Why Peggy Noonan’s Use Of ‘Shonda’ Is A Shonda by the Forward

Why Peggy Noonan’s Use Of ‘Shonda’ Is A Shonda

Image by Getty Images

Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal columnist who won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for commentary — and who was, of course, President Reagan’s main speechwriter — sparked a social-media firestorm when she used the Yiddish word “shonda” to describe her reaction to the decision to remove Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee from the stained-glass windows at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Here’s Noonan’s tweet, in response to a story in The Washington Examiner on the windows:

“What’s a shonda?” many baffled Twitters users asked each other.

Hint: it’s not Shonda Rhimes. Most Yiddish speakers pronounce it as shande or shanda. In Yiddish, shande means a disgrace, a shame, a terrible embarrassment, a scandal. Some Twitter users exploded over Noonan’s decision to use the Yiddish word to, of all things, describe the removal of stained-glass windows featuring Confederate leaders. Fiona Adorno (@fionaadorno), wrote:

Eve Zhurbinski, ‏ an intern for an organization supporting Democratic attorneys general, responded with a pithy tweet that at press time had 376 likes. It read:

Journalists also stepped into the fray immediately. U.S. News & World Report contributing editor John Stoehr memorably tweeted:

Noonan’s tweet was part of a 15-tweet thread in which she argued that leaving the windows up will start important and necessary conversations about the past. She tweeted:

But many Twitterati weren’t interested in nuance, or in a complex take on how to handle history. They stopped reading at “shonda,” appalled at a Yiddish word used in this context.

Aviya Kushner is the Forward’s language columnist and the author of “The Grammar of God” (Spiegel & Grau, 2015). Follow her on Twitter,@AviyaKushner


Why Peggy Noonan’s Use Of ‘Shonda’ Is A Shonda

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires 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 and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. 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 Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Why Peggy Noonan’s Use Of ‘Shonda’ Is A Shonda

Thank you!

This article has been sent!