S Is for...

Sonja from Sweden — the latest citizen curator of the official @Sweden Twitter account — who last week twitted out some controversial questions and comments on a certain subject that have spurred me to share a short soliloquy about schmutz.

I can’t use the verb (or noun) “tweet” unless we’re talking about birds. Call your
service Tweeter if you want “tweets” to be “tweeted”. If it’s Twitter, the gerund is either “Twittering” or the backwards formation “twitting” and the messages are Twits. Since Twitter and other social-media platforms that encourage short bursts of prose or graphics are considered “microblogging” that would make the entries “microposts”.
All I know is that I just refuse to say “tweet”.

Where was I? Oh, right... This:

Screenshot of post from Sonja on the Sweden Twitter feed that reads, sic, 'Whats the fuzz with jews. You can’t even see if a person is a jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can’t be sure!?'

This was sent out under the aegis of the actual country of Sweden. It was not any random little Twit from a random little twit. Sweden, in a grand experiment with vox populi democracy or individualism or whatever, has been handing over the official Twitter feed of the nation to a different Swede every week. Sonja is a young Swedish woman who seems to think that Jews as well as a select number of sneaky non-Jew decoys have multiple penises.

And look, I’m not mad at Sweden. I find this a mighty cool idea, totally emblematic of a country known for its citizens’ involvement in social and political movements as well as for its progressive approaches to health care, gender equality, and domestic partnerships.

I am, well, not exactly mad at but certainly befuddled by Sonja.

Sonja’s full name is out there — in the LA Times article on this brouhaha, for instance, among many such pieces all over the Web. I’m not interested in sounding vindictive, however, and to be candid if she’s enjoying the infamy that her Twittering has brought her then I want to make her work for her ego boost; rather than merely keying up a vanity Google alert to her name, she’s gonna have to go for a string like {sonja jew penises}.

I’ll reluctantly excuse Sonja’s laxity of punctuation and capitalization, because all the Swedes I’ve met have spoken very decent English while I don’t know a lick of Swedish (“bork bork bork” doesn’t count) and, hey, even if I don’t like it I get that texting and twitting has lowered the bar for expectations of spelling and grammar and fundamental comprehensibility. What surprises me is Sonja’s ignorance — there’s really no other word for it — given Sweden’s commitment to education. You don’t have to have met any Jews to learn that we are very rarely born with more than one penis each (and it’s still overwhelmingly just the men).

Here’s where I take a break from the purported wit to drop some basic knowledge.

Jews are generally spoken of as a cultural or ethnic group as much as a religion, but I usually start an explanation for folks ignorant about “the fuzz with Jews” — I think I’m using “fuzz” as Sonja intended, although there’s more on that score in a few paragraphs — by breaking down for them that, in modern times at least, Hebrew is a language, Israel is a nation-state, Israeli is therefore a nationality rather than a religion, Judaism is a religion and/or cultural identity, and Jews are people who follow tenets of Judaism or who simply consider themselves Jews. Most people who live in Israel are Jews, and everyone there speaks Hebrew, but there are far more Jews living outside of Israel than in it, most of them actually don’t speak Hebrew (or if they do it’s more likely to be a passable transliteration of Hebrew in a book at synagogue for prayer than it is conversational), and most Jews in the world, within Israel and without, don’t practice Judaism to the extent that the orthodox among them would like. Plenty of people who identify as Jewish do so because “Jewishness” if not Judaism is part of their heritage, perhaps observing certain holidays in a traditional instead of an explicitly religious fashion. And thanks to centuries of excursion from ancient Israel throughout the world as well as intermarriage (both forced — once upon a time, as was conversion — and choiceful) it’s virtually impossible to tell if someone is a Jew purely by looking at them.

This last bit is true even if it’s a him and you’re looking at his penis, because, Robin Williams’ incessant go-to line aside, from what I understand circumcision has been in widespread practice for a long time now. Sonja might be implying through her indignant, frustrated confusion that removal of the penis’s foreskin is rampant the world over in a conspiracy to make it impossible to tell Jews apart from non-Jews, which of all the conspiracies attributed to the Jews over the years is, honestly, a cut above the rest in terms of its ridiculousness. (Ouch.)

I concede that I’ve often wondered why there’s an ethnic aspect associated with being
a Jew, because I’d venture to guess that most Jews outside of Israel — and many of those within Israel, coming to reside there as they did after its reestablishment as a state in modern times by way of Germany and England and especially Russia and the now-former Soviet republics — don’t have features that peg them particularly as being from the so-called Middle East. Jews don’t unilaterally have any certain physiognomy that reads Caucasoid, Negroid, or Mongoloid, to use the old and I think outdated lexicon, which is to say of European (“white”), African (“black”), or Asian (... I’ll stick with “Asian”) ancestry, nor even of such, for lack of a better term, intermediate ethnicities as Arab, Indian, and Latino. Maybe Jews get stereotyped as having large, hooked noses and curly hair and either swarthy or pasty skin depending on who’s doing the stereotyping, but — this is not a threat — we can mate and have mated with all sorts of other people, the blessedly rare obstacle of dual penility notwithstanding, because this is something that Homo sapiens can do with other constituents of Homo sapiens, so you really can’t tell a Jew by his or her face or name or attire. We do tend overwhelmingly to be European at present, but so in an admitted tautology do the European non-Jews who vastly outnumber us. I myself am a mutt with Romanian, Lithuanian, and Russian ancestry on my Jewish mother’s side and German with a smidgen of (wait for it) Swedish on my non-Jewish father’s side.

Which again seems to be part of what’s bothering Sonja, who according to other posts seen in the above-linked LA Times piece was apparently doing some research into why the Nazis were looking to segregate and exterminate the Jewish people. It’s a question that by its very existence is rather the perfect response to how stupid Hitler’s agenda was. If you need to mark the Jews with armbands or brands to tell them apart from the other people, then your whole argument for Aryan superiority doesn’t really hold up. The only acceptable use of the phrase “master race” is for Homo sapiens itself, ’cause we is all part of it.

I promised that I’d return to Sonja’s opening interrogative declaration, and so I will. Despite the period, I assume that it is indeed intended as a question — and not a rhetorical one — as opposed to a borderline-nonsense exclamatory statement like, I don’t know, “What’s the fuzz with Jews! My Hebrew homies be in the hizzouse! Moses supposes his toeses are roses, yo! Israel rip-ree-zent! Challah!!!” I’m also pretty certain that it’s a lead-in to her complaint about not being able to tell “if a person is a Jew” and yet I confess that when I first saw it I couldn’t help but think back to a charming little episode from my college days.

During my sophomore year I roomed with a fellow monopenicular Jew (I’d have definitely heard were it otherwise) and was dating a lovely blonde lass of Scandinavian descent whose skin was so pale that she made my printer paper look overcast. In her presence one day, Roommate and I noticed a ball of schmutz on the floor; which of us brought it up first, I can’t recall, but one did and the other concurred that it was time to vacuum or we’d missed it vacuuming or whatever. Although the phrase was used with utter nonchalance, Girlfriend asked us, “What did you call that?”

For readers of this blog who don’t know German and who — like Sonja and the Girlfriend and, to be fair, the vast majority of the people where I spent my childhood — have lived exclusively in places where there are few to no Jews throwing around words among themselves and their circumcised decoys in their secret language, I shall explain that “schmutz” is one of those words in that secret language, Yiddish, which is a pidgin lingua franca incorporating (occasionally verbatim, most often not) elements of German, Hebrew, and Slavic languages now mainly used by older Jews so that the kids don’t understand what they’re discussing. The word “schmutz” (rhymes with “puts” rather than “cuts”) is direct from German and means “dirt” not in the sense of soil but in the sense of lint; what some people call “dust bunnies” we Jews may refer to as “clumps of schmutz” or “schmutz balls”. It can be applied to a wide variety of situations where in English one would use the word “dirt” or “gunk”.

Girlfriend loved this nifty expression and used it when she went back home to her extremely small, hermitic town, confounding her family to great merriment. Or so I was told, because while Girlfriend’s parents apparently got a kick out of her palling around with exotic Jews they never actually learned that she was dating one. I do believe, however, that she also taught them “shiksa”.

This anecdote goes perhaps too long a way to explain why my immediate, unbidden thought upon reading the phrase “What’s the fuzz with Jews?” was “Schmutz! Schmutz is the fuzz with Jews!” Unless of course Sonja meant smegma, the schmutz that collects on the folds of an uncircumcised penis, but that seems rather counterintuitive since per Sonja’s own conundrum smegma is the one kind of fuzz Jews don’t accumulate.

Lest you think that I’m being unfair to Sonja in all of this, despite my profession
earlier of allowing some leeway in language due to Sonja being Swedish, I point you back to that LA Times article. It’s reported that Sonja passed along the Twitter transom a picture onto which she’d Photoshopped the face of Freddie Mercury and typed, “This pic I call ‘hungry gay with aids’.” Even if we’re overly charitable enough to chalk up the lack of capitals there to authorial intent and not uncaring text-speak transience, meaning that the late Queen frontman was sensibly using dining utensils, I have a
hard time writing that one off as entirely inoffensive.

On the other hand, Sonja did say of her musings upon what the fuzz is with Jews,
again as reported in the article, “I thought it was a good idea to ask the question when so many well-educated people all over the world can answer.” And chastised for crowd-sourcing what she called “research” over Twitter instead of looking to Google or Wikipedia privately, she replied that she’d do exactly that “next time I have a question that is a shark with lazerbeems,” assuming of course that she realizes the touchy nature of her query in adv—


Sorry... I’m finding it hard to keep the vitriol going with “shark with lazerbeems” in
my head, because it’s awesome, even as I feel that I must because I shudder to think what the fuzz Sonja would do with the phrase Homo sapiens in light of the Freddie Mercury thing. Nonetheless Shark with Lazerbeems is not only my new band name but my new Roger Corman production and potential multi-platform merchandising bonanza.

Honestly, I understand that people who have grown up without many or any Jewish specimens in their neighborhood or town or country or sphere of travel may have a feeling of distance toward and curiosity about Jews (among other minorities, however “minorities” is defined in their neck of the woods). Awkwardness resulting from that is normal, if sometimes unfortunately manifested.

The existence of ignorance is not a sin. Ignorance is a naturally occurring condition, albeit one that we’re expected to overcome to function in society. The deliberate maintenance of ignorance is about as obnoxious as you can get.

Related: I Melt with You Adventures in Maybe Twitting Braids of Glory


  1. If you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and saviour, all will be revealed to you.

  2. Oh, Blam, this was fantastic! I laughed out loud on four separate occasions and grinned so much my face hurts. I can't make any sense out of this Sonja and the fact that Sweden apparently doesn't check any tweets sent out by random idiots.

    What's the fuzz with Jews! My Hebrew homies be in the hizzouse! Moses supposes his toeses are roses, yo! Israel rip-ree-zent! Challah!!!


    Oh and the schmutz/smegma anecdote - well worth the walk! This whole post was outstanding.

    Bork, bork, bork,


  3. Thanks so much, Joan!

    I confess that it grew longer than expected (yes, yes; that's what Sonja said) and meandered quite a ways even for me, but the timeliness of it was slipping away. So I ran with the jottings I'd made a few days ago, plowed on through to the end, and sent it out there with less polish than usually makes me comfortable. I am so pleased that you considered what is perhaps one digression too many "well worth the walk."

    You did quote the one line that felt like the single farthest reach to me in the whole piece, however, so as always your taste remains suspect.


  4. I really do think that the whole point of this experiment was to unleash a diverse array of uncensored individuals, though; I not only don't blame Sweden for letting Sonja twit away, I actually admire that Sweden let every freak's flag fly unfettered.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. PS: As great as "shark with lazerbeems" is, that Freddie Mercury thing is just awful.

  7. I'm on the road and I know that I owe you comments on back posts but... Oh, man. This essay is Officially Hilarious. I think that The Blessedly Rare Obstacle of Dual Penility is a bestseller waiting to be written.

    #checkmymath ... a cut above... this is not a threat...

    Oh, man.

  8. @Blam: I really do think that the whole point of this experiment was to unleash a diverse array of uncensored individuals, though; I not only don't blame Sweden for letting Sonja twit away, I actually admire that Sweden let every freak's flag fly unfettered.

    Yeah, I don't see the US ever doing that. I'm proud to be an American, don't get me wrong, but there's no chance in hell that a national Twitter feed would get turned over to plain Joes and Janes no-strings-attached. I'm amazed that we still have poet laureates, because they're bound to be controversial choices, but of course so few people in this country (and even fewer, percentage-wise, of the people who would get up in arms about it) even know that we do have poet laureates.

  9. Nice pic, Blam! You a hottie.

  10. Pssst, Arben: It's "poets laureate".

  11. think that Joan likes it whenever you get het up about stuff.

    I really, really do. I am also afraid/excited/hoping to see him actually "have words" with someone he isn't so forgiving of... as long as it never, ever, ever me.

    I agree, nice new pic, Blambi.

  12. Hey, you! I'm catching up on blog-reading, and this was superlatively wonderful! And educational. :)

    Must dash. I have more reading to do!


  13. Thanks, Marebabe! I totally know what it's like to fall behind on blog-reading.

  14. So it must be asked... Are these hypothetical men with the double schvanzes also quadritesticular? That's potentially a lot of extra weight.

  15. So... I've actually heard of double-schvanzes men before. I'm sure an ardent internet search will turn up video results for you (I don't personally know of said videos... I just have a friend who um, said he saw a video of it one time). I never thought of the quadtestical thing before... which says some interesting things about you, El K. I'm just surprised you'd spend any time thinking about a pair of testicles, let alone a quad... rant(?) of them...