Yiddish loanwords almost never show up in British newspapers or official documents, but they abound in other accounts of sleazier provenance.In his The encouragement to the “gonaff” (a Hebrew word signifying a young thief, probably learnt from the Jew “fences” in the neighbourhood) consists in laughing at and applauding his dexterity in thieving. And “shiksa,” as the kind of word that could be very attractive to the riffraff, was appended and begot “shakester” and “shickster,” terms that initially denoted a lower-class woman.
The chorus, roughly translated: , for example, is a young, immature girl, sort of like “twerp” or “pisher,” but exclusively female.
She inspires disgust, fascination, obsession, sin; she is sexual in that religious way that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sex: she is constantly and thoroughly . Agnon’s 1943 short story “Lady and the Peddler” shacks up with a non-Jewish widow, who, he discovers, is planning to eat him. There are nearly as many examples as there are Yiddish stories; the shiksa, it’s clear, is bad news.
Those who stray too close to the shiksa can be destroyed. ¤ While the shiksa of Yiddish lit is without a doubt a pejorative, she is not, alas, of immediate help to us with respect to the incident in Toronto.
Tracing the word is as much a history of the Jewish-Gentile dynamic as it is an etymological exercise.
It’s a bridgeword whose history and development say volumes about the people doing the calling (usually, but not exclusively, Jews), the people being called (usually, but not exclusively, non-Jews), the language the calling is in (generally , a word from Leviticus that describes revolting nonkosher bugs, via the Talmud: “Let him not marry the daughter of an unlearned and unobservant man, for they are an abomination [sheketz] and their wives a creeping thing.” This passage, from the Talmud section “Tractate Pesachim,” seizes upon a term that essentially means “yucky” and uses it to describe a nonreligious Jew.