Oxford English Dictionary updates definition of 'Yid'

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Spurs fans pictured outside the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in north London, UK. [Photo: Getty]

A debate has broken out following the Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) decision to expand its definition of the word “Yid”.

The word is typically used to refer to both Jewish people – albeit one that many find offensive – and supporters of Tottenham Football Club.

Now, the OED definition has been updated to include the latter meaning, “a supporter of or player for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club".

However, the move has been met with opposition – including from the football club in question.

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A club spokesman said: “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 offence.

“We find the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of the word misleading given it fails to distinguish context and welcome their clarification.”

Oxford University Press (OUP), the publishers of the OED, has defended the decision.

As we state at the closely related word ‘Yid’... 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," said a representative.

“We will ensure the context for this connection is very clear in both definitions.”

The OED is a “historical dictionary” that “records the usage and development of words in the English language”, they added.

“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.”

Comedian David Baddiel has opposed the change in an interview today.

“The vast majority of fans of the club, including those who self-designate as Y-words, are not Jewish and therefore have no right of 'reclamation',” he told Sky News.

"What it will weirdly give succour to is the sense that Tottenham fans, rather than Jews, 'own' this race-hate word for Jews, a word that blackshirts painted on shops in the East End of London."

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Others, including members of the Jewish community, have also expressed their disapproval on Twitter.

What does “Yid” even mean?

“Yid” is a term for Jewish people of Ashkenazi descent (ie, originating from eastern Europe). It is an abbreviation of “Yiddish”, a language historically spoken by this community.

It has been used both by Jewish people to refer to themselves and, in a pejorative sense, for non-Jews to refer to members of the Jewish community.

However, since the early 20th century, it has been used in various incarnations – “Yid”, “Yid Army”, “Yiddos” – to refer to fans of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, a team which has traditionally had a strong Jewish fan base.

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