'Bageling' Means Many Things — Not All of Them Fit for Family Paper

50 Shades of Meaning for a Word That Used To Have One

A Fine Distinction: These are bagels. And they have just about nothing to do with the many definitions of bageling.
Getty Images
A Fine Distinction: These are bagels. And they have just about nothing to do with the many definitions of bageling.

By Philologos

Published October 13, 2013, issue of October 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

This comes from the Forward’s Naomi Zeveloff:

“I just did a story it appeared in this newspaper’s October 4 issue on how Chabadniks figure out who is Jewish during their Sukkot street outreach. One of them described ‘bageling’ for me, by which he meant the process by which one Jew on the street subtly recognizes another and the two share a moment together. The piece has drummed up a lot of discussion on the Web about the roots of the term ‘bageling,’ which I understand is also a word used to describe anal sex. Maybe you’d want to take it on in your column?”

“Bageling” is a slang word that has taken off in recent years, proliferating geographically and semantically. Presumably this has something to do with the proliferation of the bagel itself, a food that was once, until 50 or so years ago, a distinctively Jewish one of exacting requirements: the classic Jewish bagel has a hard, smooth, glossy, light-brown exterior and a white, plain-tasting, jaw-achingly tough-to-chew interior.

Today, of course, what passes for a bagel can be practically anything as long as it has a hole in the middle (a lumpy-crusted cakey crumb bagel, for example, or an effortlessly masticated honey whole-wheat bagel, or a spinach-and-cheese bagel flavored like a quiche), and the verb “to bagel,” it would seem, can mean practically anything, too — especially if it’s something weird. This includes:

  • To shut out an opponent in an athletic contest like tennis or baseball. This is the oldest slang use of “to bagel” attested to, and it may have originated with the old stadium scoreboards on which the zeros, with their white rims and black insides, were manually slipped into place after a scoreless inning, like a bagel onto a plate.

  • To go out with friends for bagels or attend a bagel brunch at someone’s home.

  • To pelt pedestrians with bagels from a moving vehicle. (If you don’t believe me, you can check this out on the Internet’s Urban Dictionary.)

  • To decorate or deface someone’s yard or lawn with bagels. This is apparently an offshoot of a custom known as “TPing,” in which one does the same with toilet paper. TP-like bageling was awarded the “best new prank” of the year prize by The Austin Chronicle in 2004. The things they do in Texas!


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.