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Shegetz (שייגעץ or in Hebrew שֵׁיְגֶּץ; alternative Romanizations incl. shaygetz, sheigetz, shaigetz, sheygets; plural שקאצים shkotzim, shgatzim) is a Yiddish word that has entered English to refer to a non-Jewish boy or young man. Although shegetz, like its feminine counterpart shiksa, comes from the Hebrew sheketz ("detestable," "loathed", "blemish") and literally translates as "rascal", "scoundrel" or "varmint", its pejorative connotations range from negligible to severe, depending on the context.

In former times, it was common practice for Jews in Eastern Europe who were harassed by anti-Semitic youths to label their tormentors shkotzim. Nacham Grossbard of Haifa, writing in the Memorial Book for the Community of Ciechanów (1962), recounted these memories of his early years in Poland:

At the finish of the match, as soon as the whistle blows, we Jewish boys run as fast as we can, out of breath, all the way home in order not to have stones thrown at us or be hit by the shkotzim (non-Jewish boys). [1]

In recent years in the United States and other English-speaking countries with large populations of bilingual Yiddish-English speakers, the word has resurfaced, but lost much of its link to the original etymology of filth and inhumanity.

While shegetz may still be used derogatorily, it has become more of a reference to carefree youths who have traded the set of "Jewish values" for another that is hardly distinguishable from that held by their non-Jewish neighbors. Like many Yiddish words applied to designate non-Jewish people, there is a blend of spite and admiration attached to it. A classic example of this ambivalence appears in Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, in which the narrator fixes the shkotzim with the stereotypical WASP flaws of being ruthless, arrogant, unemotional, and having a slight tendency to alcoholism. In other passages of the same book, however, the narrator is frustrated with the social expectations of being a genteel, scholarly nice Jewish boy and clearly envies the athleticism and self-confidence of the shkotzim.

When a Jew calls another Jew a shegetz, it is often in condemnation of behavior or a lifestyle the speaker does not consider Jewish enough. Some disaffected religious Jews label themselves shkotzim in an ironic take on the word, in much the same way that African Americans, according to some, have reclaimed the slur "nigger" from racists. The UK's Chassidic blogger The Shagetz [2] is a notable example.

The term has enjoyed less currency in English than the feminine shiksa, which may carry particularly strong connotations of licentiousness and promiscuity. However, all the above caveats also apply to the usage of shiksa.

Milon Morfix[3] defines this word as:

(colloquial) a non-Jewish boy ; (colloquial) prankster, little devil : שֵׁיְגֶּץ

See also


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Shegetz. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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