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The goyim wear hats too?

From September through May I wear a black fedora. (“That is a serious hat,” a young African-American gentleman called out to me on the street one day.) In the summer, a Panama or boater. I am bullish on hats. I cherish a faint hope that the popularity of Boardwalk Empire will give a boost to the homburg.

So, apparently, does Elizabeth Valleau, writing at Esquire’s Style Blog.

Unfortunately, she blunders in this sentence:

In the Twenties, your hat was a class signifier and a gentile accessory.

The confusion of genteel—refined—and gentile—non-Jewish— and sometimes gentle, crops up far more often than you might imagine, and in similarly embarrassing places.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:52 AM | | Comments (8)


Goy vey!

Let's not forget jaunty, which is yet another English word from the same French original.

I daresay you are quite jaunty in your Panama.

Hi John,

Seems like our intrepid "Z on TV" blogmeister, the ever-astute David Zurawik, has been MIA for several days, w/ virtual cobwebs already settling in on his usually lively site. I'm a regular poster over there, and frankly am a tad concerned re/ his absence. Us zloggers are restless. Hope "Z." is A-OK.

So suffering from a little dose of "Z on TV" withdrawal, I thought I might throw in my 2-cents-worth on your very entertaining, and always educative blog. This would be my first-ever entry........ a virtual "You Don't Say" blog virgin. Be 'gentile'. HA!

In reading your "Goyim Wear Hats Too?" piece, you got me mentally riffing on some other possible "embarrassing places" one might happen to find unwitting misuses of the similarly-sounding words------"gentle', genteel', and "gentile".

For instance---the celebrated Irish poet, Dylan Thomas' , "Do not go 'gentile' into that good night"........ clearly code for, make sure you're fully circumcised before meeting your Maker. HA!

Or the bawdy Scottish bard, Robert Burns' bucolic line of verse, "Flow 'genteel' (sic) sweet Afton." (I've actually been to Burns country in Ayrshire, Scotland, and seen my reflection in the 'genteelly'-flowing river Afton, a mere caber-toss from the rather impressive circular, marbled Burns' memorial.)

The confirmed libertine Burns was definitely a bona fide "gentile" giant of letters, a fair-weather Presbyterian, lapsed agrarian, and as most of those comely young Scottish lassies he was alleged to have seduced over his relatively short life, sweeping them off their wee feet, and into his amorous embrace, was quite the "genteel", lustful lad, as well. Hmmm.........Is that a haggis in your tartan trousers, or are you just happy to see me? HA! Could that be the 'MacLech' plaid?

And last, but hardly least, singer Glen Campbell's haunting rendition of , " 'Gentile' on My Mind", penned by tunesmith John Hartford. Campbell could hardly be accused of being overly genteel over the past few decades when his personal life kind of spiraled out of control. Yet life has been, happily, kinder and gentler, of late, for the 'Witchita lineman', as he's literally gotten his act together, and those embarrassing police mug-shots are long-gone in his life's rear-view mirror.

Excuse me.......... but I'm genteelly, but w/ consummate gentleness, I might add, adjusting my non-gentile yarmulke.......... truly a skullcap for-all-seasons. Why even Sir Thomas More, a confirmed gentile, and THE quintessential Man-For-All-Seasons, by the way, often wore a (gentile) skullcap, and he did go 'gentile', but not gentle, into HIS cold night, in point of fact, loosing his head in the Tower of London....... surely, the unkindest cut of all. (Ugh!) But I digress.

Mr. McIntyre, thanks for allowing me to get a bit silly-----my first time out. If the truth be known, "silly" is kinda my steady-state. HA!

Hope to visit again.

Your site is a true breath of fresh air.

Keep up the 'genteel', excellent work. HA!


It sounds perfectly reasonable to me. For gentiles, it is an accessory, for Orthodox Jews it is required, and not an accessory. At least, as long as we are talking about men. The rules for women are different,


It sounds perfectly reasonable to me. For gentiles, it is an accessory, for Orthodox Jews it is required, and not an accessory. At least, this is the case as long as we are talking about men; the rules for women are different,


Respectfully Rik,

Harkening back to our Mr. McIntyre's Nov. 13th piece on the prospects of robot-rendered journalism, i.e., "Borg sports reporting", either you're one of those confounded cyborgs, posting 2 identical posts in succession, or perhaps more likely, a mere flesh-and-blood mortal w/ a mild case of OCD who on posting wasn't quite convinced that your first attempt had passed muster? Perfectly understandable.

Hmmm..... OCD......... Obsessive Cyborg Disorder? I think not. HA!


The latter. I typically run with Javascript off, and enable only as little as necessary. After previewing the first post I submitted it, and the CAPTCHA requested another go-round. I made a small change to the text (they are not identical) and resent.

Dear Rik,

Hmmm.... I'm not quite sure if your final word, "resent", in your last post (Nov. 17 @ 8:21AM) denotes the action of re-sending, (as in dispatched once again), or you actually 'resent' the fact that I was having a little folly at your expense w/ your (almost, as you pointed out) duplicate posting? I suspect the former since there is no pronoun ("I") before "resent".

Thanks for your otherwise lucid clarification, and I apologize if I may have offended you in any way.

Just trying to inject a little levity, 'tis all.


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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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