Jewish look

moura

Senior Member
Portuguese Portugal
Hi

In this phrase: "Bit too saturnine and Jewish, if you call that exotic, for my taste", in which a girl comments a young man's physical or facial atractives, what may the word Jewish mean?
Dark-skinned, for example?

In the context - two girls talk about two young man, one blond and the other dark-skinned - I don't analyse this commentary as Jewish depreciative, but of some sort of face or personality qualification

The problem is when translating it literaly to Portuguese, for then it may acquire some negative sense, as it is not usual to characterize someone like this in my language (talking of faces atractives).

Thanks
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    You could bowdlerize it and say the person looks Arabic or Middle Eastern, though I suppose the most appropriately "sanitary" term would be "semitic."

    In the end, I agree with GreeenWhiteBlue, except that I wouldn't call it already negative. I would say the phrase has a penumbra or suggestion of negativity. It sounds slightly suspect, in this day and age. (AE warning)
     

    moura

    Senior Member
    Portuguese Portugal
    Thank you both. This is from a book written in the 1970's decade, which may or not explain the use of the word in this context. But I still have some doubts in translating it literaly. So far I am using temporarily "very dark skinned".
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have to say that I don't find any negativity in it, apart from the fact, obviously, that the speaker is saying she doesn't like this look.

    I interpret "looking Jewish", as having a typically "Jewish" nose. I actually find this very attractive, incidentally. If anyone thinks this is derogatory, then that says more about them than it does about me, in my view. It is neither negative, nor positive. It is a fact that many Jewish people have a particular type of nose.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I have to say that I don't find any negativity in it, apart from the fact, obviously, that the speaker is saying she doesn't like this look.
    Many US citizens, myself included, are all but conditioned to recoil from any statement that implies or assumes an ethnic generalization, which is doubly and triply true for comments on physical appearance and for people of Jewish descent, respectively.

    As I said, I don't recognize the statement as being unequivocally negative, as GWB suggested. The context (the time period as well as the background of the character speaking) would be the determining factor in deciding whether this was meant pejoratively.
     

    ireney

    Modistra
    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    I would say that "dark skinned" is a bit too vague an alternative for Jewish. "Semitic" might work if "Jewish" sounds wrong in Portuguese.
     

    moura

    Senior Member
    Portuguese Portugal
    In reference to what you say, Emma, in some passage before, this man was described as this: (he) was still talking. His dark eyewbrows were drawn together over his high, beaked nose..."

    According to your explanation, this may explain this kind of word choice in the present case.

    Thank you also
     

    moura

    Senior Member
    Portuguese Portugal
    And thank you also, Ireney. Jewish or semitic in Portuguese have the same sense, when someone want to characterise someone (generally in negative sense) = greedy. But really presently is not very used - more in 70's 80's.
    Anyway, that's the reason I a trying to avoid the use of the word.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    The reason I find it negative is not that she says that he looks Jewish, but that he looks "too Jewish". It is that "too" which makes it clear that for the speaker, a "Jewish" look is a bad thing.
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, bibliolept, I am aware of the, for want of a better phrase "politically correct" sensitivities of some people in the US (I hope that didn't sound rude to you - it wasn't meant to). There is something of that in Britain too, but to nowhere near the same extent, in my view. The problem with some such sensitivities is that they can prevent people with no racist intent from saying what they really think, or stating facts. For example, it is a fact that, say, 98% of the Jewish people I know (and I know a fair few) have a "Jewish" nose. I know that I am not racist and won't let the Word Police tell me what I can and can't say. I do understand your position, though. Things are different in the US.

    GreenWhiteBlue, I don't think that not finding someone attractive because they look "too Jewish" is necessarily negative or anti-semitic. Could it just be a matter of taste? I don't particularly find fat people attractive, but it doesn't mean that I am "fattist". Bad example, sorry.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    If the book was written in Portuguese, then "Sephardic" comes to mind.

    Remembering that "Jewish" is a religion and not a nationality, there are Jewish populations all over the world and there is no one unifying "look". Much as Muslims are located in Arab, African and Polynesian cultures, there is no unifying look to that religion either.

    However there were Sephardic Jews that originated in Spain, Portugal and Northern Africa, I believe. And there were Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe.

    I don't know how I would describe the physical aspects of a Sephardic Jew either.
     

    moura

    Senior Member
    Portuguese Portugal
    Thank you Emily and Packard, also, for your comments.

    The book is in English (BE), but by coincidence, in what relates do Sephardic jews, I read recently that the first Jewish immigrants to the United States were Sephardic Jews, coming from Brazil, around 1654.
     

    aurilla

    Senior Member
    Am Eng/PR Spanish
    saturnine: 1. Melancholy or sullen. 2. Having or marked by a tendency to be bitter or sardonic: a saturnine expression on his face.

    The Jewish look is associated with a full curly mane of dark hair, beak nose with a bump on the bridge, and tawny or olive skin.
     

    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    Ah, to my mind it's associated just with the "Jewish" nose, which doesn't necessarily have a bump on the bridge, but is long and elegant, perhaps "Roman". Hair and skin tone don't come into it. So it seems that different countries produce different stereotypes.
     
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