“‘Shyster’ is a Jewish Word You…You..Greek!”

22 Sep

The title of my forthcoming memoir “The Shyster’s Daughter” is apparently as insulting to the thin-skinned politically correct as the dirtiest four letter word.  At the time my book was about ready to be sent out my agent emailed me asking if I was sure I really wanted to go with the title I’d chosen.  Just as fast as he’d emailed me he followed up with another one stating it was okay.  He’d take the verbal blows in the name of my artistic integrity.  He’d already taken one earlier that day after he mentioned the title of my memoir to someone in passing.  Just the sound of the S word chased that particular editor away from ever reading my manuscript.  At the time I didn’t understand what the big deal was about.

My father was a shyster.  He was a crooked lawyer who cheated his clients out of money.  Everybody called him that word from my mother in the heat of one of their blowouts to the men who in the past used to call the house politely asking for my father but now left furious and oftentimes threatening messages on our answering machine.  One even cased our house and vandalized it.  Therefore it didn’t occur to me that for some just by me calling my Greek father a shyster this somehow made me insensitive to Jewish cheats everywhere?

At a book party an older female Jewish author tried to explain it to me.  She said that because it was a Jewish derived word (actually the origin is unknown) I was only allowed to have it come out of the mouth of a Jewish person.  “Were any of your father’s clients Jews?” she asked.  Because I didn’t want to start any trouble since it was her book party, I simply didn’t answer.  I just let it go.

But it got me thinking and I did a little research.  Approximately 80,000 words from the English language are taken from the Greeks.  Not to mention actual Greek letters are used in modern day science and mathematics.  And let’s not even get into the roots, the prefixes and suffixes.  Should I also add in the names and symbols for frat houses and sororities?  In fact that woman writer shouldn’t worry herself with lecturing me over one word (the meaning of which is the same for everyone who is called it) that may or may not come from her ancestral background.  Instead she should be thanking me and my people for our profound contribution to such a rich and complicated language that she gets to utilize every day when she sits down to write one of her books.


Leave a Reply


  1. Rose

    December 6, 2010 at 9:36 am

    So unbelievably tired of political correctness and those who are so petty that they
    lower themselves to actually discriminate in regards to who can use what words?
    Please. That Jewish author who said that to you needs to woman up. She’s
    an embarrassment to the rest of us.

  2. Ray

    December 26, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Couldn’t agree more!

  3. Annie K.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    This is my first time I have visited this site. I found a lot of interesting stuff in your blog. From the volume of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one! keep up the good work.