There is an especially irritating phenomenon, and I hate to confess that it is irritating, because it is practiced by bullies and they would be delighted to discover that it genuinely hurts. But this phenomenon is from the world of antisemites, and this is a group that seeks to weaponize anything in their efforts to be cruel to Jews, and among their weapons is stuff they have lifted from Jewish culture itself. In particular, there is a habit these miserable creatures make of using the word "goy."
They refer to themselves as goys all the time, especially in online conversations with Jews. It's a strange affectation, because they behave as though they are stealing an insult from us. But "goy" is not an insult. It just means "non-Jew," and so is about as insulting as the word "gentile" in English, which is to say not at all. We have an insulting word for non-Jew. Shaygetz. I don't know how common it is. I've never heard it in the wild, and so it's a word that doesn't have a lot of currency, even in the Jewish community. If an antisemite referred to themselves as a shaygetz, I think I'd be more impressed than anything else.
But "goy" irritates, for two reasons. The first is that I simply don't like seeing people who hate Jews make off with Jewish things like little thieves. But the second reason it irritates is because it's used with an insider tone, as though the antisemite has selected the term to demonstrate that they get it, they're with it, they know how Jews think and the language that Jews use.
Every time I see one of these folks show up on Twitter, I want to send them a link and say, explain this to me. If you can explain it, I'll believe you understand Jews.
Were I to do so, the link would be to Weird Jewish Twitter.
Quickly, let me introduce Weird Twitter to you, in case the phrase is new to you, and then I will introduce you to the Jewish version of it. Weird Twitter isn't a deliberate phenomenon, but instead a phrase used to describe a large number of Twitter users who use the medium as a space for comic exploration. There are a lot of funny people on Twitter, but Weird Twitter has an oddness to it that you might have been able to guess at from its name. Probably the most famous example of this is a Twitter user named @fart who is somewhat legendary for accidentally having been invited to discuss whistle-blower Edward Snowden on television and instead discussed Edward Scissorhands.
There is a Jewish version of this. I don't know that they are self-consciously aping Weird Twitter, but they share its mad sense of comedy. The movement is largely male (there are plenty of greatly funny Jewish women on Twitter, such as @OhNoSheTwitnt, but they don't seem to be a part of this phenomenon.) Twitter is fairly anonymous, so I can't say precisely the backgrounds of these Tweeters. But they often write in a slangy mix of English, Yiddish, and ritual Jewish language that is commonly known as Frumspeak or Yeshivish, which leads me to believe they are largely current or former Yeshiva students with an especially wild sense of humor. Here are a few of my favorites:
Awkward Bachur (@endimem_music): It's a little much to say Awkward Bachur is an heir to great Yiddish humorists like Sholem Aleichem, as his humor is a bit too anarchic and juvenile for that sort of comparison. But this Twitter user has created an entire collection of recurring characters that pop up in his tweets, interacting with each other like modern Wise Men of Chelm.
Maybe these are actual rabbis at Bachur's Yeshiva who have no idea hey are the subject of scabrous mocking on social media, or maybe they are products of the Bachur's imagination, but there they are, day after day, popping up again and again in his Twitter feed, fumbling through life like an entire colony of Hasidic Jerry Lewises.
I wouldn't say I'm conversant in Yeshivish -- although I attended a Yeshiva, it was run by Modern Orthodox and I was raised Reform. But I have enough grounding in the elements of the Yeshiva experience to generally get the gist of Weird Jewish Twitter. Not with Awkward Bachur. To enjoy his Tweets, I often must run to various dictionaries, Talmudic passages, and investigate the cloistered world of Hasidic Jewry. Usually comedy isn't this much work, but it's worth it.
Rosh: Starting this Tues-
*Reb Zelig gags loudly*
Rosh: Alls biseder?
*R'Z runs to trash, regurgitates 4 fully intact kibbehs*
Shabbos Goy (@AmirTheAkum): This Twitter user started tweeting in 2014, produced 33 tweets, and then stopped at the start of 2015. But, boy, he produced some gems. There are a handful of Tweets in there directly inspired by Biblical folklore, and how often do you see that on Twitter? As an example, there is following sample Tweet:
KING OF SDOM: I gotta give you something
AVRAM: nah I don't even want your shoelace
KING: Lol your loss
*kisses diamond-studded shoelace*
Guy With RSS (@themikvahocker): This Twitter user claims to offer up "the best of jewish humor (and sometimes not so jewish)," and his not so Jewish jokes are about on the level you might find in a joke book meant for sixth graders, which is to say: simple but sometimes unexpectedly hilarious. (Sample: If you are a 5 star chef you are good at your job. But if you are a 5 star Astronomer that means you are really bad at yours.)
But his Jewish stuff is pretty wild, coupling that same childlike sensibility with an entrenched knowledge of Jewish law and custom. So, for example, to enjoy the following Tweet, it helps to know that chopping pshat refers to a quickly paced argument about some Jewish writing, and, in this case, the writing in question is Mesillat Yesharim, an ethical text widely studied in Yeshivas. But you don't have to know that -- it's enough to know that, asked a question, the Tweeter has responded with a stream of incomprehensible Yeshivish:
Cop: Why were you speeding
Menahel: I just chopped Pshat in the Mesillas Yesharim
Cop: Did you drink anything tonight
Zvi Hershcovich (@cholentface): One of the rare Weird Jewish Twitter users who is not anonymous, Hershcovich identifies himself as a screenwriter and actually has his own IMDB page with two credits, both for humorous films meant for the Haredi community.
His jokes are often academic, which is not a phrase that sounds amusing, but Hershcovich is quite clever. He delights in mixing popular culture with Jewish law and seeing what results, which is often wackier than you might anticipate, such as in the following tweet involving traditional slow-cooked stew: "*carries the Cholent pot to the dining room table* *gently sets it down on a whoopsie cushion*"
I can't tell you how much I like that he calls a Whoopie Cushion a whoospie cushion. The sample tweet to follow requires one second of explanation, but it's worth it: a sheretz is a crawling creature that can make a ritual object impure, such as a spider. A mikvah is a Jewish ritual bath, which is one of the steps in converting to Judaism:
Spider-Man once tried converting to Judaism but it didn't work out due to a Sheretz in the Mikvah.
There are dozens more Weird Jewish Twitter users like these, and they're pretty easy to find -- they all follow and retweet each other. I keep following more and more of them, and I think the reason is simple: It's a reproach to the antisemites who want us to think they get us Jews.
Weird Jewish twitter reminds me that they don't. They can't. I barely get us Jews.