that Yiddish is the everyday language of many Charedim, and that in mainstream Jewish life its currency is mostly confined to senior circles, do we really want to ban, say, klezmer musicians from playing Yidl Mit’n Fidl, or when your bubbe [grandmother] talks about a “nice Yiddishe” boy or girl, are you going to tell her not to?” added Jacobs.
Last year, the club carried out a survey focused on use of the Y-word to which 23,000 fans responded, of which 11% were Jewish.
Some 94% of respondents acknowledged the Y-word can be considered a racist term against a Jewish person and 33% of respondents said they use the word “regularly” in a footballing context, with 12% of respondents admitting to using the word outside of a footballing context.
The survey also showed that 18% of respondents do not use the term in a footballing context, considering it “offensive,” with the number rising to 35% among Jewish respondents.
Less than half of all respondents said they would prefer to see supporters choose to chant the Y-word less or stop using it altogether.