The Taffy Effect

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 09, 2005

In Reply to: The Taffy Effect posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 09, 2005

: : : : : : : : : : : I like to know where the phrase came from - "Jew him/them down". Don't sound very nice, but need to know.
: : : : : : : : : : It means to haggle, and yes, it does come from the stereotype of Jews being stingy and hard-nosed businessmen.

: : : : : : : : : Haven't heard that in the US for decades. Maybe 40 years. It's verrrrrrrrrrrry offensive speech hereabouts.

: : : : : : : : Here in the UK too. However, "very offensive" doesn't equal "never used", sadly.

: : : : : : : In defense of people (usually older generation) who use this phrase, I believe they don't realize that it is offensive. They speak without thinking. Others: Dutch treat, Welch on a deal, that's white of you.

: : : : : : A Jewish friend of mine has used this phrase, with a sly grin.

: : : : : Let me clarify: My friend used the phrase only among his friends, and everyone was aware that he was being a "bad boy" by saying it. I don't think he uses it anymore, having matured.

: : : : I grew up in a less politically correct age, so remember that when throwing something at my head. As regards "jewing him down": I've seen it rephrased, "jawing him down," probably a deliberate effort to save the expression by misspelling it. As regards "welching on a deal," preferred is "welshing on a deal," far more politically incorrect. Just to be sure, I looked up one of the nursery rhymes I surprisingly remember. Unsurprisingly, I seem to have remembered it incorrectly as:

: : : : Taffy was a Welshman,
: : : : Taffy was a thief;
: : : : Taffy came to my house
: : : : And stole a leg of beef.

: : : : I went to Taffy's house;
: : : : Taffy wasn't home;
: : : : Taffy came to my house,
: : : : And stole a marrowbone.

: : : : I went to Taffy's house,
: : : : Taffy was in bed.
: : : : I took the marrowbone
: : : : And hit him on the head.

: : : : If you Google the nursery rhyme you'll find a different version. My memory is all right, just the words are wrong. SS
: : : - Smokey, there are no wrong words to a nursery rhyme, just different ones. Even if you're the only person in the English-speaking world who knows the rhyme that way, it's a legitimate variant. (VSD)

: : Or the Chomsky theory sprung into action? I appreciate your words and their intent. But I can't help but be a tiny bit defensive about my version of Taffy. Since I read it in a book, there are probably thousands of people who know the rhyme that way. "You are not alone!" But what, pray tell, is the version you remember? SS

: As it happens, my childhood only knew the first quatrain. But most nursery rhymes exist in many variants, and Peter and Iona Opie's wonderful Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes(my bedside reading for many years) cites your version as printed in "Songs for the Nursery", published 1805. (VSD)

AHA! I was certain that my version had emanated from something besides my uncreative brain. The date sounds right--I'm usually about that close to contemporaneity. Thanks for doing my research again. SS