The Jewish-American Lexicon

American Jews speak their own language. This is the thesis that Professor Sarah Bunin Benor is working under as she gathers up phrases and words for her project “Jewish English: Distinctive Lexicon.”

I spoke with Benor recently and she explained that while it is not like Yiddish or Ladino, American Jews have a specific vocabulary and unique linguistic ticks that make it distinctive. She compared it to Judeo-Greek.

The lexicon, which complements the recent Survey of American Jewish Language and Identity that she recently conducted with sociologist Steven M. Cohen, features phrases that come from biblical Hebrew, Israeli Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Aramaic, biblical literature, and liturgy. It also includes English phrases such as “nice Jewish boy” and “matzah pizza.”

Benor said that the idea behind the still-young project is to create one official lexicon for American-Jewish English — one that would be a regularly updated searchable database of our shared vocabulary.

In the conclusion paper to the study, the authors explain that:

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