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The Merchant of Manchester

Mr Marcus Shloimovitch, a Manchester textile
merchant and member of the Board of Deputies
of British Jews, will bring a legal test case
against publishers when the new Race Relations
Act becomes operative in a campaign to get
“unjustifiable and maligning” definitions of
the word Jew removed from British dictionaries
along with controversial descriptions of Welsh.
As well as his objections to such derogatory
definitions of Jew as “usurer,” “miser,” “cheat,”
and “grasping person,” he also rejects those of
Welsh such as “to cheat at horse racing,” “to
make off without paying,” and “one who welshes.”
                         The Guardian, December 1976

Shame on Shloimovitch
(Though not on his race)
For trying to whitewash
Our linguistic face.

Hath not a diction’ry,
Noblest of books,
The right to reflect
Society’s looks?

Hath not this tome,
Which simply records,
A duty to chronicle
Words of discord?

Where is the profit,
Whose is the loss
When we brighten the rock
By scrubbing the moss?

Hath not this Jew,
No miser, I’m sure,
A feeling for language
Both lowly and pure?

Must one tribe’s grief,
However severe,
Dictate the course
That English will steer?

Nay, let not our lexicons
Welsh on their debts
By abridging their pages
And hedging their bets.

Instead have me learn,
When I look up a word,
All of those stories
My ancestors heard.

And if it be true
A Jew’s not a cheat,
Shall I not know it
When at market we meet?

Or may I infer,
From the case he has built,
This good merchant’s motive
Is tinctured with guilt?

Come now, Shloimovitch,
Do you really believe
That censorship alters
Impressions men leave?

Or could it be
‘Tis not your own plan,
That some Big Brother
Has made you his man?

Not all Jews are grasping,
Not all Scots are tight,
Not all Welsh are cheaters,
Not all Irish fight.

Yet words have meanings,
For better or worse,
And you shan’t change them
With a litigant’s purse.

So live your good life,
Be kind to your friends,
And let our quaint language,
In time, make amends.

EDDIE WOODS

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