my brother wants me to tutor his granddaughter for free, can I wear slippers at work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My brother wants me to tutor his granddaughter for free

Last year I started my own private tutoring service for children. I picked up several children and worked well with them. It became a very good side business for me. My main work is as a teacher aide in a local high school.

At the end of the year, I went to our family Christmas party and while I was there my brother asked me if I would be willing to tutor his granddaughter, who will be starting high school this year. I explained that I would need to sit down with her parents and discuss it with them. He said that if I agree to tutor her, then I should not charge for my services as she is a family member and not a standard tutoring client. What can I do under these circumstances?

How nice of your brother to decide that you should work for free!

If you want to tutor a family member for free, by all means do. But it’s entirely reasonable for you to say, “I love Jane, but I only have a limited amount of time available for tutoring and because that money is part of my budget I need to fill it with paying clients. I totally understand if that’s not what her parents are looking for.” If you think it would help family relations, you could offer to do something else helpful but less time-intensive — like sitting down with her once to get enough info to make a recommendation of what kind of longer-term help they should look for.

2. My coworker made an anti-Semitic comment

Someone I like very much at work said something that I would normally handle with scorched earth, knock down drag out mad. In casual conversation, she referred to a neighborhood in the vicinity of my workplace as JewTown. (A religious school in the area sent some kids home because of coronavirus exposure.)

I winced visibly. I’m Jewish, not very Jewish but you don’t stop being Jewish. She was casual about it and was just like, “Well, that’s what they call it.” I didn’t respond with THATS COMPLETELY RACIST. I just said, “Well, it’s called (Neighborhood Name).” I may have said, “Um, you can’t say that,” but to be honest I don’t remember.

So how do I handle this without making a big crazy mess of it? She’s someone I like, but really you can’t say JewTown, Jew someone down, Gyp someone, etc. in the workplace. You just can’t. I don’t want to involve HR either. Do I drop this, wait for it to happen again and THEN go deep on address it, pull her aside and explain the history of the word, or what?

WTF. No, you cannot say JewTown. At work or anywhere.

Pull her aside now and address it. Don’t wait for it to come up again because it might not, and don’t let it go. I would say this: “I was too surprised in the moment to address this fully, but I need to tell you how offensive the term ‘JewTown’ is. know you wouldn’t want to offend or insult people, so perhaps you didn’t realize it’s an anti-Semitic slur.”

I’m always torn on whether it’s useful in these situations to mention that you’re Jewish yourself (and myself). It seems useful in reminding people that Jews aren’t some mysterious Other who they don’t know, but it’s nearly always results in “Oh, I didn’t know you were Jewish!” — which is gross, as if their bigotry would have been okay in front of a different audience. Ultimately it shouldn’t matter if the person objecting is Jewish or not; they shouldn’t assume anyone is okay with bigotry.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Can I wear slippers at work?

I work in healthcare (in the UK) and have in the last week transferred hospitals. So far it has been great, but I am in a very old and sadly rundown part of the hospital. When I am at my desk, I find that my feet are absolutely ice cold. The heating is not very efficient and I have poor circulation, so even with thick socks and closed brogues I can barely feel my toes. I have found that this greatly affects my comfort and concentration.

Would it be appropriate for me to bring in my fluffy slippers from home to keep under my desk? I would obviously put on my proper shoes for wandering around the hospital! If it matters; the dress code is “smart casual.” I wouldn’t normally think it was okay to wear slippers at work but it is just so cold! Would this be appropriate and how do I bring it up to my manager? (By the way, I am by quite a margin the most junior team member.)

If you’re only wearing them when your feet are hidden away under your desk, slippers shouldn’t be a big deal. But the less obviously slipper-like they are; you want to avoid, for example, slippers that make your feet like look fluffy bear paws or hobbit feet. Imagine having to wear them in front of your whole floor during a sudden fire alarm evacuation and choose accordingly.

I don’t think you need to run it by your manager unless you want to bring to her attention how cold your office is! In that case you could say, “I’m finding it’s so cold in my office that I can barely feel my toes sometimes, so I’m keeping a pair of extra warm slippers under my desk. I won’t wear them when I’m not at my desk, of course.”

4. My manipulative ex got hired at my company

I started dating a coworker last year. She was the new person at work, seemed very friendly, and got along with everyone at first. Slowly over our six-month relationship, I began picking up on signs that she wasn’t really the person she says she is. After a while, I realized she is very manipulative and attention-seeking, and she tried to get many people fired, myself included. As soon as I realized how unstable she was, I ended it with her, as she put me through a lot of stress during the time we were together. She ended up quitting (the company wanted to fire her, but she threatened a lawsuit) and she moved out of state for work.

Ten months have passed since she moved away. I recently started working at a new facility, and guess who shows up at my new company? She’s back! I am worried she will start more drama, maybe try to get me fired. I don’t know if she’s following me or if it was pure coincidence.

Should I go to my boss and tell her about our history? If so, how much do I say? Should I reveal that we dated? Should I speak of the problems that she had with everybody else in the workplace? I want to maintain a professional appearence and I don’t want them to know how much it bothers me. However I am dumbfounded that she is here, and I feel incredibly stressed just being in the same facility as her. I am very worried she will manipulate my coworkers and say bad things about me, as I have seen firsthand the games she likes to play. I just want to go to work and be good at my job without worrying about the drama that she brings with her.

It is worth noting that she has been with four companies in four years, in three different states, each place for less than a year. I am in contact with someone who worked with her after she quit my company, and it sounds like she played the same games there. Self destruction seems assured, and if I keep my mouth shut then people will eventually figure her out. But how many good people will she manipulate before that happens? I feel like I need to warn people not to trust her, but then I risk looking like the one who starts the drama. On the other hand, if I don’t say anything, then people will fall into her trap and she will turn them against me. What should I do?

Yeah, because you dated, I think you’ll be perceived as having a dirty lens here and/or as stirring up drama. You’re better off staying quiet and letting your coworkers figure her out for themselves (which sounds like it happens pretty reliably).

But you could have a discreet conversation with your manager where you say something like, “I want to let you know that Jane and I used to work together and also used to date, and it was a rocky relationship. I’ll of course be professional, but I wanted to disclose it in case it’s ever relevant.” You could add, “After our relationship ended, she tried to get me and others fired, and I’m concerned about something like that happening here too so I wanted to be up-front with you about the history.”

5. I’m training someone who keeps interrupting private conversations

As a senior teacher in a public school system, I supervise aspiring teachers in a local university’s on-the-job training program. The teaching degree candidates are with me for three to six months in a classroom setting. The team consists of four to six aspiring teachers working with high school seniors individually and in groups. After the first three weeks or so in the classroom, the trainees usually gel into a cohesive teaching group, but this year I have one trainee who is causing disruption.

Members of the team have frequently complained that he interrupts their coaching sessions with students, interjects comments when they are speaking with students’ parents, and redirects the conversation toward himself when they are speaking to a student, parent, or another team member. When I spoke to him about it, he felt that the other members of the team resented him because all students in the program are fond of him. But I have directly observed these behaviors. Recently, the school’s administrator and I were having a private meeting when he entered the classroom to get a personal item. It took several direct instructions before he finally understood that this was a private conversation. He finally left, but not before attempting to refocus the conversation on the group of students that he works with. There have been several similar incidents since then.

Although I have been given permission by my supervisor to terminate this individual, I hesitate because I went through the same teaching program and I know the effect that not completing this training would have on acquiring his degree. Is there anything I can do at this point to help him without having a negative impact on myself or the entire team?

The most helpful thing you can do is to tell him very clearly what behavior must stop and what you need to see from him instead, and to make it clear that if you don’t see immediate changes, you would need to remove him from the program. The clearer you can be about that, the more of a service you’ll be doing him. If his behavior continues after that, it sounds like at that point you’d owe it to the rest of your team and your students to remove him — but you’ll have done him the service of clearly spelling out the severity of the problems and the potential consequences and given him the chance to alter his behavior.

{ 674 comments… read them below }

  1. Caramel and Cheddar*

    3) Get yourself a pair of indoor/outdoor slippers. These tend to look more like shoes than slippers and have the added bonus of ensuring that if there is a random fire alarm, you’re not going to ruin them by wearing them outside. I have a pair of Uggs slippers (“Dakota Moccasin Slippers” if you’re googling) and they’ve been perfect for wearing at my desk when I change out of winter boots, etc.

    1. HannahS*

      Yeah, something that’s dark with a rubber sole is a better bet. I had a meeting with my rabbi recently where he was wearing slippers. I’d have found it a little odd if they’d been fluffy or novelty, but they were just a grey felt upper and a black sole. It’s kind of like saying “You can wear a neutral-coloured blanket scarf but the pink leopard print minky blanket needs to stay home,” even though they fulfill the same purpose.

      1. NordicPrincess*

        My vote is for Haflinger slippers. They have a grey or black wool upper, cork soles, and a black bottom. They’re comfortable and warm and don’t scream “slippers” if you need to wear them to run down the hall to get coffee or use the facilities.

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          I second these slippers. They are amaze. Also, because they’re made of boiled wool, your feet don’t get stinky.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Thanks for the heads up to Google. Those sounded really nice but I get cranky if I have to pay that much for real shoes. O_o

        2. One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four*

          I purchased a pair of these for my Dad and he practically lives in them (inside the house) since they’re so comfortable. One day he accidentally used them to go shopping. It wasn’t until he got home to switch into his slippers that he realized they were already on. No one noticed when he was out and about. These slippers last forever but when they finally started showing wear I bought him a second pair (the first pair was dark brown and the second one is a navy blue). Now he uses the first pair for when he runs outside. I can’t recommend them enough.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I was just going to mention the Ugg slippers! Slippers like those would keep your feet nice and warm while being discreet enough to look like shoes. Good luck!

      1. Sharkie*

        Yes! The Ugg Moccasins and the LL Bean wicked good line is perfect for this. I went to a high school with a uniform and we had to wear brown sperry like shoes with a lace. These fit the bill in winter and you can dress them up. Links below!

          1. Mama Bear*

            I have something similar to the LL Bean ones at home. I think they are very comfortable. I don’t keep them at work – I have a tiny space heater under my desk instead.

          2. Happy Lurker*

            I grabbed some mocassin style rubber soled slippers at my local Target a number of years ago. They were about half the cost of my nice LL bean slippers that I have at home. That way, if they dissapear from work I am not as upset.

            Also, a welcome mat sized rug will help if you have tile floors. I find the slippers help, but are not enough to keep my feet warm on the tile / concrete floors. Then I only have to focus on my core with a scarf and zip up.

        1. Leslie Knope*

          I second the moccasins. I wear those around my house quite a bit because the rubber soles work well on my hard floors.

          1. Sharkie*

            Yep. And they are shoe like enough that if there is a firedrill OP won’t get weird looks

        2. The Other Dawn*

          That’s the pair of Bean slippers I have and I LOVE them. Personally I’d never wear slippers out in public (that’s just me), but I think these would be OK in the OP’s setting.

    3. Aphrodite*

      Could you also add a thick wool rug that fits under your desk? It will add an extra layer of protection from the cold floor. Here’s one from Target but you can also try RugsUSA, Overstock, Wayfair and more. Add a pad and that can provide two layers.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Or maybe a synthetic rug – maybe fleece?
        It’s not prone to moth damage and is less allergenic than wool.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      Or fleece-lined Crocs, which are actual shoes but in my experience even fuzzier and warmer than any slippers I’ve ever had.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        In the US you can get the foot warmers from REI and Adventure-16 or any camping store.

      2. Lynca*

        +1 for foot warmers. I work outside year round and my current work boots are not very warm even with wool boot socks during winter.

      3. Fieldpoppy*

        using these every day is super eco-unfriendly, though — something that isn’t disposable is a better choice, from my point of view.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I used to have microwaveable fleece socks! They had linings in the soles that would get nice and toasty when you heated them up. Also there exists battery-powered heated gloves for skiers who get cold hands. I don’t know if similar socks exist but it’s worth looking into.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Quick google search comes up with a bunch of heated socks. They’re on the pricey side but maybe worth it if you are really cold, OP.

          2. it's me*

            I don’t know if heating up socks in a shared microwave would be met with delight, however.

        2. LawLady*

          They make reusable hand/foot warmers. They’re full of sodium acetate, and when you snap the disc inside they become warm. Then you boil them in water and they’re ready to use again. Brilliant for the Chicago winters and i’ve been using my set for 5 years.

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            I love these! There are a bunch of brands, I got mine from Hot Snapz in a few different sizes. They get wonderfully toasty and are very easy to reset, as long as you can boil or steam them. A microwave will not work because of the metal clicker.

    5. SusanIvanova*

      I find ankle warmers also help. They aren’t the big bulky leg warmers from the Flashdance era, more like short footless socks, just loose enough to fit over your normal socks.

      1. Mary*

        In my experience, if you’re working in a patient-facing part of a hospital, the temperature will be set at like 24 degrees! They’re always boiling.

        1. Antilles*

          My experiences as a patient have been the exact opposite actually – doctor’s offices tend to feel pretty cold.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I don’t think I’ve ever been in a doctor’s office that isn’t incredibly cold.

            My favorite doctor is actually my current gyne, because I get to sit on a blanket not the freezing cold paper cover and I get a blanket (not the sheet!) to cover up in. And they warm up the stupid metal tools instead of just jamming them in.

            OP – don’t wear too tight of socks or shoes, you want those air pockets to warm you up. I love the fleecey lined socks for this with looser slip on shoes. Make sure they’re moisture wicking so your feet don’t sweat then freeze. I usually am wearing good quality wool hiking socks to work/ride (better for me in boots) and then order my boots a 1/2 size up. Works good on the comfort level physically, keeps me toastier in winter, and allows breathing room in summer.

            1. Zephy*

              It sounds like your gyno saw The Vagina Monologues and took the suggestions in Angry Vagina to heart. Good for them!

    6. Chatterby*

      Make sure your shoes and socks aren’t too tight, especially if you’re wearing extra thick socks in your regular shoes.
      Many think the answer to cold feet is “more socks/ thicker socks” but that can wind up making the problem worse by further lessening the amount of blood flow.
      Think about your slippers: fuzzy lined ones without socks probably aren’t any warmer than wearing socks with regular shoes, but they’re looser.

      1. iantrovert (they/them)*

        This! Pockets of air that are warmed by body heat keep you warm. Think down jackets–the warmth comes from all the teensy tiny air pockets between the feathers, not from just having a single thick layer. Same reason being inside a sleeping bag is warmer than just putting on more clothes.
        Also, are those socks cotton? If so that may be making you colder, especially if your feet get sweaty/your shoes aren’t breathable. Cotton holds moisture rather than wicking, and when you’re in a cooler environment that moisture gets cooler too. Modern merino wool socks come in a variety of thicknesses–Darn Tough and Smartwool are two popular brands–but synthetics are still better than cotton if your feet are getting at all wet and chilled.

        1. Cannony*

          I usually also make sure to do foot and lower leg exercises under the desk to get the circulation going. Then layer 2 thin-ish socks that fit losely and reach up to the ankles and add a thick, fluffy loose fitting sock on top, that keeps the warmth in.

        2. Chinookwind*

          In the same vein, have a pair of indoor shoes that stay under your desk (or on your chair so they stay warmer) at night. That way, you are removing the cold, outdoor shoes when you enter and putting on shoes that already have warm pockets in them. This is one of the reason Canadians take off their shoes when they enter a house (other than cleanliness) – no need to warm up your outer layer when you can just remove it and replace it with something already warm.

    7. snowglobe*

      Warning – those indoor/outdoor slippers can feel kind of like shoes, so it’s easy to forget you are wearing them. I have gone out to restaurants and only realized when walking in that I was still wearing my slippers!

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Yeah, you basically have to force yourself to become Mr Rogers in terms of thinking “I am leaving the confines of my workspace, I must change my shoes.”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          For decades I’ve kept a bulky neutral sweater in my cube and refered to it as my “Mr. Rogers Sweater.” I just brought it home for a wash and planned to leave a warm blazer here instead….and now I’m rethinking that.

      2. BadWolf*

        I have come real close to wearing my slippers to work. Usually I’m locking my front door and I get that tingly feeling of “Something is not quite right…ah, wearing my slippers still, I see.”

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        Read this as “fur lined dogs” and heartily approved. Your version’s okay too, I guess.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        I have a teeny tiny little heater that helps warm up the area right under my desk. My office is on the exterior wall and the desk is part of a cubicle system that’s taking up a corner. The area under the desk is pretty large and seems to stay colder than the rest of the office, probably because the air vent in the ceiling isn’t getting the air circulated down there. I have the little heater with a trip switch, so I’ll turn it off and then turn it over so there’s no chance an electrical surge would power it back on. Better safe than sorry!

        If that little guy goes out anytime soon I might try the heated foot rest. That sounds nice!

        1. Artemesia*

          A small heater would be great but many places don’t allow them as fire hazards, but I’ll bet a heated foot rest would work without causing the same issues.

          1. Cobalt Collector*

            I worked in an essentially unheated office for three years. The concrete floor was extended over the outdoors and covered with only thin padding and carpet. On Monday mornings in winter, the temperature at the floor level was around 55 degrees. A portable heater was against the fire code as was a heated mat under my desk. (Couldn’t sneak them in since the circuits could not handle the load.) I wore a lot of warm clothing and wool scarves. Over the years building management deflected my concerns until they had to map out the vent system in our space to sublet part of it. It was then they found out that the vent to my office was blocked off somehow. I was due to start to work from home in another position in a few weeks so there was little comfort there. Further work on the sublet plans led to the discovery of warming coils in the floor of my office. I enjoyed the warmth for only three days when I was abruptly laid off as my new position was eliminated.

            Coda: I now have arthritis, helped along by those three cold winters at work.

    8. Artemesia*

      This. I have shoes from Merrill that are insulated and are perfect outdoors in winter and would serve well for the OP’s purpose and are shoes not slippers. There are also lots of heavily insulated boots including uggs but also boots lined with lambswool or fur that would work well and even if the OP needs to wear pumps to meetings or whatever, would still be professional enough to wear at the desk and around the office. Also — there is much to be said for long underwear in winter — I find that silks are enough under my usual slacks to be warm enough and there are wool tights for very cold weather.

    9. we're basically gods*

      I have a friend who works the front desk at a hospital, and she wears these shoes pretty much all the time! They can be identified as slippers on close inspection, but mostly they just look vaguely like a cross between Keds and a loafer.

    10. MsChanandlerBong*

      I have a pair of Uggs slippers, and they look very much like loafers at first glance. I was going to suggest something similar as well.

    11. aebhel*

      Yeah, I have a pair of indoor/outdoor slippers (my spouse calls them ATS’s–All Terrain Slippers) with a black suede exterior. It’s obvious what they are when I take them off, but when I’m wearing them they pretty much just look like a pair of clogs, and I have totally worn them to work before when it’s really cold.

    12. Wafflesforpresident*

      The Teva “Camp Shoes” are great because you can wear them with the back up like a shoe or with the back down like a slide. They have a hard sole and you can get shearling ones so they’re extra fluffy!

    13. Gumby*

      The Uggs slippers work wonders, so yes to those. I also found that wearing sock liners under normal warm socks helped on the frozen toes front. You can get them at REI-type stores.

    14. epi*

      I have an extremely cold office currently, and tend to get very cold fingers and toes in general, and it’s really the socks that help the most IMO. I have fuzzy lined moccasins at home, but I rarely wear them. The furry lining is usually a synthetic material that can cause sweating even if I’m cold, which is the worst of both worlds.

      Uniqlo Heattech socks are basically a miracle. I give them to my whole family every year for Xmas, then field calls the rest of the winter asking me to remind them where to get more. Unfortunately they’re over for the season, at least in the US. But if they want to upgrade their sock collection, they should be able to get my other favorite, wool trail socks, year round. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the patterns/colors available for both, they do not have to look like camping gear at all. If the OP is allowed to wear sneakers, any kind of puffy ones with extra warm socks would be very effective.

    15. Sal*

      Jewtown – As a Jew I’ve heard a lot of crazy crap over the years. One of my go to moves when I want to make someone aware that something is not ok, but don’t wanna get loud is…
      “Are you Jewish?”
      “Well I am, and you can’t say that. *I* can, but you can’t.”

      And that usually works every time.

  2. StaceyIzMe*

    The LW whose brother wants him to tutor his granddaughter for free asks what he can do? The answer is that he has to decide, as a business man, if he is accepting non-paying clients! People can urge the provision of free services to themselves or others but it would be foolish to take directions from someone else about giving away your time, talents or other items of value. The “question behind the question” might be “what can I do that won’t upset my brother or other family members?” and the answer may be “nothing”. Unreasonable people aren’t convinced of the error of their ways by logic, courtesy or equitable persuasion. Perhaps the LW can consider this good practice for dealing with future clients who prove to be difficult or prickly.

    1. RC Rascal*

      Ugh. Being willing to work for free is proxy on your self worth & what you feel the value is of your service. Don’t do it. It will be that much harder to convince non family clients to pay your price.

      1. Antilles*

        I agree with not working for free just because “family” and you certainly should charge whatever rate you feel necessary. In fact, given that it wasn’t the parents themselves who asked for the free tutoring, it’s even possible that they wouldn’t have any issue paying normal rates…or that they don’t even want tutoring in the first place.
        However, I don’t necessarily think the second part follows. Just because you are giving a break to a family member doesn’t mean that break needs to apply evenly to everyone; in fact, it’s *very* common to charge a cheaper rate to family than you would for random customers. I mean, even the biggest mega-corporations (Apple, Walmart, CVS, etc) do this via “employee discount” and/or a “friends and family of employees discount”.

        1. Antilles*

          (Clarification: by “the second part”, I am referring to your statement that it would be harder to convince others to pay – the fact you’re giving free tutoring to a grand-niece is very easily explainable and most reasonable people would understand that’s a unique scenario that doesn’t apply to just any kid)

    2. PollyQ*

      One compromise might be to offer a “Friends & Family” discount, for say, 10-15% off.

      But yes, there’s often no reasoning with unreasonable people.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, I think a discount would be more reasonable than free. Tutoring someone is a pretty big undertaking…it’s not like a one-time favor. She’d also be in the right to charge full price, but if she’s torn on it because of the relationship, a discount would be one way to navigate that.

        Either way I would talk directly with the parents and not negotiate any further through the brother. They may not even be that interested in it but the grandfather just thinks it would be a good idea.

        1. PollyQ*

          Good point about dealing only with the parents. Who knows, they might be appalled that grandpa tried to lean on OP to tutor for free.

          1. BadWolf*

            Yes! I would definitely not assume the actual parents want free tutoring (or any tutoring).

      2. thebest5555555*

        well for close family, i think we all know how OP would be able to afford the discount

        spoiler: cash under the table.

        1. PollyQ*

          ??? If you’re suggesting that LW would accept cash to illegally avoid taxes, I think that’s a terribly unkind and un-called-for response.

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I don’t know why some people expect free services or merchandise just because they’re friends with you or are related to you. They aren’t entitled to that. OP is in business to make money. By expecting OP to tutor his granddaughter for free, he is trying to take some of that away from the OP. Who is OP’s brother to devalue OP’s time like that? OP’s brother needs to get a clue.

        1. valentine*

          My mom used to say friends and family should pay more because they know you need the money.

          1. Leisel*

            A friend of mine had moved after college back to the city where her family was from and was job searching. Her older sister wanted her to babysit to help fill her time, and so she could spend time with her nieces. But then the older sister didn’t want to pay her. She didn’t get that the time spent babysitting meant her little sister couldn’t spend that time job searching or even working a part time job to get by. She was angry when asked about paying a slightly below-market rate for the babysitting. She just wanted free childcare, but didn’t seem to take into consideration that her little sister was already struggling!

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        It’s also the profession. Teachers aren’t seen as valued as doctors, accountants, IT techs etc. Many people believe that teaching is easy and that “anyone can teach” and therefore their time isn’t worth as much. The fact that the grandfather made the assumption that the OP will work for free is proof of this.

        1. LizM*

          People will also try to get free services from the professions you listed, too.

          I’m a lawyer and get hit up for free legal advice all the time (reviewing contracts, drafting letters, even providing litigation advice). When I was in private practice, I would tell people that it’s going to take some work to find an answer, and they should make an appointment to discuss retaining my firm, they’d balk at actually hiring me. More than one person said, “I don’t think I need to actually hire a lawyer, I just need you to take a look.” What do you think lawyers do?

          Luckily, now I work for the feds and I can just say that our ethics rules prohibit me from providing legal advice to outside clients, but I’d be happy to provide a referral. (Which is probably an overbroad reading of our ethics rules, but I don’t really feel like wading into the fight you’re having with your landlord, Cousin Billy, who I only see at Christmas).

          1. Helena1*

            Agreed, the number of times I’ve been asked to “just take a look” at somebody’s knee, or rash, or whatever.

            I’m a nephrologist, I have no more idea what that rash is than you do.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              The only time it’s fair to ask a professional friend to “have a quick look” is if your question is actually “should I make an appointment with a professional about this?” with or without a recommendation request.

              “Hey, vet friend, my cat isn’t eating, should I take him to the vet?”

              “Hey, lawyer friend, what kind of lawyer should I be finding to write a letter to my horrible landlord?”

              “Hey, architect friend, does your practice handle small domestic projects?”

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                That’s how I approach asking a professional – can you recommend someone specific to help with “X” thing I’m having issues with. I know professionals work hard to get there – but you also know your group and can hopefully give me more specific direction to get the help I need.

              2. Sleve McDichael*

                Yes, or, ‘Hey builder friend, I just recieved a quote for $7000 to repoint part of my roof, that’s too much, right?’.

          2. A Silver Spork*

            Yeah, entitled people will ask absolutely anyone for free work if they think they can benefit from that work.

            I’m a biochemist, working in pharma. I mentioned to my sister that we’d made a cell bank by freezing cells… and suddenly she was harassing me to freeze her eggs, because going through an actual fertility lab to do it would cost tens of thousands of bucks and she didn’t want to spend that.

            1. Airport Song*

              OMG! Could you imagine having her just hop on over to your place for egg extraction and storage? What would that even look like? Your cryobank right next to the fridge (make sure everyone knows which is which!) How bizarre.

            2. Pomona Sprout*

              Everything else aside, I can’t help wondering how your sister thought she was going to get the eggs out of her ovaries in the first place! Freezing eggs is just one step in a complicated multi-step process, requiring very specialized medical procedures to accomplish the necessary ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval. Then, when she wants to use the eggs, there’s the small matter of in vitro fertilization and inserting the resulting embryo(s) into her uterus for implantation. NONE of this can be accomplished without the skilled (and yes, expensive) medical help available only in a fertility clinic.

              If she tries to bring this up again, please consider pointing out to her that even *IF* you wanted help her, it would be a literal impossibility. She obviously had no idea what she was really asking you to do.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                If it were that easy, she could just do it herself with some dry ice in the garage.

          3. Cobalt Collector*

            DH was an patent attorney and, as such, did not have to belong to our state bar for his practice. (He was a bar member in another jurisdiction and a member of the bars applicable to his work.) When approached for legal advice in a social situation, he could say he was not a bar member and could not advise. He was involved in some low level community organization and, before speaking on anything remotely legal, would inform in a nice way that anything he said was not to be construed as legal advice. A few times he was called at home to help someone out of a jam like a kid arrested for pot possession, etc. In those cases he gave them the number of a neighbor with a local general law practice and , in turn, our neighbor referred patent cases to my husband.

        2. Busytrap*

          I don’t know if I agree, I think this is a larger issue of people not respecting boundaries/time or being selfish. I’m a lawyer and my MIL is an accountant; people volunteer us to help all manner of people for free on very tenuous relationships (My neighbor’s husband is going through a divorce, can you call him? My hairdresser is looking to open her own salon, can you just take a peek at her books?). My buddy is a doctor, and people are always asking him weird health related questions. If OP were an accountant, I bet the brother would be volunteering her all over the place to do folks’ taxes or books…

          1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

            My coworker recently volunteered me to go over to his friend’s house to help that guy, who was remodeling his house, pick out new tile. Yes, I have a degree in Interior Design. But no, I do not want to help your friend, who is a stranger to me, pick out new tile. He wanted me to drive over there on my lunch break! He was actually surprised when I said no because “I thought you liked doing this stuff.” Not on my own dime, dimwit!

            1. schnauzerfan*

              Try being a librarian. Yes. I can find the answer to your question. I’ll even do it for free. Email my work address, or give me a call there… not while I’m doing water aerobics or walking my dog, or eating my dinner…

              1. Ev*

                God, yes.

                Dear friends and relations – I am happy to help you troubleshoot why the library audiobooks won’t play on your phone, but only while I’m being paid to do so.

              2. AuroraLight37*

                At this point I only provide free help to my dad, who rarely asks, and my landlady, ditto. Everyone else can ask when I’m at work.

          2. Starbuck*

            I think people do it because it makes them sound nice (I’ll have my relative do this work for you, for free! Aren’t I great?) without them having to actually… do anything

        3. Pescadero*

          Part of the problem is that compared to other professionals, THE MARKET says teachers time isn’t worth as much.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        When I was younger I did some odd jobs for family members who couldn’t afford to pay, but in those cases my dad was the one who paid. It probably doesn’t /really/ count since I was still a teen and my bank account was under his name and everything, but it was kind of the principle of the thing- that my time and effort has a value that deserves recompense.

      3. LunaLena*

        “I don’t know why some people expect free services or merchandise just because they’re friends with you or are related to you.”

        That’s easy. Because they want something and they don’t want to pay for it, and they have something (i.e. a relationship with them) that they think you want and desperately need.

        What’s even more galling to me is the audacity of people asking for such things for free. There’s any number of retail people who have stories of random strangers asking them if they can use their employee discount, or professional artists who get messages like “I like your work! Can you draw me? What, it’s not free? Then you’re not a REAL artist, you’re just in it for the money! And you’re not even that good anyways! I’m a huge influencer and could have gotten you all kinds of exposure, SO MANY people would do this for me for free but I wanted to help you out because I liked your work” etc etc.

        1. Airport Song*

          There are so many posts about this on facebook. I probably see more of them because I always click on them! But they can be really crazy. The influencer stuff is especially weird.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          Ugh, I have SO MANY feelings about this! It’s so exploitative, yet people are all too often willing to give a pass to influencers or to famous people who do exactly this.

      4. Pescadero*

        “I don’t know why some people expect free services or merchandise just because they’re friends with you”

        To me – that is the difference between “friends” and “acquaintances”.

        If we’re friends – I’ll do things to help you with no expectations of repayment, and I expect the same from you. Friendship isn’t transactional.

        1. Airport Song*

          Depends what it is though. I have a friend who is an attorney. When I needed an attorney on a weekend she used her personal contacts to find one to call me. She can’t act as my attorney and beyond basic advice would be really unethical.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          My friends pay me for my work, and I return the favor to them, because my friends know that food and housing isn’t free.

    4. Random IT person*

      I used to do free tech support for family and close friends.
      My standard reply was – you have coffee and a cookie for me, i`ll check out your issue.

      But – for some reason some people started to ask for their parents (can understand) – but it stopped for me when i got asked to support the neighbor of a friend of the mother of one of my friends.

      If one decides to offer services for free – set boundaries. Be clear.

      The biggest challenge though is what to charge family members.
      I mean – 20 hours of work for them should be totally free, right? Oh, you have to drive 2 hours to get here – you`ll do that – we`re family right?
      Protect your interests – and your wallet – and refuse to deal with someone on behalf of someone else.

      Direct – clear – and strong, unbreakable boundaries!

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        If one decides to offer services for free – set boundaries. Be clear.

        This. I freelance, and my rule for friends and family is: if I wouldn’t do it for free I wouldn’t do it, period. And that’s exactly what I say, so they know where I stand and that it’s a capital “F” Favour.

        Sometimes a discounted rate (or in-lieu-of-payment “treat”) is even worse than free. On top of the discount, family and friends are usually painful to deal with professionally, they take up a lot more of your time, don’t really understand what you do and expect you to go much further above and beyond. With “ free* ” I’ve found there’s generally a reciprocal obligation not to push the love too far. While conversely, any kind of payment usually ends in horrific, out of control, Dany-at-King’s-Landing style scope creep.

        As much as I love them, their project is also competing with my paid work, life admin, and all the other stuff I need outside of work to feel human. So boundaries are very important, and even more so if you have known stompers in your orbit!

        1. Filosofickle*

          Agree completely with all this! I never discount my work. I may find a way to do something for you in fewer hours so it costs less. I may do it pro bono with boundaries set. I may say no and sidestep a sticky relationship entirely. But no discounts.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Good friends refuse the freebie or discount. They maybe even tell you that you’re worth more than you’re charging and are you sure it’s only $x?

        2. sacados*

          “Dany-at-King’s-Landing style scope creep”

          I am totally keeping and using this phrase.

      2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Also: “the neighbor of a friend of the mother of one of my friends”
        What the hell, people?!

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            No need to put down ask culture. I don’t even think that is really ask culture, but rather people without boundaries culture. I am fairly tech savy, but I have a friend who actually works in tech support that has helped me on occasions. I have no qualms about asking if he would help me with an issue I couldn’t figure out, but I would and have happily accepted a no on occasions. I have helped him in other ways when I have been able to.

            I absolutely would not ask for help for “the neighbor of a friend of the mother of one of my friends” or even for my parents.

          2. Emilia Bedelia*

            But the whole point of “Ask” culture is that it’s ok to say no to requests. If other people don’t have the ability to set reasonable boundaries for their own time, that’s something they need to work on themselves.
            If the “asker” doesn’t take no for an answer, then that’s a case of entitlement and unreasonable expectations, not “Ask” culture.

            1. Anonapots*

              This. My thing is if you don’t ask the answer is always no. But I use that in terms of asking people to come to events, asking people to donate stuff in exchange for a tax write-off, asking big companies to host my students for internships. Things that aren’t actually going to burden the person if they say yes, and definitely nothing that makes it weird if they say no. It’s how I’ve hosted really cool panels at comic cons, been able to put on really fun fundraising events, and made good relationships with local employers.

    5. Traffic_Spiral*

      Considering that the grandpa has no real say in it, I’d refuse to discuss it with him and just Broken Record repeat, “I’ll discuss it with the parents if they bring it up.”

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Good answer! Don’t offer, let the parents bring it up, if they really need it they can ask for it themselves. Never offer free services to anyone because someone else thinks you should.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Yeah, that’s good! Think how often parents’ and grandparents’ views diverge on “what the child needs is ___”

          Trying to stay out of it altogether sounds like a very reasonable approach.

    6. River Song*

      I do childcare, and almost every child I keep is a friend’s child. They all pay full price. Sometimes I feel guilty when I know they are having a hard time financially, but I just remind myself that they knew my prices beforehand, and they are taking a spot that I count on for income. There are a few unreasonable people out there, but most people understand.

    7. Veruca*

      I tutor high school and college math, and I will help a friend’s child for free, but I am clear that the extent of that help is that they can text me a (single) clear question occasionally, and I’ll happily get back to them via text on my own timetable. If they want more attention than that, they need to pay my going rate. Because they are friends, I’ll find time in my schedule. Doesn’t mean I’ll tutor them for free!

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, the regularity of the service makes the difference between favor and job.

        I’ll have a look at your computer / windshield wiper attachment / math homework and tell you if we can fix it ourselves or not, but if you seem to have decided that all your problems in that area are my problems? You get cut off.

    8. Mama Bear*

      I think part of the solution here is to talk to the parents. That was at Christmas and it’s March. IMO if the parents haven’t reached out directly and nothing more has been said and the LW really doesn’t want to work for free, I wouldn’t bring it up. When/if it comes up, LW can determine the scope and the appropriate costs/limits with them directly. Working for friends and family shouldn’t always = free. It’s nice if the other party offers to work for free but you should always be willing to pay them. This isn’t a hobby for LW. It’s a business and teachers don’t get paid enough as it is.

    9. KoiFeeder*

      I mean, LW3’s brother has just about stated how much he values LW3’s services- not at all! Given that he doesn’t seem to believe LW3’s time and skill are worth anything, what happens if he thinks LW3 did something wrong during the free tutoring?

      I’d say LW3 should take him at his word and recommend he find a non-family tutor.

    10. AKchic*

      And the thing is – the parents aren’t even asking for the service, or even the *free* service. The grandfather is. What if the parents, student, and even the teachers don’t think the student/granddaughter need tutoring?

      Frankly, this would be a good time to set healthy client boundaries. “I don’t discuss my rates, or any potential client information with anyone but my clients and the guardians of my clients, for confidentiality reasons. I’m sure you understand” delivered with a thin smile. The implication being that the youth being tutored are the actual clients, not the (potentially overbearing) (grand)parents who may not even be paying for a service the child isn’t even receiving.
      One could also counter with “if the parents are interested, they can set up an appointment to discuss my program and rates.”

      To the LW – you are not obligated to keep your brother happy at the expense of your own finances. If he doesn’t routinely work for family for free, he cannot expect you to do the same. Scratch that. Even if he does make those choices for himself, that is 100% on him, and he does not get to make those same choices for you or for anyone else within the family. It is not his decision how and when people perform labor, charge (or don’t) for labor, and how the rest of the family benefits from aforementioned labor and charging practices.

    11. jojo*

      you really can’t afford to do it for free or even reduced because that is earned income and is taxable. if you discount it you do not make enough to pay the tax on it.

  3. RC Rascal*

    OP3: is a space heater an option here? Some companies allow them. At others you can get away with it if you bring your own. I once had an office that could get below 60 on a cold winter day & that was the solution to blue fingers & cold feet.

    1. Gingerblue*

      If it’s not, I’ve also used electric heating pads and one of these nifty rechargeable handwarmers ( in cold offices before. For cold toes, if you’ve got an outlet I might lay a heating pad on a folded towel on the floor and put my be-socked feet on it. But I think the people above with stealth slipper recs have good ideas.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I’m a big proponent of heating pads. They don’t require a lot of electricity and almost all of them turn off after 30-60 minutes so there’s no fire safety issues there. I keep mine on my chair back (so it rests between me and the chair) and it makes such an amazing difference. If all of you is cold I recommend that route, or you could put one on the ground for your feet, or both!

        A friend gifted me some amazing USB heated narwhal slippers a few years back, those are another foot warmth option, though OP might want more formal presentation.

        1. Artemesia*

          There are also heating pads that can be warmed in the microwave – I use one when I go to bed each evening and they hold head for quite awhile. In any case, it sounds like a source of heat under that cold desk would make a big difference.

    2. GT*

      There are also various kinds of electric foot warmers. I have one at home since my desk is on a tile floor that gets really cold in the winter.

    3. snowglobe*

      I would guess that with an older building, space heaters are not allowed. I used to work in a building that was constructed in the 1930’s. No space heaters, because the electrical wiring couldn’t support it. The few times someone secretly tried, they blew a fuse.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        I’ve run into that in newer buildings too. Last time I was in a place where it was permitted was in 2013.

      2. KaciHall*

        The space heaters in my house blow a fuse if they are both on at the same time. Anything else can be on, but not both space heaters (even if everything else is off.) We’ve gotten good at timing them. If the landlord would fix the furnace it wouldn’t be such an issue, but he thinks as long as it gets it to fifty so the pipes don’t freeze it’s working perfectly.

        I am SO happy that we found a house to buy!

      3. Jdc*

        Welcome to my newly remodeled rental. Don’t you dare turn a space heater on unless you want to go to the cellar to flip the switch back. Oh and good luck running the heat. It’s insane because of then lack of insulation so our bill is through the roof. I’ve always loved old houses in the sort but never again

    4. Crazy Chicken Lady*

      Our office doesn’t allow space heaters but does allow heated foot rests.

    5. Boldly Go*

      OP3: instead of fuzzy slippers, how about lined boots? Like UGGs or UGGs wannabes, or winterized hiking boots. (Personally I find UGGs to be*too* warm, but they may be just what you need(. Also, I know you said you tried thick socks but have you tried wool socks, or wool/nylon combo? They’re not cheap but they do the trick – I wear them for hiking in cold weather.

      1. Yvette*

        Problem is most “dress” shoes do not allow for thick socks, so the fleecy lined UGGs or UGG wannabes are probably the best bet.

        1. Chinookwind*

          You can get dress shoes that fit warm socks – you just have to buy a bigger size. The down side is that you can’t wear them with thin socks.

    6. Alli525*

      I was assuming that OP was already using a space heater – for their hands! If their toes are freezing, their fingers can’t be much better off (one of my friends has a circulation disorder and it affects all of her extremities). I worked in a box office once and it was so cold that management gave out pairs of fingerless gloves, which technically covered the bottom third of our fingers.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        When I lived in a house with no insulation in the walls that we heated with a wood stove, sitting at my desk in the winter I wrapped a fleecy hooded scarf round head and neck, put on a thick cardigan, slid on boiled wool slippers over my Smartwool or Bombas socks, and wrapped my lower body in a quilt. I could handle it in a long-sleeved flannel shirt and jeans and wool socks if I was up moving around, but I would get so very cold if I sat down.

    7. nutella fitzgerald*

      If a space heater isn’t an option, one of the hot water bottle-style rechargeable foot warmers could still work (I’ll comment below with a link to the versions I have). You only plug it in for 15-20 minutes and it stays hot for hours. At my old office, the heat in my area was either freezing or boiling and when it was on the freezing end of things, I actually still wore a thick pair of socks to insulate my feet right after taking my foot warmer off of the charger – it was too hot otherwise!

      Now that I work somewhere with HVAC suitable to sustain human life, the foot warmer lives at the foot of my bed. So cozy!

    8. Daffy Duck*

      If they won’t allow a heated foot warmer or space heater I suggest heated shoe inserts. You can find disposable ones (HotHands is one brand) but also reusable inserts in camping stores or even big box stores. I live in a cold climate and even the supermarket carries them in winter.

    9. blueberry muffins*

      I keep a wool sweater in my desk drawers and use it as a lap-blanket. Just drape it over myself. It helps!

    10. Jackie*

      In many buildings space heaters make the problem worse. If they’re near a thermostat, the warmth makes the building’s systems believe it’s warm, and ramps the AC even higher, making it colder everywhere.

    11. emmelemm*

      Thank G*d I have a tiny space heater under my desk. There’s a very significant draft that blows in the gap between the cubicle walls and the floor.

  4. nutella fitzgerald*

    From LW 2: She was casual about it and was just like, “Well, that’s what they call it.”

    Why is Michael Bluth’s terse “don’t call it that” from Arrested Development coming to mind? Also, props to LW for not just popping off with “who’s they? Anti-Semites?” and actually thinking through how to respond professionally.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      I’ve been told that “mutual respect” means responding to derogatory language politely.

      I’ve mostly just frozen until one coworker’s sexism got to be too much.

      We have a teacup named after an anti-semetic story and I can’t get people to stop calling it that. When i tried to explain it, they looked at me like I was crazy for knowing about it.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        What? You pointed out the anti-Semitism and they didn’t care? And you have a sexist co-worker and you’re just supposed to let that go out of “mutual respect?” Ugh.

      2. Mookie*

        That teacup detail is wild. I have a few guesses about which ugly stereotype it’s referring to.

            1. Retail not Retail*

              Zebrina! I just call it “that pretty purple creeper”

              Plant names are wild but so many people are like well that’s what they’re called! But they have other names…

              1. Ego Chamber*

                me, finding the alternate name on Wikipedia: Huh, it’s not as bad as I was expecting. I wonder why that’s so offensive?
                Wikipedia: The [alternate name] is a character from Christian legend.
                me: Ohhhh. Nevermind, I understand completely.

                I can see being confused about why it’s an offensive term without knowing the story the term is referencing (because I was confused too) but when it’s explained why something is offensive the response should be nothing short of an apology. Sorry your coworkers don’t get it. :(

            2. zora*

              I thought it was “Zebrina”?
              Although, I personally like “Purple Queen” which is an alternate name

              1. Avasarala*

                Oh wow, according to wikipedia the Spanish name is Amor de hombre. Why’d English get the awful name…

      3. DerJungerLudendorff*

        Because as we all know, “mutual” means “only for people who are wrong and bad”. Because I’m not seeing any respect from them.

      4. Jennifer Thneed*

        If that plant is in a clay pot, WHOOPS THEY’RE SO FRAGILE. I mean, does it belong to anyone specific, or is it just an office plant? If the latter, time to go!

        1. Retail not Retail*

          Oh man I’m imagining someone with a plant known for being a crawler on their desk or whatever.

          It’s actually very pretty and useful in our summer work. I used it to hide some of the worst parts of my topiary last spring. We cleaned the greenhouse this winter and that involved potting it and removing it from the gravel bc dang is it hardy. If we needed any for a pot or basket before that we’d just break some off the mass on the ground.

      1. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

        I agree. It doesn’t seem like that would be unprofessional, and if nothing else, it would certainly make the co-worker very quiet for the rest of the day, and maybe reflect on their behavior.

      2. NorseMermaid*

        This might be because I’m not American, but I’ve never actually heard any of those expressions before! I don’t even know what the meaning behind them is. Time to do some googling, just for curiosity’s sake!

        1. Clorinda*

          They are phrases that play on ugly stereotypes: to “jew someone down” is to force a hard bargain and to “gyp” is to cheat or con. These phrases were in widespread use in my grandparents’ generation . . . but I’m 50. Everyone should know better now.

          1. Ghost*

            While “gyp” is certainly a racist term, I have encountered many people here in Canada who have used it and have been horrified when I explained to them where the term comes from. I doubt they would use the term again. The ignorance is offensive, sure, but it’s rarely intentional racism, in my experience.

            “Jew” as a verb is less forgivable, and I am less inclined to be nice when I hear it used.

      3. Mookie*


        And I’d leave it at that and not get into a sea-lion discussion where they want you to PROVE it’s antisemitic.

      4. Artemesia*

        I mean they call it Chinatown and that is accepted. But everyone knows Jewtown is derogatory. But for someone who doesn’t or doesn’t think — it should just take an objection for them to say ‘oh I didn’t think of it that way, your’re right’ and cut it out. It is trying to defend it that is so weird. I am old and have watched language change a lot around what is offensive around ethnicity, race, gender and other issues — just think of how many terms there have been for intellectual delays in the last 60 years and what was the polite term 40 years ago is now an insult — but people can learn and adapt.

        1. sacados*

          I agree, that’s the important thing.
          Using a word/phrase because you’re legitimately unaware of its origin or implications is forgivable. The key is that when someone sits you down and says “hey, that term is actually really offensive because it derives from XYZ stereotype/racist insult,” the only correct response is “Wow, I had no idea. Thanks for telling me, I’ll be sure never to say that again.”

        2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          I definitely agree with you that it should just take an objection for them to change behavior, but some people are bad at responding correctly in the moment and may come back later with an apology. I’m almost wondering if this is generational in the other way though- I’m in my 20s and just never heard anti-semitic slurs growing up and have been confused when e.g. Ilhan Omar was accused of anti-semitism, because it just didn’t read that way to me. Similarly, while I haven’t heard “JewTown”, if I did hear someone say it I would probably connect it to Chinatown and not think it was offensive- hopefully OP’s coworker is just ignorant and will learn.

          1. SubjectAvocado*

            +1. I’m absolutely not excusing this either, but I would have never flagged this as offensive if I heard it. I didn’t hear anti-Semitic slurs growing up either. Glad to be educated by AAM yet again!

          2. CatMom*

            First, I think the comment is pretty clearly derisive and objectifying (what’s the point of remarking on the Jewishness of the residents in this context, exactly?). So that’s a big part of it. It’s just not okay to be derisive and objectifying of someone’s culture/religion/heritage (etc). And the fact that she defends herself instead of apologizing or asking questions says to me that she knew she was being derisive and thought she could get away with it.

            Second, to your point of comparing it to Chinatown, “China” is a fairly neutral word on its own, cultural prejudices about China and Chinese people notwithstanding. “Jew,” though, is a tricky word for a non-Jewish person to use in any context. Obviously there isn’t anything inherently offensive or derogatory about the word, and it’s pretty common for Jewish people to use the noun form to describe ourselves or our organizations, but there are definitely moments when it comes out of a non-Jewish person’s mouth and it just…..sounds like an insult.

            Look at it this way: in addition to being Jewish, I’m also queer. I might flippantly refer to myself as “a queer” at times, but by and large I use it as an adjective. It’s perfectly fine for a non-queer person to describe me as “queer,” but if they call me *a* queer, we might be having words (though tone matters here too). There shouldn’t be a difference, and yet there is. I can’t name it exactly, but I think it has to do with the fact that by making it a noun, it becomes objectifying (perhaps literally).

        3. becca*

          I think there’s historical differences between “Chinatown” and “Jewtown” that contribute to one being acceptable and the other being not (though I never heard the word “Jewtown” until today and don’t specifically know why it’s derogatory, if anyone would care to enlighten me?)

          While the roots of various Chinatowns (and Japantowns) are rooted at least partly in prejudice and oppression (white people didn’t want Asian immigrants in their neighborhoods; Asian immigrants often wanted to live near their families/countrymen so tended to cluster), it also got turned around on the white folks pretty quickly, especially after the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. Community leaders who rebuilt Chinatown post-earthquake deliberately played up the “China-ness” of the neighborhood, and used tropes and visual cues that were out of date in modern China, or even stereotypical. They knew the neighborhood would be a tourist attraction and capitalized on that. They adopted the moniker “Chinatown” for their own, and basically de-fanged it for the rest of us, and made it clear that it was fine for non-Chinese folks to use.

          I don’t know the history of any Jewish quarter with anything like a similar history. In the US, at least (so we’re not even getting into the evolution of “Jewish quarters” into “Jewish ghettos” like what happened in Europe), most Jewish folks have tended to assimilate to a certain degree. The ones that don’t, like Hasids and Orthodox communities, are specifically *not* trying to market themselves to gentiles, or bring gentles to their neighborhoods so we can all buy challah and dreidels. They specifically want to be left alone. I think that’s part of why the term hasn’t been defanged; “Chinatown” would probably still be called Chinatown even if all the Chinese folks left; it’s its own name now. “Jewtown”….not so much. That calls out the people who live there in an uncomfortable way. China is a country. Jews are people.

    2. Drag0nfly*

      Agreed on the responding professionally. For all LW2 knows, coworker learned this term innocently and had never thought about it before. For all she knew, it was the same as Chinatown, Koreatown, Poletown, Mexicantown, Little Italy, etc.

      I once corrected a coworker who used “gypped” in a professional communication, and she simply changed it to “cheated” when I pointed out that it’s a slur against gypsies. She was surprised to learn that “gypped” had anything to do with gypsies, it was just a word for cheating as far as she knew. I doubt she’s ever even met a gypsy; they’re not common around here.

      Where I’m from, I always heard other kids (and sometimes their parents) say A-rabs, not Arabs. I had no idea the first was not the “correct” way to say it until a middle school teacher scolded me for saying A-rabs. I had never heard the correct version. When I mentioned it to my parents, they were surprised that I’d learned the wrong pronunciation, because *they* pronounced it correctly. The topic never came up in their conversations around me, otherwise I’d have learned the correct version first.

      LW2 might be more successful if she goes in assuming her coworker learned the wrong terms first, or was thoughtlessly repeating something she’s often heard. The kids who said “A-rabs” weren’t being mean, and didn’t hate Arabs (we all played just fine with Arab kids), but just didn’t know any better.

      1. allathian*

        Gypsy is also considered pejorative these days, they’re Roma (plural, singular Rom) or Romany. At least the originally itinerant people whose ancestors come from northern India are. Most of these people have settled down and no longer travel from place to place as they used to do, at least in the Nordics.

        I admit that my reaction to JewTown was the same as yours, I thought it meant something similar to Chinatown, Little Italy, etc. A place with a large Jewish population in other words. But I’m happy to learn something new here. That said, I’m more likely to be offended when people refer to any run-down slum as a ghetto.

        1. Lokifan*

          Yeah, I’ve never heard/read “Jewtown” before (and I’ve lived in London’s most heavily Orthodox area; I think it’s just not a thing here) but depending on tone, I’d have assumed it was a non-pejorative Chinatown/Petit Paris/Little Istanbul equivalent too. This might be a regional thing, so maybe she would know, but I say this because I’m hoping she’s like us, ignorant but not malicious, and might respond to being educated. Which shouldn’t be your job, but is definitely better than your situation right now!

          I deeply sympathise with “someone just said something anti-Semitic and I was too shocked to respond in the moment”, I’ve been there :( sucks

          1. Jay*

            The word “Jew” has itself been used as pejoratively. The kids who threw rocks at my mother and chased her home on Good Friday were yelling “Jew! Jew!” I have a visceral negative reaction when I hear someone who is not Jewish say that someone else is a Jew (as opposed to saying “she’s Jewish). I understand this may sound ridiculous to non-Jews – and even to some members of the tribe – but there’s a long, nasty history to the use of the word.

            1. Jay*

              to be clear, I would not say anything to someone who said “She’s a Jew.” I would probably keep my ears pricked for other signs, though.

            2. AlexandrinaVictoria*

              I grew up thinking the word “Jew” was akin to the N word because my granny said it with such venom. Now that I’m becoming a Jew, I still have a little frisson of discomfort when I use or hear the word.

              1. Goliath Corp.*

                It’s interesting because I also grew up thinking the same about the noun “Jew” but my Jewish friends and step-family contradicted that and said it was their identity, not a slur. I still default to the adjective instead of the noun, but I guess this is a divisive subject.

                1. Helena1*

                  I wonder if some of this is geographical – I feel the same way, only ever hear “Jew” used as a term of abuse, and “she’s a Jew” sounds as discordant to my ears as “she’s a Black”. I’m London-based.

                  I’ve met plenty of North American Jewish people who have told me “Jew” is perfectly acceptable usage over there, so perhaps there are just linguistic differences between UK/Europe and US/Canada. Or maybe historical differences in how anti-semitism is expressed.

            3. Edith Tita*

              That’s a very interesting point and I think it explains why my shoulders go up around my ears a bit at “JewTown”, while something like “Jewish Town” doesn’t provoke the same reaction (but I’m not Jewish myself so I’m willing to accept that is offensive too). Weirdly, English isn’t my first language so I don’t know where I would have picked up these connotations.

            4. Artemesia*

              I never thought of that before, but you are right. My DIL is Jewish and I have never said ‘My DIL is a Jew’ — most of my closest friends are Jewish but I have never used the term ‘Jew’ — never gave it any thought but just instinctively say ‘Jewish’ rather than they are ‘Jews.’

            5. Rachael*

              I was always taught to say “they are Jewish” and not “they are a jew” and that the word “jew” is racist. This does stem a lot from my great grandfather immigrating from Germany in the 1920s and having quite a few members of “the party” in the family at that time. The descendants were ashamed of their parents/grandparents/great uncles & aunts and tried to make amends. That also goes for the name “Jewtown”. In Germany, street names and parts of the city with high concentrations of Jewish persons labeled the residents as Jewish (ex: Judenstrasse – meaning jew street). It just has too much historical background that I think some people are forgetting since it has been 70 years since the war.

              1. Jessica*

                The term “Jew” is not racist. I am a Jew. If you go to most synagogues you will hear rabbis saying things like, “As Jews, we know that this rhetoric is dangerous.”

                And it’s frustrating to have gentiles claim that our name and identity is something shameful or taboo.

                However, capitalizing every other proper noun in your comment and not capitalizing “Jew” does raise some red flags, since de-capping “Jew” is often a white supremacist dogwhistle, FYI.

                1. Rachael*

                  My comment was in no way implying that your name is shameful or taboo. I was giving my perspective as to why I don’t use the term. I think that my parents and their siblings were more trying to offset the word being used as a racist term since the older generation would use it with such bitterness. I don’t necessarily think it is racist (since i know that Jewish people use the word themselves), but I was raised that way and I am not in the habit of using it. Please don’t accuse me of something that is not there or bring up me using white supremacy dogwhistles. That is highly offensive.

                2. Jessica*


                  You’re offended by me informing you (with no assumption of intent) that something you’re doing is something white supremacists do, and that it’s hurtful/harmful?

                  All of us make missteps from time to time, but if your response to being informed that you did something that’s kinda racist is to be offended that you were told, you might want to reexamine your reaction there.

                  I’m a Jew, not a “jew.” The latter *is* offensive.

                  Stop it.

            6. CatMom*

              Yeah, I keep thinking about hearing my father called “Jew Boy” and just plain old “Jew” as an insult. The noun form is….not great!

              1. Rachael*

                I commented earlier in this post as to the reason why my family taught me to say Jewish instead of the shorter version in an attempt to make amends for older generations of anti semites and to make up for the way the word was used. (German great grandparents). Apparently, according to that person I’m spouting white supremacy views with my post because I say “Jewish”, but my post was merely explaining why some people don’t use the shorter version of the word (They are trying to be more respectful to Jewish persons). What is your perspective? I’m worried that I’ve had this all wrong.

                1. Jessica*

                  No, Rachael, I informed you that lower-casing “jew” when you’re otherwise capitalizing proper nouns is often a white-supremacist dogwhistle, and you should stop doing it.

                  Please stop misrepresenting what I said.

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  Jesus Christ Jessica. Anyone reading this can scroll up and see what you wrote.

                  If your response to someone’s experience is “Nope! You’re wrong!” you might want to take a step back and think about why you’re so invested in an argument you started online more than a day ago with someone who went out of their way to explain why they weren’t trying to antagonize you and has stopped engaging with you (for obvious reasons).

                3. Jessica*

                  Correct. They can scroll up and see exactly what I wrote, and that in your eagerness to double down on what you did, you are misrepresenting what I said.

                  If your response to a marginalized person saying, “hey, the way you used this language about me and people like me is a problem” is “that’s just my EXPERIENCE!” instead of “oh, okay, sorry, I didn’t know but I won’t do it anymore,” you are part of the problem.

                  Thanks for proving you care more about saving face for yourself than listening to marginalized people when we tell you you’re doing something harmful.

                  And yes, in an era in which we can’t go a year without my people being shot in our synagogues, why would I care about clearing up confusion about the language used about us so it’s easier to distinguish between people who are hostile to us and those who are just ignorant? I can’t imagine.

                  Do better.

          2. Emilia Bedelia*

            I’m not Jewish or an expert in this area, but to me it seems like the distinction is that Jewish people have had a history of being forcibly segregated (eg, ghettoes in the 1930s-40s) as opposed to immigrants naturally migrating to the same region, and so that term evokes that terrible era in history. Nowadays, neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy are regarded more as a celebration of those cultures, and that was very much not the case for the periods where Jewish people were put in their own area.
            Even if it does not have a “dictionary definition” of being offensive, I think it’s still reasonable to say “that phrase could really make people uncomfortable, and you should not say that in the future”.

            1. Well Then*

              I agree and I really like your suggested response. I’m Jewish and the name feels offensive to me, partly because of the history of Jewish ghettoes, and partly because I can’t imagine it being said other than derogatorily.

        2. Phony Genius*

          I’ve always felt funny about the use of this word in titles. Namely, the Fleetwood Mac song and unrelated Broadway show that are named as such. I am beginning to think that this word has now reached a point where it can no longer be used in any context at all. Including in reference to these two works of art. Am I wrong to suggest that both of them should be permanently retired? (I used to like the song until I learned how offensive that word is. The guitar solo can be extricated without words, if necessary.)

      2. Mel_05*

        I’ve never heard the term before, but somehow it doesn’t hit the same way as Chinatown or Little Italy.

        But even if they had thought about it that way, I think the bigger issue is that the coworker doesn’t seem concerned that they might have been racist.

        Most people would be mortified if they realized they’d been casually using a racist term, even if it was without realizing it. Why wasn’t her coworker?

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          This is where I landed too. Coworker may have been ignorant of the way it comes off compared to “China Town, Little Italy, et al.,” but it’s just … different and sounds so much more racist (because it is racist)

          Hopefully she needs only to be enlightened at which time she will be suitably ashamed for her unintentional use of a term she didn’t know was bad.

          OTOH if she doubles down…

          Me: Roma woman who totally doesn’t “look like a gypsy” who is constantly correcting/educating people about “gyp/gypped/gypsy.”

          1. Mr. Shark*

            China Town or Little Italy are referring to countries, so I think that’s a lot different than Jew Town (feels wrong just typing that) or even Jewish Town.
            If it was Little Israel (which still seems strange), then it would make more sense and be more in line with the other two, in my mind.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Little Israel would make sense if it had a lot of Israeli immigrants, but Jewish and Israeli aren’t synonymous.

      3. What’s with Today, today?*

        I didn’t know the connection until this post. Not a thing I said anyway, but I’m glad to know.

        1. What’s with Today, today?*

          *That Gyp was a slur for Gypsies . I actually thought it was spelled tipped.

            1. BetsyTacy*

              I only learned this in the last 5 years and am now horrified that I’ve used it in the past.

              I genuinely thought it was ‘jipped me out of x’ and it was something that I used in conversation on occasion.

              1. DarthMom*

                Me too… I’ve used what I thought was the word ‘jipped’ my whole life (over 40 years) and never knew it was inappropriate and disrespectful. I, too, am horrified by my use of it. Ugh.

              2. tangerineRose*

                I learned that several years ago and was embarrassed too. I knew how it was spelled but had heard it occasionally for years so hadn’t realized it was a slur.

            2. KoiFeeder*

              Oh, yeah, a lot of people in my age group spell it “jipped” and don’t make the connection either. I’m just lucky that I read it before I heard it, or else I’d’ve been pretty confused myself!

          1. ScienceMommy*

            I have used this saying before as well, thinking I was saying “jipped” and having no clue it was a slur. If I said that in conversation and someone kindly corrected me, I’d be glad for it. It’s good to assume the best of someone before assuming the worst- that what they said was an innocent mistake, not an intentional insult.

      4. LearnedSomethingNew*

        seconding that it’s reasonable to assume someone didn’t know the background of this term, I had never heard it before today

      5. Kayaking Queen*

        Brene brown talked about a similar story in her TED talk on vulnerability and shame. One of her main points was the approach matters and she used the specific example of the not knowing about the word gypped. Thank you for adding a comment to the post with the most positive intent.

      6. Turtlewings*

        Same here; I would have assumed it was used in the same spirit as Chinatown, etc. It’s only in the last couple years that I learned that “gypped” had anything to do with gypsies and that “gypsy” itself is considered offensive by many — and I’m in my thirties! LW2’s coworker probably had no idea she was saying anything wrong, so imo a gentle correction is the way to go.

      7. Essess*

        Agreed. I grew up using the word “gypped” in regular conversation but for some reason I always assumed it originated from the word “gypsum”. I thought it was applied to the act of cheating by referring to the concept of swapping out real stone or hard material with cheap gypsum. I have no idea why my brain came up with that idea but I never realized it was an offensive term and that it really came from the word “gypsies” until I was in my mid-30s.

      8. lobsterp0t*

        I suppose if you’re going to bother educating people you might give them an appropriate alternative. I suppose it also depends on if there’s a commercial aspect e g lots of Kosher delis and shops (which, depending where you are, might be a genuine attraction for out of towners) – but if that were the case I think I’d expect it to be called the Kosher District (since it describes the function of the shops in the area). And “Jew” is often (as others have pointed out) used in an accusatory way as an epithet.

        I like the snappy but appropriate retort.

        Poletown and the others aren’t exactly fantastic descriptors either, tbh. I guess there’s a complicated history of the ghettoisation of minority communities basically everywhere in Europe and North America.

      9. Warm Weighty Wrists*

        I learned that “gypped” was not ok in high school when I used the term in class (having no idea it was related to any group at all), and a girl yelled “RACIST WORD!” Sure, there was probably a more tactful way for her to bring it up, but it was certainly memorable and effective. I haven’t used the term since.

      10. Nightingale*

        This would be a kind, professional response. I, too, have never heard the term “Jewtown” before reading this–I’ve never used it and now I never will! (Also gypped! I had not made that connection before.) I would happily accept corrections on any type of negative language I was using without being aware of it.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      It’s odd – our city has an area popularly referred to as Greektown, and that doesn’t seem to be offensive (in fact, the business owners there promote the area by that name).

      I guess it all comes down to context and history, because I can’t imagine calling the area of the city where there are a high proportion of Jewish people by anything but it’s neighbourhood name. (Mind you, that neighbourhood name is almost synonymous with “the area of the city mostly inhabited by Jewish people).

      I can see why the OP’s coworker might have been unaware of the offensiveness – not that this is an excuse, but hopefully they are ignorant rather than being deliberately offensive. (And of course, the OP should not have to do the emotional labour of educating them.)

      1. Aitch Arr*

        Calling people from Greece “the Greeks” doesn’t have the same overtones as calling all Jewish people “the Jews.”

        The former is descriptive, the latter is othering.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I agree that based on history and context “the Greeks” has not been used in the same offensive way as “the Jews.” I can’t quite place why but I think that saying just adding “the” in front of a nationality/race to me sounds more othering than descriptive.

          If someone said do you see “Do you see: the Jews over there. the Greeks over there. the Mexicans over there. the Chinese over there.” it would raise my hackles a bit versus if they said “Do you see: the Jewish people over there. the Greek people over there. the Mexican people over there. the Chinese people over there.”

          1. lobsterp0t*

            I suppose because Jewish people aren’t a nationality.

            There are Jews of any nationality you can name, just as there are Arabs and Christians – I realise when you dig in, there are complexities around what flavour of religious or atheistic / cultural ethnicity or religion you might claim, but the idea that Jewish people have dual loyalty to (Jewish National Concept of the time) and this competes with their loyalty to (country they are personally from) is a long-standing anti-Semitic canard.

            It also sweeps aside diversity among the Jewish diaspora as (at least in my understanding) this is especially and specifically true when it comes to Europe, former Euro colonies, and the way Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews have been treated by successive nation states (including Christian religious empires through history).

            What about all the other Jewish people who have totally different geographic, national and cultural origins?!

        2. Red Tape Producer*

          I think people are also missing the big, glaring difference here: Greece is a country, Judaism is a religion and/or ethnicity. It would be like saying PapistTown instead of Little Italy.

    4. interrobang*

      This is fascinating because as a Jewish person I’ve never heard the term “JewTown” used before and was not aware of any particular connotations. I think I would’ve heard it as jarring but not immediately offensive (as opposed to, for example, someone using the phrases “jew them down” or “gypped”). But having googled it, it looks like it is sometimes used in a derogatory fashion (to refer to a de facto Jewish ghetto or a neighborhood with a lot of rich people), so I see why it’s a problem.

      I work in an office with a number of other Jewish people and we definitely refer to a certain area in our city as the “Jewish part of town,” because it’s the neighborhood with most of the synagogues and the only place where you can buy kosher or even non-kosher Ashkenazi food at the regular grocery store. But that said, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a non-Jewish coworker refer to that neighborhood that way.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        The phrase “Jewish part of town” modifies the town, not the people who live there.

        1. Nym*

          Isn’t “Jewtown” short for “Jewish part of town”? “Chinatown” doesn’t mean a town is located in China or exclusively inhabited by Chinese nationals, it just signifies a cultural connection. I’m baffled that Jewtown is considered offensive by so many people here. I think it’s entirely fine in a descriptive manner, remember that OP’s coworker used it to refer to identify a location with Corona issues, surely that’s obviously descriptive rather than racist?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No. It’s not. Please take the word of the Jewish people here who are telling you that it is in fact offensive and anti-Semitic and do not say it or defend it.

      2. Jay*

        Oh, yeah. We have a Jewish area here and I grew up in a heavily Jewish school district. Neither of those bother me. Well, except for the person who said a local high school was “full of Jews.” That bothered me a lot (and yes, I did say something).

      3. Adalind*

        I’ve never heard that term either. Most people don’t realize I’m Jewish because my last name is very Italian so it throws them if I mention I am. Myself and two coworkers are Jewish and we jokingly refer to ourselves as Little Israel because we all sit together, but I don’t think any of us would have thought to say “JewTown.”

  5. Julia*

    #2 Unfortunately, I have been in similar situations. A friend of mine complained to me that she had to learn “too much” about World War 2 in history class (we are German), and couldn’t “the Jews” just let it rest? I was appalled. As I said, we are German, and not repeating history is extremely important. My grandfather was also Jewish and lost his first family in the Holocaust, which no one in Germany knows about me. There still is this dichomoty that you are either German OR Jewish, not both, which can feel really isolating if you are indeed both, and people will say the most awful things right to your face because you cannot possibly be “one of those people”, amirite?

    That person isn’t my friend anymore, partly because I could never forget that comment, and partly because it turns out she was actually much worse than that. If someone I respected had made that kind of joke, I would have a hard time putting it aside or considering it a one-off thing. I would have to either address it (and hope they apologize!) or stop being friends with them. OP2, do you think you could really let this fester while seeing if it is a pattern? How would you feel while you wait? Of course you can handle this any way that feels comfortable for YOU, but I can see that you are appalled, and rightfully so. Maybe this is your chance to allow that friend to either apologize sincerely (because maybe she really thought the place was called JewTown by everyone and it was okay???) or show her true colors so you can drop her.

    I’m really sorry.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Thanks for this perspective, Julia. That sounds horrendous.In my thread below, I was assuming good intentions and ignorance in the case of the person who works with letter writer #2. The context for what *you* describe which is clearly more deliberate and in context just horrifying. I can’t even imagine. I wouldn’t want that person in my life, either. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you. I actually think my ex-friend started out “only” ignorant, because – as I said, our education keeps talking about “Jews” as ominous victims of our grandparents’ crimes, but not people who actually live among us, but she later started dating a guy who proclaimed to be a Nazi on their first date “because he seemed nice”, so I dropped her.

        Your approach listed below seems very compassionate, but I wonder if it doesn’t put a bit too much on OP2, who in this case actually is part of the group the co-worker disparaged.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          You make a good point about my other comment. I am Jewish also and part of that same group being disparaged. I don’t minimize the amount of sting at all and hope I didn’t come across that way.

        2. Gaia*

          He proclaimed to be a Nazi (on a first date!?) but seemed nice? Those are mutually exclusive in my book so my brain just sort of shorted out there. Woooooow.

          1. Julia*

            Same. I was like, “OMG are you okay? Did you manage to escape?” and she was like, “he seemed nice, I think it was a joke, also he has had a dozen DUIs” – and she married him.

            1. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

              Wooooooow. Glad you got far, far away from there, her husband (assuming they’re still married) sounds like a complete mess.

              1. Julia*

                He is, but honestly so is she. I had a lot of sympathy for her at first because her life seemed rough (father was ill, first boyfriend was abusive), but… I have to protect my own family first.

              1. Julia*

                I’m not. I wish she could have grown to learn more empathy for others because of her own situation, instead of meeting someone who reinforces the “foreigners/refugees are why I don’t have a job, not my own drinking problem” fallacy. Because for every one I nix from my life, I meet three more on the street…

                1. WoodswomanWrites*

                  Apologies. I’m sure it was painful to lose a friend and the world would be a better place if people were able to grow and learn, and become more empathetic.

                2. Julia*

                  Thank you both, and no need to apologize. It wasn’t pretty, but it also didn’t break me or anything.

    2. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

      Same here. It’s become far too common. When I was in high school, someone said something highly anti-Semitic to me, and then punched me after I told a teacher. Pretty sure he was only suspended for one day.

      1. Julia*

        I’m so very sorry. Anti-semitism is so common and usually considered okay, “because Jews are rich, right?”
        It’s hearbreaking and scary.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          That’s, uh, not generally the justification I’m used to hearing from anti-semites…Usually they’re just complaining that we’re inferior and/or money-grubbing. That’s a new one for me right there.

          1. Julia*

            Interesting. I hear a lot of conspiracy theories about Jews running the world, and a lot of the anti-semitism in Europe stems from the fact that Jews were allowed to handle and loan out money, so they were seen as “greedy” – which I guess proves one of your points. (It’s almost kinda like the burakumin in Japan, now that I think about it, and just as stupid because logically, how can you discriminate against a group of people for having a certain job, when all you allow them to do is said job?)

            1. Bluesboy*

              Oh, the irony of calling an entire people greedy because they lent money due to typically not being allowed to do other types of job (Jews were often not allowed to join Chambers of Commerce or professional organisations that would allow them to work).

              1. Imtheone*

                More so in Europe, Jewish people couldn’t own land in earlier times. Christians were prohibited from lending money, but the developing economy depended on loans.

            2. Lily Rowan*

              In the US, immigrants are simultaneously “stealing all our jobs” and also lazy and “living off the government.” (Also apparently simultaneously undocumented AND qualifying for government services, somehow.)

              Racism/ethnic prejudice doesn’t make sense.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                And that’s why they’re taking over… because they’re just that clever.


              2. Donkey Hotey*

                Side note: I am just this side of 50 and to this day, I -vividly- remember a cartoon from Mad Magazine from 40 years ago about this very point.
                Two waiters, one old, one young.
                Young Waiter: The Goldbergs are at my station tonight!
                Old Waiter: (slur) they’ll probably stiff you the tip.
                YW: They left me $20!
                OW: Of course, they have all the money in the world.

          2. DerJungerLudendorff*

            It’s basically classic discrimination BS trying to pass itsself off as class criticism against ” The Man”.
            Where “The Man” isn’t political leaders or the super-rich, but a Secret Evil Jewish Banker Shadow Government Conspiracy.

          3. Observer*

            Well, you see, Jews control the world, but they are helpless parasites. And they are all rich, greedy grasping blood suckers, but they are also poor and dirty. AND they all Capitalist monsters but they are ALSO blood red communists.

            Simple, no?

            1. Julia*

              I’ve heard of Schrödinger’s immigrant (stealing your jobs AND on welfare!), but Schrödinger’s Jew is new.

        2. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

          Yep, that, and because a lot of them seem to think that most of us being white apparently justifies it. I’ve legit seen some anti-Semites make that argument.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            Honestly, once someone is justifying anti-Semitism, logic has already been tossed out the window.

    3. Knitting Cat Lady*

      I’m disabled and LGBTQ+

      What gets me most about history lessons in Germany is that they completely gloss over the T4 programme, which was the systematic killing of disabled children. It was the test balloon, so to speak, to see if people would make a fuss about mass murder.

      And I know Sinti and Roma who are understandably salty that the mass murder of their families is degraded to a sub clause.

      It’s horrifying that people forget that 6 million other people (political opponents, LGBTQ+, Sovjet POWs, other minority groups) were systematically killed as well.

      The total death toll of mass murder was upwards of 12 million…

      1. Gaia*

        Yup. What happened to Jewish people was undeniably horrific. What happened to LGBTQ+, disabled, political dissidents, POWs, Roma, etc was also undeniably horrific. We need to tell the complete story of the horrors that occurred.

        1. Julia*

          I totally agree! Not just because it might make people like my ex-friend realize that history education is not Jewish propaganda, but simply because it’s the right thing to do.

        2. WoodswomanWrites*

          Yes, the full tragic story is important to tell. Growing up Jewish, I knew about what happened from a young age. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned about the many other targeted groups who suffered the same horrific fate.

      2. De*

        For what’s it worth, this was definitely included in our history classes on the subject (NRW, late 90’s to early 00’s)

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          My kid is learning about a wide range of Holocaust victims, and they’re not pulling any punches. I don’t think they’ve been specific about disabled victims, but definitely Roma, political dissidents, and LGBTQx. Current year, US South.

        2. BadWolf*

          It was included in my mid 90s education too. Although I think it could have had more emphasis.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I was in HS in the south in the late 90’s, and didn’t hear about the other groups that were targeted until tenth grade, and only because my history teacher that year and the next two years felt the need to supplement with what they called “hidden history,” or the stories and facts from the non-dominant groups of what happened to them. My dad also liked that type of history, and I knew some of that hidden history already because of him. But there is a reason too much of it is still called “hidden history” and that to me is sad. You are bound to repeat mistakes if you’re never taught it’s a mistake.

      3. Hedwig*

        Knitting Cat Lady, the Holocaust was about the systematic extermination of the Jews and between 5 and 6 million Jews were murdered. To minimise that is what Deborah Lipstadt calls ‘soft-core Holocaust denial’ (‘yes a bad thing happened to you but enough already’). Holocaust revisionism is a serious problem and to say that murdering Jews was the primary objective of the Holocaust is not degrading all the other people who died at the hands of Nazis but were not slated for utter annihilation.

        1. Julia*

          I think we can talk about Jews and the other groups. I guess with Jews, a lot of us have relatives or ancestors who were murdered for their beliefs or simply their alleged beliefs – how many even practiced any faith? – so there’s a lot of generational sadness even now. (My grandfather’s first child had an exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, because he was murdered and only his teddy bear was left.)

          I have to say Knitting Cat Lady’s comment did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the “I am LGBTQ now and people used to get murdered for that” instead of “my relative was murdered for being XYZ”? But then even I, with a “quarter Jewish blood only”, sometimes lie awake at night and wonder if I would get to live if the Nazis ever came back, because they are on the rise again and that is scary AF, so I assume it is scary for others as well.

          I’m sorry, I have no idea how to express what I can barely comprehend myself.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you. At the end of the day, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to anyone, and I have it pretty easy compared to more obviously “different” people. Although on the flipside, this means it’s very hard to find a) people who are similar to be and b) figure out how racist people are until they slip up some day…

    4. Jaybeetee*

      That’s terrible. In Canada (land of the tolerant? We have a hellaciously racist history of our own that people don’t like to acknowledge) we have a similar problem with discussing Indigenous issues. I’ve heard, more than once, that “all that stuff was hundreds of years ago, they should get over it!” I have… quite the rant I tend to say in response (“Smallpox blankets” happened centuries ago. Lots of other systemically discriminatory or culturally genocidal practices stopped very recently or still continue today). I’m white as the driven snow over here, certain people think I’ll agree with them!

      Your ex-friend misunderstands the concept of privilege. Being white doesn’t mean nothing is ever hard. It’s just never hard *because* of her whiteness. POCs are taking nothing away from her, and Jewish people are citizens of her country too. I’m glad, for your sake, that this person is no longer in your life.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        If it helps with those jackasses, ask them “how many grandfathers ago was that?” I mean, 100 years is 2 grandfathers, meaning, your grandfather HEARD about it from HIS grandfather, who EXPERIENCED it.

        Props to Terry Pratchett and his non-fiction-writing colleagues for this concept, btw.

  6. Middle School Teacher*

    OP 5, where is the university in this? All of my student teachers have a university facilitator who is supposed to support us and them, and help maintain relations between all parties. You can definitely terminate his time in your class (which means he will fail his university class) but they need to be involved here. (And I have fired two student teachers out the more than 15 I’ve trained.)

    1. UniversitySupervisor*

      Yes please! I’m a university supervisor for a student teaching program and I would be appalled if I knew one of my students were acting like this. Please let the university supervisor or coordinator know about the situation so they can assist you in coaching or having a remediation plan. Often, we don’t hear about issues until things have gone on for some time which makes it difficult to help support our cooperating teachers. Please let them know!

    2. Colette*

      And the thing is, firing someone is not the worst thing that can ever happen. It would be worse to let him continue behaving inappropriately without consequences – for his future coworkers and students.

    3. Rainy*

      Agreed–we have an intern program for graduate students who need their clinical hours, and we’ve had to terminate interns before. It happens. Speak with whatever the equivalent of their clinical advisor is, and then be very clear with the student teacher that if he doesn’t shape up he’s going to be terminated. Give him the specific ways you need him to improve, and tell him what “showing improvement” is going to look like. Give him a deadline. And then if he hasn’t improved, boot his ass out the door. He doesn’t deserve to stay in your school just because failing his teaching placement is going to have a negative impact on his career.

      1. tangerineRose*

        And in some ways, if he fails now, it might be easier on him than failing later with a paying job. It’s easier to change bad behavior sooner than later.

    4. Manager with ADHD*

      This would only change the way you manage the situation, not that the situation needs to be managed, but I think you should find out if he has ADHD as an official diagnosis. People with ADHD often insert themselves into conversations they are not directly involved in. It’s one of the symptoms and part of the diagnostic criteria. It’s an inability to ignore conversations and I’ve suffered from this my whole life, only getting it diagnosed as an older adult. I’ve learned to curb the tendency, but the urge to participate is never far away.

      If you believe he’d be a good teacher other than this characteristic, please do work with him a bit more. He needs to learn what’s inappropriate and unhelpful, and he should learn it as soon as possible so he can practice better workplace interactions.

  7. WoodswomanWrites*

    #2, because anti-racism efforts are important to me, I’ve sought out training on how to respond to racist comments even if they’re about a group I don’t identify with. As hurtful and infuriating as it is to hear racist comments from a co-worker, or anyone, I’ve practiced responding with a nonconfronational tone and have had better results than when I came across sharply. I also agree with Alison that it can be tricky to state that you’re Jewish personally, as am I.

    If it were me, I would take the person aside to talk further and not wait, at a relaxed time, and something along the lines of “If you have a moment, I’d like to follow up on our conversation the other day when you used a term to describe a local neighborhood.” I would open a dialogue, asking where they had heard the term and what they were thinking when they said it. You can follow up with Alison’s comments then about how it is offensive to people.

    This approach was enormously helpful for me when people talked to me this way before I was aware of how my language was hurtful around race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Because I had been oblivious rather than deliberately trying to be discriminatory, I was able to hear their calm feedback and see how what I had said was harmful and upsetting to others. It made a huge difference to have those conversations, and I was grateful that they told me.

    1. Anon for this one*

      I agree. I’m from in a town that I have heard called that by Jewish locals–I can picture someone hearing that and not getting how “in-group” jokes work, how is it different from “Chinatown” (it really isn’t, but society decided that’s OK I guess). I’ve also met people from other places who never realized what they were saying when they used unfortunately common phrases like “Jew/gyp someone” or “have a powwow” etc.

      If you can, explaining why this term is not OK would be a kindness. It would also let you know whether she was truly ignorant, and how she feels about using hurtful language, and you can reevaluate how you want to proceed from there.

      1. Boo*

        It wasn’t until a coworker corrected me that I realized “gyp” was a slur. I’d never seen it spelled out or learned the history so I’d never made the connection. My coworker was shocked and said, “OMG you can’t say that!” and then explained why. I was MORTIFIED and so glad she corrected me, and now I correct other people who use the phrase.

        Unfortunately I hear a lot of people use the phrase “I’m low on the totem pole” and I always suggest “pecking order” to them instead.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I was grateful when someone told me as well. That one wasn’t so hard to stop using (maybe because I didn’t use it that often) but it’s been harder to avoid others like “totem pole” and “grandfathered in”. It’s amazing how sticky some sayings are.

          1. Julia*

            Would you mind explaining why “grandfathering” is bad?

            And while we add to the last, I have been cringing at the rise of “spirit animal”, because I’ve seen comments from Native Americans that White people are now once again appropriating part of their culture.

            1. Editor*

              “Grandfathering” has turned into a useful legal term, so I don’t know if it will go away. It’s used a lot in zoning discussions, for instance, when regulations change but formerly compliant properties are not required to meet new regulations.

              The origin, however, is from racist laws designed to restrict the voting rights of former slaves and their descendants. I think it is becoming problematic, just as Anon above notes that Chinatown could be an issue. Here’s some history:


              1. Formerly Ella Vader*

                I’m not in a legal context, but I substitute “legacy” for “grandfathered” whenever I can.

            2. Anon for this one*

              From Wikipedia:
              “The term originated in late nineteenth-century legislation and constitutional amendments passed by a number of U.S. Southern states, which created new requirements for literacy tests, payment of poll taxes, and/or residency and property restrictions to register to vote. States in some cases exempted those whose ancestors (grandfathers) had the right to vote before the Civil War, or as of a particular date, from such requirements. The intent and effect of such rules was to prevent poor and illiterate African-American former slaves and their descendants from voting, but without denying poor and illiterate whites the right to vote.”

              Later on the page: “In spite of its origins, today the term grandfather clause does not retain any pejorative sense when used in unrelated contexts.”

              I would say that this is a term with gross origins that isn’t gross in modern usage. I haven’t heard this term to be used as a dog whistle or indicating latent bigotry. So personally I put it in the “gross but not racist” category along with “beating a dead horse” and “dog eat dog world”. Or like how you can look at the Great Wall of China and shake your head in awe at what we can accomplish when we devalue human life.

              1. Julia*

                Thank you both! I hope someone else can chime in, because I kinda agree with Anon on this, but am sure someone can tell me why I’m wrong, and will gladly accept beign wrong and promise to better myself.

                1. DerJungerLudendorff*

                  It’s in this weird twilight zone where the word isn’t inherently problematic, and most people don’t use it in a problematic way, but that gives a smokescreen for racists who do use it in the gross original meaning.

                2. Filosofickle*

                  I don’t believe it’s generally used in a derogatory way and I won’t try to make the case that it’s definitely wrong to use. But it bothers me that the origins are so gross, and I would rather not invoke such racism and oppression.

            3. Blueberry*

              Yeah. I think “patronus” is a good replacement for “spirit animal” for those of us who do not have the cultural connection to the latter term.

              1. Donkey Hotey*

                Patronus works, as does “familiar” or, if you really want to turn heads, “fur-sona.”

          2. CoffeeforLife*

            Also, the lowest person on the totem pole is the most important and the master Carver worked on them vs the apprentice working on the higher less visible sections…. according to a fascinating podcast I listened to.

          3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Wait, why is “grandfathered in” bad to use? I know the history (of being allowed to vote if your grandfather was getting around poll tests/taxes), but didn’t know anyone objected to its casual use.

        2. Blue River*

          I’m not understanding why “low on the totem pole” is insulting. I just don’t see it in the same awful category as “gyp”, “jewtown”, etc. It seems pretty bland to me. How is it offensive to Native Americans? Isn’t it just using more descriptive, interesting language to describe a pole? I’m willing to be shown the error of my ways, I just honestly don’t see the problem. Is every use of another culture’s words/concepts automatically bad? Should non- Jews stop asking for a schmear of cream cheese? Should non- Hispanics stop saying “no problemo”? That’s kind of how I see the use of totem pole, as non-mocking and just a cute way of saying something. But I certainly don’t want to insult anyone or say something racist, and will stop using that expression. But i would appreciate an explanation of why it’s bad.

          1. Sorrischian*

            Quoting Debbie Reese, who runs the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog: “People think there is a hierarchy associated with location of a figure on a totem pole. There isn’t.”

            And you often see ‘low man on the totem pole’ used to refer to someone who is put upon or mistreated by those above them in a hierarchy, so it’s not just a neutral indication of someone’s position. It’s certainly not the most problematic thing ever, but it’s still a major misrepresentation of what a totem pole is and is for, and I’d say it’s worth finding other ways to express that concept.

          2. Spero*

            One thing to keep in mind is that totem poles are culturally and religiously significant. Using something of significance in a frivolous way is inherently insulting, especially when a dominant culture is reducing the significant item of a culture they have harmed. No problemo isn’t a religiously or culturally significant reference, so it’s a fundamentally different thing. Think about, if you are a christian, how you might react to someone who has power over you making a mocking joke based on the image of Jesus on the cross. That’s the emotional equivalent of a totem pole or powwow joke.

          3. Blueberry*

            Is every use of another culture’s words/concepts automatically bad?

            Language is complex and nuanced, but there’s a difference between the right thing to do being complex and there being no rules at all.

          4. A Kate*

            Others have addressed the totem pole question, but I’m pretty sure ONLY non-Spanish speakers say “no problemo” since the word is actually “problema.”

            1. Avasarala*

              Yeah, “no problemo” actually screams “I don’t know any Spanish”. It’s not as racist as totem pole, but it’s just as ignorant.

    2. Amazed*

      I’ve tried to do this when I’ve had the opportunity, to reach out to the offender and educate rather than lecture, but I keep running into a problem where someone else actively undermines me by A) taking the sharp approach we’re trying to avoid, putting the offender on the defensive, and B) accusing me of sympathizing with the offense because I’m not taking the sharp approach. It’s frustrating and it makes it difficult to address these issues. Can you recommend good strategies to deal with that?

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This is how I learned as well. I grew up in a place that was weirdly tolerant in some ways but very intolerant in many others. When I left to go to college, it took time to purge the dog whistle stuff, since it was so baked in. We repeated a lot of it without really understanding it. I really appreciated everyone who took the time to educate me.

  8. Chase*

    For LW#4: I think it is great to disclose that a there was a difficult relationship in the past, but would it be worth asking the manager something along the lines of, “Did you check her references / speak to anyone at ___ about her performance there?”
    I feel like this would be a way to draw attention to her past without making LW the actual source of any information – just encouraging the manager to do due diligence (ideally before a probationary period if over, if that applies).

    1. valentine*

      “Did you check her references / speak to anyone at ___ about her performance there?”
      This sounds like overstepping or fishing for information.

      OP4 needs to be the source in order to get ahead of the message. They can say they dated and she tried to get and others fired.

      1. Mookie*

        Agreed. Passive-aggressive hints and non-sequiturs in this context will only make the LW look bad.

      2. DerJungerLudendorff*

        Even mentioning the attempted firings might be too much.
        Unless OP can back it up with a lot of evidence, they may look like they’re deliberately trying to sabotage their ex.

      3. Quill*

        Yeah, “we used to date, it ended poorly with workplace drama” is something your boss will definitely want to have known.

    2. Kschf*

      Honestly though– how does this person keep getting hired? Sure, there are people who can manipulate their way with people who don’t yet know they’re absolutely awful, but at some point they must have burned through all reference-giving bridges….. right?

      1. Colette*

        There are a lot of places that don’t check references – and a lot of people who are better at getting jobs than doing jobs.

      2. MtnLaurel*

        This. There are folks who are terrific at interviewing but a nightmare to work with.

      3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        They will eventually hit a brick wall where no one will hire them because their work history and reputation precedes them. Especially in a smaller industry or with a particular skill set. An old workplace re-hired the same person three times and each time realized “Oh yeah, this is why he doesn’t work here anymore.”

      4. Percysowner*

        I took over a small non-profit with a new employee (a bookkeeper) who had this situation. She basically said she had been working for her current employer for 10 years and, naturally, she asked that we not contact them for references for the usual reason. She had been with the employer before that for five years, when he closed the business and retired and Oopsie, woopsie he had died in the ensuing 10 years. She did independent tax work, and had 2 individual references from that. She was hired, by my predecessor.

        When I started having huge issues with her, I finally contacted the employer she claimed to have been working for when she applied and, as it turned out, she had been fired from that job 6 months before she applied with us, for the exact same issues we were having. I fired her immediately, but she ran a great con on my predecessor.

        Manipulative people can be clever and honest people can be fooled because it doesn’t occur to them that anyone would be so brazen as to just flat out lie in the way she did.

        To be fair to my predecessor this was a SMALL library. 4 out of the 6 staff had been there for 30+ years. The other 2 for 10+, so there wasn’t a lot of experience in hiring and looking for red flags.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I wouldn’t do that – it’s none of OP’s business if they checked her references. They need to keep it vague to cover their own ass if she tries anything with him specifically.

    4. Venus*

      I work in a large company where people move around, so there are usually connections all over the place.

      I think that “Did you check references?” is inappropriately pushy (it questions their competence), but in my situation I would be tempted to say “I think you know George or Elizabeth. You might want to check with them about their experiences.”

    5. BluntBunny*

      I think he could say she was pretty much fired from the last company and threatened a lawsuit against them. That is enough for them to worry.

  9. Heidi*

    For LW1: It’s not clear from the letter if the grand niece and her parents are even aware that the brother has approached the LW about the tutoring. Maybe if the LW doesn’t say anything about it, the whole issue will go away. They might even be mortified that he suggested it. If the parents do bring it up, you could say that your schedule has filled up and you can’t tutor the grand niece without kicking out a paying client. There’s also nothing wrong with saying that your brother was mistaken/totally presumptuous about your willingness or ability to work for free.

    1. SaeniaKite*

      The cynic in me wonders whether he might have told his children he would pay for his grand daughters tutoring and this is his way of saving some money while the parents assume the letter writer is being compensated

      1. Reality.Bites*

        I need you in my life full-time for the cynic in you to analyze all situations that come up.

        But since we’re both commenters here you’ll work free, right? ;)

      2. Smithy*

        I think because the request of free work was unreasonable – it would also make me worried of what other promises might have been made regarding tutoring. “LW1 turns D students into A students” or “All of LW’s clients get into their top university of choice”. While that all may be technically true and a wonderful marker of the impact tutoring can have, tutoring is also not a miracle pill where by showing up for sessions students magically improve.

        Given that the requests are already coming in unprofessionally, I would actually be less inclined to tutor even if paid. I feel like there’s just too much of a risk for more family drama. Lots of family businesses work reasonably to very well where this type of support is managed mostly professionally. But there’s also just a lot of room for unreasonable and emotional demands to cloud judgement and seep into personal life.

      3. AKchic*

        I had the same thought.
        I also had the thought that Grandpa *thinks* darling grandchild “needs” tutoring, the parents (and possibly educators) don’t agree, and to shut him up, told him that if he is so hellbent on tutoring, he can pay for it himself, so he is attempting to do just that, at no real expense to himself, while still looking like some kind of “hero” (in his eyes only).

        Too many times I have been the parent dealing with an overbearing grandparent trying to play the “hero” to their grandchild, or worse, trying to overstep and relive their parenting days and overstep when there was absolutely no reason for it, just so they could feel like they had some semblance of control in a house they had no financial stake in, weren’t living in, and didn’t have to deal with the fall-out of their meddling.
        Some grandparents have earned their “Time Outs”.

      4. SS Express*

        Some people just love the idea of having “connections”. I know a few people who, whatever the situation, ALWAYS know someone who works there/can get you a discount/can hook you up with a job – but if you try to take them up on it, it turns out that the connection is pretty tenuous (if it exists at all) and nine times out of ten whatever was offered never materialises. And usually the offer comes out of the blue, not specifically because you’ve even said you’re looking for X in the first place.

        I can totally see one of these people someday saying “oh Granddaughter’s doing her math homework? My sister is a math tutor, I’ll get you free tutoring, no really I insist” like they think they’re Don Corleone when neither the family nor the tutor ever indicated an interest in this.

    2. BadWolf*

      Yes, some people are really “helpful” and turn, “Granddaughter’s feeling a little apprehensive about High School English after that tough writing assignment last year” into “Hey, Granddaughter needs free tutoring because FAMILY!!”

      I know a private tutor builds in a spot for a lower income student. Teaching family for free would mess up that budget.

  10. StaceyIzMe*

    For LW5- you’ve been given permission to terminate this disruptive person who has been the subject of frequent complaints. Maybe it’s time to worry less about the cost to him of not gaining his degree. He’s been disruptive, intrusive and resistant to change. I’m thinking ahead to the poor principal, professional educators and parents who have to endure these behaviors and who might wonder why he wasn’t successfully corrected before being foisted upon an unsuspecting school system. If he can’t conform to reasonable standards of professional conduct, maybe he simply isn’t suited to work as a teacher?

    1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

      I agree: if he’s not suited for teaching it’s better if he finds out sooner than later. Also, I really don’t think failing a class will completely ruin his career forever, anyways.

      1. Annony*

        I agree. Sometimes failing is what it takes to realize that you have to change. He is being disruptive to the point that he is. interfering with other students’ experience. He has been told to stop and refuses. Sometimes it takes real consequences to break though to someone.

      2. just a random teacher*

        Teaching placements are different from “regular” classes that way, though. In my teaching program (a 15 month master’s degree program for people with undergrad degrees in their subject areas), they had only one level of backup plan if someone failed a teaching placement, and it wasn’t something open to you depending on the kind of failure. Also, basically none of the credits you took would transfer to a degree that would be useful if you didn’t also get your teaching license (which was not possible to get without passing student teaching), so it was very all-or-nothing.

        I had a friend who failed his teaching placement (and I have SO MANY OPINIONS on how his program did not do the appropriate things in terms of the disability accommodations that he needed in order to pass it, yet cheerfully admitted him and took his money as a full-pay student, but that’s another thread) and having an M.Ed. and no license opens basically zero jobs to you that were not available beforehand, so it was a very expensive way for him to waste a little over a year.

        The other problem is that since everyone knows that it’s very high stakes, there is a strong tendency to not fail people. I know I was told at one point during my placement that my supervisor and cooperating teacher both agreed that I should pass because I’d be a good teacher, so the form would be filled out accordingly to limit the number of non-perfect scores (thus making sure I’d pass my placement) but they’d give me actual feedback verbally since there were things I still needed to work on.

        (The structure of how we train new teachers is…non-optimal. A multi-year paid apprenticeship model would probably work a lot better than a year of unpaid supervised teaching while taking night classes, but that would cost the various school systems a lot of money to implement so here we are.)

        1. Collette*

          However, if he fails his teaching placement and is still in school, he could shift his M.Ed. To something like instructional design. That doesn’t leave him with no options.

        2. Observer*

          @Collette is correct. But also, his behavior is egregious. And if he doesn’t change it, he SHOULD NOT BE TEACHING.

          Seriously. This is totally not “social awkwardness” and he’s just obnoxious. He’s also immature, defensive and incapable of taking direction and feedback. Teachers of that sort are the worst, even if they can be good at many parts of the job.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          And sometimes an expensive lesson is part if life.

          Sorry dude but you were the problem.

          You were given multiple chances. Just because it cost money and set you on a different path is not a good enough reason yo be handled with velvet gloves and foisted off on the educational system.

          He’s been told to stop. He doesn’t stop. Choices/actions have consequences.

    2. Well Then*

      I agree completely that he sounds like a nightmare and should not graduate the program as he is acting now, but it also sounds like LW hasn’t been super clear about the problems and that it MUST change or he will be cut from the program. LW raised the issues once and he brushed them off with fatuous excuses. Now she needs to crack down on him and set a deadline for improvement or termination. Have a very serious talk with him and set hard standards he has to meet, then hold him to them. Then, if he doesn’t improve, LW knows she did her job as a supervisor.

  11. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

    Wow. OP#2, talk to her and make sure she’s aware of how inappropriate and racist that is. That’s a major red-flag. Although I should point out that to most people, something like “Jewtown” is extremely, overtly anti-Semitic, and she’s a grown adult. If she doesn’t realize that by now, odds are she doesn’t care and probably won’t stop saying things like that. If it continues, definitely go to HR or your boss.

    As a Jew, I find that it’s really disappointing that we’ve got to police this kind of behavior from the people around us just because anti-Semitism has become so normalized today and so many people seem to forget that they could be working with or socializing with Jewish people, especially at a time when it’s on the rise.

    1. Violet Rose*

      I think this is really location- and context-dependent. What she said was clearly not OK, but depending on where she’s from, there is still a chance she might honestly not know just how not-OK it is. It’s really not a common phrase in the area where I grew up, for example, so the younger, more clueless version of me might have heard it and thought it was analogous to Chinatown or Koreatown, as others have mentioned. It would be very compassionate of OP to then explain that it is not.

      But of course, this is entirely speculation and OP is better placed to guess where Coworker was coming from with that comment.

      1. TL -*

        Yeah I’ve never heard it before and could easily see myself using it in a, “there’s Chinatown and this neighborhood is mostly Jewish so I guess it’s our Jewtown and this part is basically little Italy…” kinda way. I mean, I haven’t so far and I won’t now, but a lot of anti-sementic terms have disappeared from regional use in America entirely (my Jewish friend once walked me through a whole bunch and of them, I had heard two; one I had seen that before but I thought it was a misspelling of an LGBTQ slur, and the other was “jew them down,” which I had read in old novels and knew the meaning of but had never actually heard in modern day usage.)

        That being said, if someone called me on a figure of speech as being anti-semantic I would apologize, say I didn’t realize it was offensive, and not use it again. But I do think you should specially say that phrase is anti-Semantic; if she’s from a part of the USA (world?) with a low Jewish population she may genuinely not be aware.

        1. TiaTeapot*

          I very strongly suspect I live in the same general region as the letterwriter, and ‘jewtown’ is absolutely definitely understood to be at the very least an othering phrase. This wouldn’t be a reference to a street in a big city where the kosher shops are — it’d more likely be talking in a non-neutral fashion about a mostly suburban town with a predominantly jewish school district.

          I agree that the way to confront this person is to assume ignorance on their part – “Maybe you didn’t realize, but that’s really offensive” – and maybe that approach will get good results – but unless they really are recent immigrants from a country with no cultural history with Jews, I think there’s approximately zero chance that this is someone who doesn’t have Opinions about Jews.

      2. I don’t post often*

        I had this same thought. I grew up in the area of the country that is not diverse, isn’t a vacation or weekend destination, and not a lot of people move to unless they already have ties there. I was in my 20s and far from home before I heard the phrase “Gyp someone” and in the context I couldn’t figure out what the person meant by it. I had to google, and then had the wrong spelling. When I realized what it meant, I decided to call out the person the next time it was said. It’s been about five years and nothing like that has been said again. I’m left wondering if someone else called them out, which I think it likely.

        1. Clever Alias*

          Gonna be honest, I’m 35, well educated, and in a major metropolitan area… and I just realized from this comment thread where “Gyp’ed” comes from.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            *raises hand*

            Me too, from a comment thread I think about a year ago. I didn’t use the term often, tbh didn’t hear it very often, and had no idea where it even came from. Found out via AAM and mentioned it to my grandma the next time she called, and she had no idea either – and we both agreed it was best to stop using it. You have two generations there that had no idea of the connotations of the term.

      3. soon to be former fed really*

        I’m from Chicago. What is now known as the Maxwell St. Market was formerly known as Jewtown. The area was commonly referred to this way even by black people like myself, who frequented the shops there because negotiating was expected and many necessities (socks, undies) could be purchased for little cash. It was a colorful area with food and music (the Maxwell St, polish with grilled onions is still a Chicago favorite), albeit a little gritty, and most of us looked forward to going there.

        We never used Jewtown in a pejorative way, as the area had been settled by Jewish immigrants to the city who established businesses where they lived. It wasn’t considered a slur back in the 60’s when I was growing up, but I sure wouldn’t call it Jewtown now. Things change. Some elderly black people might though, even though most of the Jewish people long ago moved to the suburbs, and the market is a mere shadow of what it used to be. Reflecting the current wave of immigrants, the greatly-reduced market (quite a bit of the neighborhood was taken by the city for Univ. of Illinois expansion) now has a large Hispanic presence.

        Only people who are members of a given group can decide what offends them, or not. I don’t like to be referred to as African-America, because Africa is a vast continent and I did not immigrate from any African nation, inwhich case I would be Nigerian American, etc. African American is a nonsense phrase to me, I’m just black.

    2. londonedit*

      This whole discussion reminded me of the massive debate around Tottenham Hotspur FC and the club’s association with the word ‘Yid’. Details here – it all blew up again last month because the Oxford English Dictionary included ‘a fan or player of Tottenham Hotspur’ in its definition of ‘Yid’ and ‘Yiddo’. Spurs are based in North London, historically an area of the city with a large Jewish population, and the club has long been associated with the ‘Y-word’, even though it’s often seen as quite offensive to Jewish people. There are huge arguments around whether the fact that some Spurs fans have used the word in their terrace chants since the 1970s means that it’s OK for the club to be associated with the word – many Tottenham fans don’t think that’s the case at all.

      1. Silence Will Fall*

        You can find the same debates in the United States around the use of slurs and derogatory caricatures for Native Americans as mascots and team names. (See Washington state’s professional football team, Cleveland, Ohio’s Major League Baseball team, etc.) There are also numerous high schools across the country that are desperately clinging to their mascots. This one has been getting national attention lately:

        1. Starbuck*

          Washington state’s NFL team is the Seahawks, which has a stylized logo somewhat based on formlines (a particular style of several Northwest coast Native tribes and First Nations) and I think it’s pretty well received though I’m not sure if proper attribution/consultation was done. But I’m assuming you’re referring to Washington DC’s team, which indeed has a horribly offensive racist slur (and accompanying caricature) as it’s mascot.

  12. Free Meerkats*

    For LW1.
    Never work for free; except maybe your parents. You can possibly offer a family discount, but not free. Don’t let your brother guilt you into it; heck, the parents may not be in on his request.

    1. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

      I partly disagree; if someone wants to work pro bono for family or friends, that’s their prerogative. However, I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to ask someone to do that. It would only be appropriate if they offer it of their own volition.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        This. It’s not necessarily a hard and fast rule. Some people will take advantage of a situation and expect a handout (like in this situation), but that doesn’t mean you should never work for free. It totally depends on the situation and those involved.

    2. Sales Geek*

      Yes, this is really common in my line of business (IT). Everyone wants free help with their home computer problems and it rarely works out. Prime example is a friend of mine who fancied himself “quite good with computers” but he’d always come to me when his misadventures led to disaster of one sort or another. I gave him five basic rules of using a home PC and he ignored all of them. Subsequently his home system got infected with ransomware which gave him 36 hours to pay off the ransom in Bitcoin…and I get a call late on Sunday night with less than 12 hours to go asking me “What’s a Bitcoin and how do I get one?” He couldn’t get a Bitcoin account in that short time and subseqently lost years of work. After that I just stopped giving him advice and the onsite help I’d given him for years.

      This is true in other disciplines. One of my hobbies involves automobiles and it’s a truism in that field, too. There are lots of professionals who are true experts in what’s new, what’s reliable, etc. To a person they’ll tell you to *never* give advice to friend or relatives asking the eternal “What car should I buy?” question. Almost nobody takes your advice and it’s fairly common to get shade when someone buys a car against or outside of your advice when their choice turns sour (“You should have told me this car .”)

      To the OP: imagine it’s now five years in the future. You’ve tutored a student for free throughout high school. They’ve managed to get into college and decided that classwork is for losers or to drink their way through freshman year. Guess who’ll get the blame?

      The general rule in sales is that people do not value things they get for free (really truly free). It’s a hard lesson with family but sadly true.

      1. Bluesboy*

        “The general rule in sales is that people do not value things they get for free (really truly free).”

        I read the autobiography of a UK entertainer who used to do a lot of charity work. He said that when he offered to do it for free, he would find himself not notified about changes to the agenda, put into small and dirty changing rooms, expected to cover all his own costs, just generally treated with a lack of respect…

        But when he charged for it, he didn’t only get paid, he got treated better. Clean, appropriate facilities, good communication at every step of the process, treated with respect. So he started charging, and then donating the fee back to the charity afterwards.

        I think the same thing is true on a smaller level for all of us. If you don’t value your services, why should someone else?

        1. Tan*

          A member of my in-law’s family has a DJ business. He organises and puts on his own charity nights now, and refuses other free charity work for this reason. In the past the moment whenever some event planner found out they had a free worker they’d push it. I remember that he “broke” when he signed up to open /play warm up for a charity band night say 8-9pm. Then they wanted him to do a closing set so they could open late (so now he’d be there 8-12pm). Then asked about playing background music during dinner etc. I think he said he had a kids party (not sure if it was true) and they asked if he would cancel the kids party for them, without pay, because it was a much better opportunity to be seen and impress people or some such non-sense. I really would be interested in the psychology of why this seems to happen regularly

      2. Smithy*

        This is incredibly important. And to make a weak attempt of comparison across teenagers, computers and cars – I see a thin comparison of people looking for expert advice and hoping for easy answers.

        For some kids tutoring could be a more structured or 1 on 1 environment where homework is guaranteed to be completed. But it can also mean getting caught up with a class and reteaching material, and then homework has to be done on top of that. There can be additional tutoring homework on top of school work. It could be single class/subject or more comprehensive studying and test taking skills. Regardless, tutoring is just going to be one small component around a teen’s overall high school experience, college applications and grades.

        This kid could have undiagnosed learning or mental health issues that the parents don’t want to hear about. This kid could be an amazing student, but more interested in English/the arts where the parents have a desire for a more STEM/business focus. The opportunity for the LW to step into something messy, made even messier by whether or not payment is included sounds exceptionally high.

        1. Paulina*

          Yes, what if this kid ends up not doing their work, or wanting excess “help” to the extent of doing work for them, or any number of other things that, if an unrelated client were to do, you would likely drop them? So messy. OTOH, it could be a kid who doesn’t need tutoring really, their family is just apprehensive about the switch to high school and want the LW to keep an eye on it (or potentially keep an eye on the kid’s progress for them, also problematic).

    3. Vendelle*

      I give singing lessons to my mother and she insists on paying me the same rste I ask my other clients. I feel that’s how it should be. Family shouldn’t want you to be out of pocket while you’re doing something for them.

    4. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      Nah, never work for free, unless they also give generously to you. If your brother is a the kind of dude who is like, “Your car is making a funny noise? Saturday good for you?”, if your cousin regularly has extra cake that comes your way, if your aunt loaned you $200 bucks when your car died and never bugged you about repayment, if your friend let your crash on his couch for 2 weeks when your apartment situation when FUBAR, then it is super petty to put things on a money footing only when it benefits you. I recently made a cool sewing project for my brother. I would be quite offended if he asked for payment for a welding project I’ve asked for.

      Caveat that it still should not interfere with your ability to make a living, and there should be a sensible limit on the volume of the project.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, that’s exactly right — there are relationships where people do favors for one another, back and forth. Even then, I don’t think the OP should provide ongoing tutoring for free, but a single consultation? Sure.

  13. zaracat*

    #4 I would bring your concerns up with your boss, but also explain that you’ve been in a relationship with this person and that you’re aware that this fact might colour how other people perceive the information you give on her regardless of how accurate it might be, and then offer to put the boss in touch with a previous manager who could provide more information and would be perceived as being a more objective source.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      I like this idea. I feel the former relationship should be addressed, but let someone more objective pass along what happened after the breakup.

  14. Observer*

    #5 – Give this person ONE warning, and loop in whoever is in charge of the program / student. But after that, consider this: If a student can’t behave decently after being directly told, and even after someone has explicitly explained the consequences them, then they don’t belong in teaching.

    I’m not even sure that he deserves the warning. You’ve observed the behavior but when you spoke to him, he got defensive and claimed that everyone else was being mean because he is so much better than everyone else. That’s just obnoxious. But, if you want to be kind, and perhaps give this person a chance to learn how to improve, then use Alison’s script. But ONLY ONCE. Because if he doesn’t shape up COMPLETELY, he actually needs the nuclear option in order to have any chance to learn. I doubt he’ll understand WHY, but that bomb blowing up his coursework might be the only thing that teaches him that whatever he may think (or “know”) about himself in relation to everyone else, he CANNOT behave this way.

    Are you by any chance female? What about the administrator and other team members?

    1. I teach in a teaching program*

      An intervention is in order for this student teacher.
      1. Document instances of this rude and unprofessional behavior.
      2. Have a meeting with other supervisors who have observed this rude and unprofessional behavior
      3. Call a meeting of the teachers with this student teacher.
      4. in the meeting emphasize the reason for the student teaching
      a. expected behavior
      b. what the student did
      c. emphasize that this is not a discussion
      d. state that the student teacher has been given ample time to correct this behavior.
      e. state what the student should do in these cases.
      f. state that if there is one more instance of unprofessional behavior they will be released from the program
      Also- not everyone is cut out to be a classroom teacher. This was something that took me awhile to learn.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        I agree with everything you said. Preservice teachers can’t just be fired like in a regular job. There is a LOT that has to happen first.

        1. I teach in a teaching program*

          This IS part of the job of the supervising teacher. I had a student teacher once who had to be told repeatedly that we (teachers) do not talk about students (or their parents) in public spaces. Good or bad. Never in hallways, stairwells, in classrooms with children, lobbies, in the Starbucks down the street, at the grocery store.
          If I recall correctly, I had to remind her 3 or 4 times before the impulse to do so was curbed.

          1. Middle School Teacher*

            Exactly. It’s part of the job, but my point is that this isn’t like a normal job where you just terminate someone. You have to go through the whole song and dance (including the university, which OP doesn’t mention) before you turf them from the program. I also have reminded student teachers of some pretty basic stuff multiple times. Only twice was it bad enough for me to remove them from the program.

  15. M*

    OP3: electric foot warmer! Electric foot warmer, electric foot warmer, electric foot warmer. They’re basically like an electric blanket shaped into one large boot lined with fleece for your feet, and will have you feeling your toes in no time. You can also get mats that are heated to put your shod feet on, but I’d go for the nuclear option for what you’re describing. Might want to consider a lap pad as well, tucked behind your back in your chair.

    1. M*

      You’re less likely to have issues with maintenance than you would with a full space heater, they’re pretty energy efficient, and if there’s any concern about slippers looking inappropriately casual at work it’ll be much clearer why you’re using it than slippers would be.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        Just make sure anything electronic your bring in is PAT tested by building maintenance, especially if it’s an old building!

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I came here to say this!

      But I suspect that LW won’t be allowed to plug in any personal items at work (combination of UK H&S fussiness in general and NHS caution in particular).

      If that’s the case, she could look at keeping something similar but unpowered under her desk, such as a fluffy cat bed, and use it as a kind of muff for her feet without needing to take her shoes or socks off. Even a cheap rug or bathmat (eg spending under a tenner on a faux sheepskin or RISGÅRDE or TOFTBO at Ikea) keeping one’s feet well insulated from a cold floor makes a huge difference.

      1. M*

        If they won’t let OP3 use an electric one, a microwaveable heatpack on a decently insulating rug would be the next-best option.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Agreed! I think the key will be stopping the floor from seizing what warmth she has in her feet.

        2. Annony*

          I was coming here to say this! You can even make your own by filling a sock with rice.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      “Gyp” is an extremely anti-rroma word and truly needs to be excised from your vocabulary immediately.

      I have no idea how to word that professionally though! Thank goodness it has never come up in any of my jobs nor has explicit anti-semitism. Sexism and homophobia, yes.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I’ll be honest, I didn’t know about that particular smear against Roma people until this very moment. I never saw it in writing and just assumed it was a regular verb spelled “jipped.” Thank you for clarifying this for me.

        1. Batgirl*

          I used to think it was spelled that way too. Who would assume the other way? As well as being horribly racist its the most bizarre twisting of a noun ever.

      2. HannahS*

        When my boss and her boss used it in front of me, I said, “Oh no, no, we don’t use that word. No. It’s from, you know, Gypsy.” They were well-intentioned people who had no idea, were appropriately horrified, and never said it again. So, sometimes you just spit it out.

        For anything, you can always say, “Whoa, no, that’s not an appropriate word. It comes from ______, so it’s considered pretty racist.” A well-meaning person will look awful say something like, “I HAD NO IDEA;” an ill-intentioned person will either try to justify it or tell you you’re overreacting.

        1. Salty Caramel*

          ‘You’re overreacting’ always equals ‘I want to be an a**hole with no consequences’ in my experience.

      3. Fulana del Tal*

        Not in the US. Gyp/Gypsy were not associated with the Roma unlike UK/EU. A gypsy wasn’t a derogatory term here, just a free spirit. There’s a lot of words and phrases that are offensive here but innocuous elsewhere and vice versa. We can’t expect people to know every single other cultural norm.

        I have never heard anyone call a Jewish neighborhood a jewtown. But I’m calling BS they didn’t know that was a derogatory term.

        1. Not A Manager*

          Hey, I’m sorry, but the only way I’ve ever heard “gyp” in the U.S. was “I’ve been gypped,” or “it’s a gyp.” That doesn’t mean “I’ve been sprinkled with fairy dust by a free spirit,” it means “I’ve been duped by someone whose name is synonymous with cheating.”

          1. Fellow Boot Fancier*

            Yes, I found to my chagrin that that is exactly the meaning—and thus the slur as it comes from equating a Gypsy with a thief/conperson. Since a European friend kindly explained this, I use the term ‘I’ve been conned’ to avoid that unintentional slur against the Roma (for clarity, I’m in the US)

          2. Annie O Mous*

            I had no idea it was derogatory until just recently. In fact I thought it was spelled jipped (?!). I found myself never really using it in writing scenarios, so it never occurred to me to look up the spelling. I have removed it from my vocabulary.

          3. Quill*

            The only other context I’ve heard the word gypsy is as a stage name… like many other examples of racism, there’s both a romanticized side (the free spirit!) and the reality that this romanticization only applies to people adopting or appropriating items from the oppressed culture.

        2. MsSolo*

          In the UK, “Gypsy” is still used by Travellers to describe themselves, so it’s got a slightly different nuance here. I don’t know if it’s because we have a lot of different traditionally nomadic cultures (Roma, Scottish Travellers and Irish Travellers are recognised in law, while Bargee/Boatmen, Showmen, and New Age Travellers are also considered travellers by the general community) and some use it and some don’t, or if it’s been reclaimed, or if it’s just not the battle travellers are currently engaged in fighting, but you will see it used in UK discourse by travellers, and you’d want to be careful about calling it out.

          1. MsSolo*

            Eh, I should clarify before anyone asks – you should be careful about calling it out unless you’re certain the person isn’t a traveller. And people wildly underestimate how many people are travellers, or assume they’d ‘know’ if someone was (a bit like “I never knew you were Jewish”) so just be conscious you’re not telling someone how to refer to themself.

            (It’s fair to say someone using ‘gypped’ is pretty much never a traveller! Also, in the UK, don’t use ‘Chav’ – that’s a Romany word appropriated as a slur)

            1. Champagne Cocktail*

              I wondered where ‘chav’ came from (I’m in the US, but consume a lot of British media). Thank you for mentioning that.

        3. Arctic*

          Yes, in the US. The phrase literally means you’ve been ripped off. And is associated with gypsies.

          Now, absolutely, Roma exist in the US but aren’t a very large population and much of the US is only aware of them as an ethnic minority in the context of Europe (or, frankly, not at all.) So, it makes sense that a lot of people don’t connect the phrase with the ethnicity immediately. But once it is pointed out you should immediately stop.

        4. blackcat*

          Uh, no, Gyp is most definitely offensive in the US. It’s just that many people don’t know the history of the word.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      There’s a difference between intention and impact. Someone could have an innocuous intention, but that doesn’t make it any less hurtful to the person hearing it. If someone talked to me the way they did to letter writer #2, I would absolutely be offended. I would find a way to tell them so later, calmly but I would respond regardless. That said, I certainly wouldn’t blame the person targeted for responding in a way that was angry

      By saying there is no problem unless you make it one, you are minimizing how it felt to #2. That impact was real, and the target deserves to be listened to about their experience. And “very diluted” anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism regardless. Language matters, a lot. Because with discrimination. there are those who will take it as okay and it leads to real harm in people’s lives–whether as co-workers, neighbors, or whole communities.

      I don’t “goodwill” is a finite resource. When it comes to hate and discrimination, it’s definitely a good idea to find tactics that promote goodwill. And sometimes that just isn’t possible, and I have to stand up and oppose bigotry anyway.

    3. Boo*

      If you don’t fight the small things, they continue and build upon each other and add up into big things. Calling someone out for being racist doesn’t make them more racist. They either are or they aren’t, and calling them out will let you know which it is. Unfortunately, it sounds like you are also racist, which would explain why you’re against calling out racism.

    4. SS Express*

      I hope you meant to say you used to use “gyp” until today, when you learned what it means and how it harms people.

    5. Gaia*

      Gyp is incredibly offensive to the Roma community and you need to stop using it now that you know this.

    6. Observer*

      I know a lot of people who don’t know the history of the word “gyp” so I don’t jump down their throat, especially since it’s not obvious. But enough people DO know, including the victims that it IS hurtful. That is enough reason to stop using the term.

      As for trying to claim that “Jew Town” is “not really” anti-Semitic and we shouldn’t protest antisemitism unless it’s “really” bad, you clearly either know nothing of history AND current event or are choosing to ignore it.

      Jew Town *is* intended as a slur. And, do not for one minute think that just because you don’t protest antisemitism, the antisemites are going to see you as one of the “good ones”. They won’t. And in the meantime all that happens is that it gets normalized and decent people get inured to it.

    7. Not A Manager*

      “It’s a similar thing with “Jewtown” or Chinatown. It’s innoccuous, it’s just referring to a neighborhood or area with Jews. We uninitiated normal people can’t guess it’s bad.”

      So, I’m curious. Do you refer to, say, “Whitetown?” Or “Christianville?” When you say “normal people,” who are you talking about actually? Your system has “normal” people who don’t need adjectives to describe them, because they are normal, and abnormal people who are set apart from normal people by specifying their otherness. Like, say, “lady doctor,” or “same-sex partners,” or “Jewtown.”

      I can see referring to *commercial districts* by *relevant* monikers, like “Chinatown” if it has a lot of Chinese restaurants and stores that attract tourists, or “Greektown” for the same. But it would be completely offensive to refer to a residential neighborhood with no significant commercial attraction as “Little Italy” just because a bunch of people of Italian descent happen to live there.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Could someone explain to me what’s the difference between “Jewtown” and “Ghetto” in anti-Semitism?

        1. Weyrwoman*

          Not a whole lot. During and for centuries before the Holocaust, Jews were forced into ghettos to keep them away from the rest of the populace, usually as a precursor to straight-up kicking all Jewish people out of the country/kingdom. So calling a predominantly Jewish area a ghetto is frankly awful. Jewtown is functionally just as bad, because IME you don’t refer to people that are Jewish these days as “Jews”. You say Jewish.

          Imagine, if you will, that you live in a city where the predominantly black area is called a ghetto (very common in the US). Now imagine that in addition to that, someone you know (who isn’t black) calls it N-town or Blacktown.

          None of these are acceptable.

          1. Jessica*

            Eh, that’s not quite true. “Ghetto” is a technical term in the history of Jewish life in Europe, and most books on Jewish life in Italy use it in that sense, so it’s a word that can be used in a non-derogatory, formal sense.

            The same is not true of “Jewtown.”

            1. whingedrinking*

              ^^This. For comparison, think of words like “gulag”. We would absolutely say, for example, “Dissidents in the Soviet Union were imprisoned in gulags”. We would not (I hope) say, “The Russian neighbourhood? Oh, you mean the gulag.”

      2. Amy Sly*

        Also, if this is true:

        But it would be completely offensive to refer to a residential neighborhood with no significant commercial attraction as “Little Italy” just because a bunch of people of Italian descent happen to live there.

        What’s the verdict on “gayborhood”?

        1. Valprehension*

          My local gayborhood is home to many LGBTQ+ businesses, and I think this is often the case.

          1. Amy Sly*

            True. Of course, that’s part of why more devout Jewish folks congregate into neighborhoods as well: if you can’t drive to shul, then you have to live close enough to walk. That’s the logical place to open kashrut grocery stores too, and since a kashrut restaurant has to have Jewish cooks, the restauranteur logically puts his location near his employees and customers.

        2. Blueberry*

          Two axioms I’ve observed on this subject:

          1) Do the people concerned call the place that or is it an outside appellation?
          2) Were they forced to live there in segregation or did they congregate there for mutual support?

          “Gayborhood” is a term I learned from other queer people about neighborhoods where we’ve congregated and built up. From what I kbow “Chinatown” is similar but the term which sparked the discussion is not at all.

          1. whingedrinking*

            I would add to that “Does this word have a history of being used in a derogatory fashion by outsiders, even if it has been reclaimed by the people concerned?” I would encourage my fellow white people not to refer to “the rez”, whether or not Thomson Highway titled his play The Rez Sisters.

    8. Observer*

      There is a good piece floating around about impact vs intent – If you are standing on someone’s foot it doesn’t really matter why, you need to get off their foot. And someone TELLING YOU that you are on their foot can’t be seen as rude.

      By the same token, if someone says something antisemitic (or derogatory or *Ist) it doesn’t really matter what they intended. They need to stop saying it. Telling someone that what they are saying is atnisemitic does NOT “impede” tolerance. If someone is acting in good faith and simply did not realize, then telling them won’t suddenly cause them to become an antisemite. Rather it will inform them that they are doing the verbal equivalent of standing on your foot, and they can stop doing that. If they, instead, react with stronger antisemitism, it was NOT “caused” by you telling them, it was caused by the fact that they are antisemitic jerks who don’t care that they are saying antisemitic things.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I like this analogy a lot relating impact vs intent to standing on someone’s foot. Thanks for sharing, I plan to use it.

    9. Julia*

      So Jewish people aren’t “normal”??? And pointing out issues like derogaroty language is “making a problem”?????? If there has even been a time to use the term “check your privilege”, I would say it’s now.

      1. Gaia*

        Oooh, I missed the “normal people.”

        I hope they meant “normal” as opposed to anti-Semitic. But if not, yikes.

      2. Observer*

        Actually, I don’t think that applies. Alison removed the post, but I believe that …Maya Elena says she’s Jewish. To me it reads far more of wanting to “fit in” and “rocking the boat” so that people see her as “one of the good ones” who is “not like the other ones.”

        Obviously I could be wrong. But it’s just so typical that to me it’s the horse whereas privilege is the zebra. (Unless you are in Africa, when you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras.)

    10. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

      Excuse me?!

      Wow. There’s just so much wrong in this post, from minimizing anti-Semitism, to implying some sort of “normalness” VS “otherness”.

      You really need to check your privilege.

  16. Maria Lopez*

    OP2- I completely do not look like the typical person of the ethnic group to which I belong, and have heard epithets like this one for my entire life, some much worse. After a while you can remain calm while at the same time making the other person aware that their speech is not ok. I will usually say “what?” to make the person repeat what they said. Sometimes just that simple question is enough for them to recognize what they said is not ok. If they are still clueless, I will say, “you know that’s really not appropriate language to use, right?”
    If I get pushback I still remain calm and tell them that all of their reasons for saying it still does not obviate the fact that it is not an appropriate thing to say.
    I rarely tell the person that I belong to the group they are disparaging. That just allows them to say that “you are just overly sensitive, etc”.

  17. Gaia*

    OP 2, I’ll be honest – I’ve never heard that particular phrase and even I winced reading it. It certainly doesn’t sound like a respectful thing someone says. I mean, damn. Say something to your coworker. What the actual ffff!?

    1. RVA Cat*

      It’s worth bringing up that it caused a scandal back in 1984 (!) when Jesse Jackson said the less-obvious “Hymietown” while running for president.

  18. LVR*

    OP3 – Have a look at getting some Ugg boots. They’re warm, and although they’r still quite casual they are not as casual as fluffy slippers would be.

    1. Batgirl*

      I was thinking the exact same thing. My sheepskin uggs are the warmest things I’ve ever worn and I start wearing them as slippers long before i have to go outside.

  19. Editor*

    Isn’t part of the problem with anti-Semitic slurs that Jew is both a functional term that is not a slur and a slur that’s a slur? For instance, Bernie Sanders is a Jew. That’s factual. But a person who says “you aren’t going to vote for a Jew, are you?” is using the same word but heading into different, and offensive, anti-Semitic territory.

    Calling an area of town “Jewtown” is not the same as calling a neighborhood “Little Italy.” It’s more like calling Little Italy “sp*ctown.” Using “Jewtown,” whether accidentally or deliberately, calls up images of the ghettoization and persecution of Jews.

    1. Anon for this one*

      Interesting, I’ve never heard the argument that “Jew” itself is a slur–I think by that measure anything can be a slur if you say it with hatred.

      An ex-friend group developed around pursuit of a hobby. Everyone was well-versed and passionately interested in this culture. But they started using a term to describe certain people from that culture. It wasn’t an existing slur, but they started using it like one: “…Then this pretzel shows up, and is like [negative action.” “Oh man, that’s so like pretzels to do that.” “Yeah, what a f—ing pretzel.” You can literally substitute any noun for pretzel and suddenly it becomes a hate-filled slur directed at a group of people. This is how slurs are made.

      1. MtnLaurel*

        I have been told by a Jewish person that saying someone is a Jew is a slur. The correct way to refer to someone in that group is as a Jewish person. I’m not sure if that was personal preference on her part as I’ve not heard it anywhere else, before or since, but since then I’ve tried to adjust my language.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          That’s not remotely universal. Calling someone who is not Jewish “a Jew” to somehow imply something derogatory would be the sort of “slurrification” of the word, in the same way that calling something “gay” implying that means “bad” is. But saying unless the tone or context implies something hateful, “a Jew” or “is Jewish” or “a Jewish person” are all equivalent to me, a Jew. Jew as a verb however is always hateful.

          Although if we wanted to go down a rabbit hole of language (I’m not sure we do and apologize if this is too derailing), but it’s always bothered me when people conflate anti-semitism and racism. “Jewish” is not a race, and the primary sources I’ve personally encountered framing us as such are from white supremacists. “Jewish” is both an ethnicity and a religion. So I tend to shudder when I hear anti-semitism referred to as a form of racism (form of bigotry yes, racism no) because it gives credence to the idea that “Jewish” is a race. It’s not. There are Jews of many races, even though most are white. (even if neo-nazis don’t want that to be so)

          That said, if your friend is personally offended by the phrasing you mentioned, it’s very kind of you to change it. But I don’t know that this particular correction is as straightforward as it was presented to you by that person.

          1. MtnLaurel*

            Thanks for the clarification. Since I can’t know who does/doesn’t find it offensive, I’ve tried to adjust my language, but I’m glad to know that it’s not as worrisome as I had feared.

          2. Anon for this one*

            Seconding this.

            Also yes, that sticky situation of ethnoreligious groups! It’s like when people refer to Latino/as and Hispanics as a “race”… a race that speaks Spanish? (Or Portuguese if you try to include Brazil, except Portugal usually doesn’t count, oh and Haiti and Jamaica don’t count, but Cuba and PR and DR do…) I usually just chalk it up to laziness/sloppiness of speech/a B on their social justice report card.

        2. Filosofickle*

          I was told this early on in my life and it stayed with me. A good friend who’s Jewish said that while it’s not a slur, it is so often used as one that she recommended I avoid it to be safe. That was 20 years ago. Since then I’ve gone on to work closely with several Jewish organizations and schools and they disagreed.

          I still struggle a bit with it. If I can use it as an adjective (Jewish person, Jewish community) easily, that is preferable. But if I find myself getting tied up in knots to avoid saying Jew where it’s appropriate and neutral to do so in conversation, I shorten it up. But it always sounds a little wrong to my ear; I never want to someone to feel disrespected. (I do a lot of communications stuff, so getting language right is critical to my work.)

      2. Quill*

        Hence how easy it is for various minority communities to have no un-controversial word for themselves, because as soon as people outside the group get their hands on it, it’s used as a slur.

      3. Observer*

        Yes, Editor may have used a poor example, but they are completely correct. “Jew” has been used as a slur. – When “Jew” is used as a descriptor, rather than Jewish, it’s almost certainly an anti-Semitic slur. For example: “Jew wad” (noun) or “Jew down” (verb).

      4. Jessica*

        “Jew” (as opposed to “Jewish”) when used as an adjective is most definitely a slur.

        consider how “Jew lawyer” as opposed to “Jewish lawyer” sounds

    2. Batgirl*

      Not A Manager made a really good point upthread about the word being used as an adjective whereas you wouldn’t use adjectives for ‘whitetown’ and ‘Christiantown’.

    3. YA Author*

      Friends have explained to me that “Jew” has been used so commonly as a pejorative term that it has a bit of a “bite” even when that’s not intended. They prefer “Jewish,” e.g. “He’s Jewish” rather than “He’s a Jew.”

      Words can absolutely be factual and hurtful. (See, for example, how the word “retarded” has fallen out of favor due to extremely common use as a pejorative. The term itself is actually quite clear and descriptive—slowed down—but it’s not at all appropriate to use.)

      1. Stormy Weather*

        I trained a young co-worker out of using ‘retarded.’ It took me over a week to tell him every single time he said it that it was wrong to. Pain in the a** but worth the effort.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, I think this is the problem. On its face, there’s nothing wrong with the word Jew, but it was used as a pejorative term so long and so frequently that it became one. I remember as a teenager hearing someone on TV say “Happy {whatever Jewish holiday it was} to all you Jews in the audience” and thinking wow, that’s not okay, is it?

    4. Mookie*

      I don’t really see how this distinguishes anti-semitism from other bigotries. Labels that might otherwise be benign and with benign origins, if they have a history of being used as a pejorative, become taboo and for good reason. For example, I grew up with the understanding that constructions like Woman Doctor were old-fashioned, chauvinist, belittling, and othering, a relic from pre-liberation white America. As a result of the wholly justifiable backlash against using female as a noun, however, this construction has been reintroduced into the vernacular. It still reads very grammatically and politically wrong to me—“female doctor” is perfectly serviceable—but I recognize why some people younger than me prefer it.

      Jew has been so consistently used as a slur that Jewish has become the first choice for anti- anti-semites, at least for many Anglophones.

    5. Julia*

      I agree with Anon that any word can be made to sound like an insult, but I thought it might be worth noting that “Jude” or “Du Jude” (you Jew) has definitely been used and still is being used as a definite insult in German.

    6. WS*

      Yeah, you can pick it up pretty easily by tone and usage. If someone refers to me as gay, that’s fine, I am in fact gay. If someone refers to me as “a gay” or “one of those gays” then I’m going to be alert to what they say next. It’s possible that they’re not aware how it sounds, in which case a mild correction will be fine, but they might be perfectly happy with how it sounds and I need to watch my back.

      1. Bluesboy*

        Well expressed. I think that probably holds true for many non-offensive words. To modify the example given by Editor, “you aren’t going to vote for a WOMAN, are you?” or ‘an Asian’, or ‘a gay’, or pretty much anything, they can become offensive, yet none of the words are offensive in themselves. It’s the meaning behind the phrase rather than the word itself that makes it offensive.

        The use for a place seems a little more complicated. There’s a place in Italy with a lot of English immigrants that I’ve heard called Chiantishire, there’s Little Italy, there’s Chinatown…and I don’t think anyone would consider them offensive. But if you name a place with a large Jewish population (say Golders Green in London) Jewtown then it would be offensive, even though the word Jew is not.

        1. whingedrinking*

          See also: “cis is a slur”. Yes, there are trans people who use “cis” as an insult (not a slur, but that’s a different issue). One can also, in context, use “doormat” as an insult. That doesn’t mean we need to rename the thing we wipe our feet on.

    7. Koala dreams*

      Yes, your’re right, and that’s the problem with a lot of slurs in general. If people used Little Italy to refer to ghettoisation and persecution, it too would become a slur, and after a while it would be a thing that nobody said anymore, unless they were rascists. In so far, it’s not useful to educate people of the history of the slur, since most slurs has a history of legitimate use as non-slurs.

      With disabilities it’s even more clear, since the disability used as slur changes as the time goes on, and so the list of slurs get longer, and also the list of the linguistic innovations for refering to disabilities.

    8. Em*

      Bernie Sanders is Jewish. Think about the statement “Bloomberg is a white” or “So and so is a black” or ” I work with a Chinese”
      – the adjective form is description, the noun is problematic.

      1. Em*

        Edited to add: I mentioned “a white” only to point out the oddness of that phrasing in other contexts, not to say that it’s at all comparable in meaning.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          I think the ambiguity is in part because it’s both a religious identity and an ethnicity. So you could say that “Sanders is a Jew and Obama is a Christian” and it doesn’t sound so odd and objectifying.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            You’re right that it’s less odd/objectifying in that context. But as an editor, I’d still change it to “Sanders is Jewish and Obama is Christian.”

      2. Arctic*

        I totally agree. But I would note that people do say things like Jon is a Catholic or a Christian. But it’s not that common with ethnicity.

      3. Julia*

        We see this a lot with the word “female”. Used as a noun, as in “females are all XY” or “females want ABC”, it suddenly feels really gross.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I probably wouldn’t either but in certain sentences it’s not as off-sounding, IMHO.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Well, you can! There’s nothing wrong with “a Jew.” That’s how we refer to ourselves, and there’s something very icky about people deciding it’s a slur, so please don’t do that! It’s only a slur when someone racist decides to use it as a pejorative, the way some racists do with “Mexican.”

        It’s actually very weird when you can tell people are going out of their way to avoid saying “Jew” — they say “the Jewish people” in situations where they’d never say “the Christian people.” We’re Jews. It’s not a slur unless you use it as a slur.

        1. Observer*

          I think that what may be throwing people off is that when it’s used as a modifier, it is generally a slur.

          “That’s a Jewish town” is a simple statement. “That’s a Jew Town.” is a put down.

          The guy down the hall from you is a Jew, fine. The guy down the hall is a Jew boy? I think the difference is obvious.

        2. Anon for this one*

          Yes, this was my understanding as well. I think it’s just harder for bigots to twist “Jewish” into hateful grammar configurations than nouns.

    9. Nope, not today*

      Yep, there’s a way to make any word or adjective derogatory, even if they aren’t inherently derogatory words…. My 11 year old daughter one day, when her sister asked for help, responded by saying ‘pick it up yourself *princess*” in the most preteen sneery way imaginable. I absolutely lost my sh*t over this, she tried the ‘but its not a bad word, its not mean, its not an insult’ arguments, and spent the rest of the day trying to use princess in every way possible to prove she was not wrong. She WAS wrong, because she meant it in a derogatory and insulting way (after an 8 hour battle over this word I really really hope she understands this now…. I want to say I have more hope for adults, but people dig in their heels and are absolute jerks sometimes)

      1. Grapey*

        Was the word itself the problem, or that she didn’t want to help her sister? I’ve called someone on a very crowded bus “princess” (I suspect in the same tone of voice your daughter used) when she wouldn’t move her grocery bag onto her lap to let anyone sit down.

    10. Jennifer Thneed*

      Well, no. Bernie Sanders is Jewish. He’s not “a Jew”.

      “Jew” is a noun, and “Jewish” is an adjective, and what it’s modifying is the important word “person”. Bernie Sanders is a jewish PERSON.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        Bernie Sanders is a Jew. I am a Jew. It’s also fine to say “Jewish person,” but as someone mentioned upthread, it seems to be a weird way of not saying “Jew.”

      2. Jessica*

        He absolutely is a Jew. A single member of the Jewish people is a Jew. Collectively, we are Jews.

        “Jew” can absolutely be used as a slur (generally when used as an adjective rather than as a noun: “Jew family” rather than “Jewish family”), but the name for a member of our people is NOT a slur: it is *our name*, not something forced on us by outsiders (like actual slurs), and it’s not the place of a non-Jew to tell us our very name is now somehow taboo.

  20. Fikly*

    #5: This person doesn’t have a right to the degree. This person has to earn the degree, just like everyone else. If their behavior in this training demonstrates that they are unable to act professionally, then getting the degree does a disservice to everyone who will be dealing with them professionally in the future, because they do not have the skills that the degree promises.

    Have one conversation with them, clearly outlining the behavior they need to demonstrate, and the consequences if they do not comply. It’s not up for debate whether the behavior is needed, or if they are not doing the behavior. People’s motivations for complaining about their behavior doesn’t matter either – the issue is the behavior is not up to par. You’re in charge.

    If, at some point in the future, their behavior changes, then they can go back and get the degree.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I agree.

      I get that OP is coming from a place of wanting to be kind but really, acquiring a teaching degree is not a human right and as such not something this dude entitled to. Sometimes we want to take a certain path in life and just aren’t suited for it, which is sad and unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean others should bend over backwards to help us stay on that path regardless. Sometimes we simply don’t get what we want and honestly, just going off of the letter itself, this guy sounds like an absolute nightmare of a teacher in several regards.

      Also, OP, in the very end of your letter, yous ask whether there is “anything [you] can do at this point to help him without having a negative impact on [yourself] or the entire team” and I’d say… scrap that first part, honestly. You have to look out for yourself, your team, and your students here first. This guy is already and all by himself a negative impact on everyone in this school who interacts with him – he’s defensive, unable to read a room, disruptive, and highly likely to grind the gears of not only his fellow teaching trainees but the students and their parents as well.

      I vote for one (1) very direct discussion so that you can say that you did talk to him about it and to give him a chance to maybe finally get it (I doubt that he will but who knows) and then termination. Because really, who has time for this nonsense, especially in the educational field?

      1. River Song*

        Also, “everybody is jealous because the kids like me best” does not sound professional to me. Teachers who are more concerned about students liking them (usually the “cool” students?) are usually not good teachers from my personal experience

        1. Antilles*

          Similarly, in my high school experience, the teachers who *were* concerned about seeming cool and being liked usually came across completely phony and transparently trying too hard…so there’s a pretty good chance that his “all the students like me best” is off-base and they’re secretly mocking him the instant he turns his back.

          1. Quill*

            Especially when he’s a recent college grad, if he’s at all arrogant in addition to trying too hard to be cool… the students will sense his youth and go shark feeding frenzy on him eventually. (More likely for middle / high schoolers… but even kindergarteners can, and will get you. Eventually.)

        2. Myrin*

          I also wonder if it’s true at all (that the students like him, I mean; he might be knowledgeable but it doesn’t sound like he’s a good listener or someone who’ll really work with someone who has troubles understanding something). It sounds like he picked up on there being some dissonance among his group (specifically towards him) and thought of the next best thing to counter any allusion to that (whether he himself believes it’s true is another matter entirely) .

    2. Quill*

      Agreed. LW 5, your duty is to your students, not to your student teacher. The student teacher is an adult responsible for their own actions.

      Also, there are two distinct varieties of the “cool” teacher – one is a mentor (like my middle school science teacher) who will lead and assist kids. The other, which never works out, is the person who wants to be In With The Popular Kids and they aren’t effective as teachers or as adults responsible for children.

  21. Fellow Boot Fancier*

    Op#3: Suggest a heated foot rest. If you go online/Amazon/etc. they run about $35USD & are so worth it! My old, semi open office banned portable heaters. With poor airflow and generally reduced heat for cost savings (!!!!! Grrr!), this was my under-the-radar solution. Worked so well I put a hand towel on it so I could luxuriate in the heat on my bare feet. When I quit for a non-office job, it went to my colleague who still thanks me whenever we get together. Good luck!

    1. 2QS*

      I have Raynaud’s and have been struggling – I spend 90% of my time at my desk trying to get my feet to warm up enough that I can think about other things. Space heaters, slippers, socks, all of the above – nothing is keeping a dent from developing in my productivity. This suggestion might just have solved my problem. Thank you!

      1. Fellow Boot Fancier*

        I hope so! Good luck! Mine looked like a regular footrest for short people and could go flat at an angle you could adjust per your length of leg. Then there was an easy way to turn it on/press a thingy with the feet and bask in the sensation of toasty toes. I really hope one of these can help you!!

    2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      I was just coming on here to suggest this. I have one at work, my previous building was very damp and drafty and this helps a lot. Most of the kinds have two settings, one to rest your feet on or to stand it up as a heated panel. I don’t know about everyone else but when my feet are cold, the rest of me gets cold!

  22. Lady Heather*

    LW1, I was reminded of Mike Monteiro’s “F*ck You, Pay Me” talk. It’s on youtube:

    LW3, I used to have this thing:
    You plug it in the socket and it sends your feet to heaven. It’s wonderful.

  23. Rexish*

    I wear wool socks at work all the time. I don’t like wearing shoes indoors. What you are wearing under your desk shouldn’t matter.

  24. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    OP3 in the UK – aside from recommending Ugg boots I recommend you take a thermometer into work! You’re legally required to be protected by your employer according to the Health and Safety at Work Act and your office MUST be 16C or warmer after the first hour of work. If it isn’t, your employer MUST, legally, provide heating to make sure it is. Speak to your Union rep and I am sure a heater will be permitted.

    1. IcicleToes*

      OP3 here, this is something I hadn’t thought of. I think this office used to house a generator and was not initially designed for people. I will check what the temperature is, it may be more than 16C though because as a small woman I get cold fairly easily

    2. BHB*

      I hate to nitpick, but it’s not a legal requirement. There is no legal minimum (or maximum) temperature in the UK, only that the temperature in the workplace be “comfortable” and “reasonable”.

      The 16C is a guidline laid down by the HSE and most employers would seek to adhere to that, so it’s certainly a good idea for OP3 to bring it up to her managers/office maintenance/whoever it appropriate, but she shouldn’t go in all-guns-blazing about legal rights etc as she wouldn’t be backed up by the law.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I agree that she shouldn’t go in with guns blazing, but having actual data from a thermometer also tends to work better than just complaining that it’s “freezing” or “roasting” in an office. General complaints about temperature tend to get people written off as just a complainer, whereas statements like “the office is currently X degrees and hasn’t been above Y degrees in the past 3 days” tend to show that something really is wrong/broken.

      2. Annony*

        Even if there isn’t an actual minimum number, I have found exact temperature readings helps me be taken more seriously than just saying I’m cold. My desk used to be freezing and maintenance was blowing me off. When I measured the temperature and was able to tell them that it was literally 4 degrees C at my desk, they came the same day to figure out what was wrong.

    3. PJH*

      There is no “must.”

      “[the 1992 regulations state that] employers [are] to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace.”

      “[A code of practice, not law] suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius (13°C if rigorous physical work involved). … These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements.”

  25. Snoopy*

    5. Maybe I’m just terrible but I’m the type of person who can fall into #5’s camp. People arent always doing things the wrong way with ill intentions. A lot of us come from different backgrounds and dont fall into line as well. He may need a kinder discussion instead of just a knock it off discussion. It sounds like he’s really passionate about teaching but isnt channeling that passion in a good way.

    1. Fikly*

      If you have been told to knock it off and you do not, you do not have good intentions, because at that point, you are disregarding the clear instructions of people who are in charge of you, have vastly more experience than you, and know way more than you.

    2. LQ*

      I get that people can be passionate and end up steered wrong, but if someone tells you to knock something off you need to knock it off.

      You could try making sure that they understand the context of why what they are doing is inappropriate and incredibly self-centered, but a straightforward “This is not acceptable behavior,” needs to be adhered to.

      Someone can have the best intentions, but once you start excusing your bad behavior (everyone else is just jealous) and refusing to stop then you now have doubled down on it, you are now intentionally behaving badly.

      A kind discussion here is a really clear and direct one.

      If you are on the receiving end of lots of conversations like this you can try, “I will absolutely commit to changing my behavior. I’d like to understand the impact of my behavior, could you walk me through what is happening here please?”

    3. EPLawyer*

      When his first response is “everyone’s just jealous of me” he is not coming from a place of misunderstanding. He is most likely one of those people who bully their way into things then blame others when it goes over poorly. Basically, he could be the person in LW2 in another context. When confronted he would say “aww I was joking, can’t you take a joke.”

      Those who are coming from a place of misunderstanding when told how their behavior are perceived ask how to improve/deal with the situation. They don’t deflect and blame.

      But either way, the advice is the same. It’s not a knock it off conversation. It is laying out clear expectations of behavior. The REASON for the poor behavior doesn’t matter. The person now knows they must behave a certain way from now on. If they are truly confused about professional norms, now they know and can do better and accept coaching for any slip ups. If they are just jack wagons, they will blow it off and then complain they “didn’t know they would be fired over this.” Even if they were told those were the consequences.

      1. Annony*

        He has been told to stop and refused. Now is time for the blunt conversation that tells him he is about to be kicked out of the program. If he is really that passionate about teaching he will appreciate the heads up instead of a gentle conversation he blows off that results in his expulsion from the program.

    4. Senor Montoya*

      No, I’m sorry, but intentions are not the point here. Can he do the work correctly? When he does it incorrectly, does he listen to feedback and try to correct? Since the answers are “no” and “no” — he *can’t do the work competently* and equally as important, he refuses to learn how to do it.

      I can have the best intentions in the world and want to help you, but if I insist on stitching up a gigantic gash in your leg with yarn and a darning needle, you need to tell me to stop it, and you need to be direct about it.

      OP has already been kind. Too kind.

      You’re not terrible, Snoopy. You’re nice, in a situation where nice is counterproductive.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      I don’t think he needs a kinder conversation – I think he needs a very direct conversation that outlines WHAT the problem is, WHY it is a problem, and WHAT he should be doing about it, together with clear expectations / outcomes that he needs to meet.

      Something like “Bob, when you interrupt private conversations, insert yourself into conversations and then dominate them by focusing on yourself, and interrupt people who are discussing an issue without first waiting to see if they want your input, you come across to others as someone who is disrespectful, self-absorbed, and out of touch with professional standards of conduct. This is going to severely hurt your ability to be successful in this program and in your career. Communicating professionally and being self-aware with senior school officials, coworkers, and parents is table stakes for being a teacher. Here are the expectations for you to be successful in this internship (whatever it is called): A, B, C. We will review your progress every week to make sure you are learning these skills. Failure to meet these requirements will result in termination from the program.”

      It is equally important to focus on what this person SHOULD be doing. They may not know. They may not have the self-awareness to realize this is poor professional or even social behaviour. Since the student teacher is a student, it’s appropriate to coach them on HOW to meet the requirements. It would certainly be a benefit to them and it would not be fair to terminate them from the program without trying to teach them what TO do. (Reality is that without direction, the student teacher will probably be at a loss as to how to meet the requirements, and will probably fail).

      Shutting down the “yeah, but” deflection is also important. eg. “It doesn’t matter whether you think the kids like you: you have to have good rapport with your colleagues, supervisors and the parents, as well as with the kids. That means communicating effectively, and that means knowing when and what to say, and when to keep quiet and listen.”

      Of course, if the student teacher can’t / won’t accept this direct feedback, there’s not much you can do about that but get rid of them, but it’s possible that the person will have an epiphany and figure out that they need to change.

      1. Snoopy*

        Thank you, this is what I’m talking about. Instead of just saying dont do this. Explain what this is and why it’s important.

    6. Observer*

      He’s an adult. He may need some help, but at his age and stage he needs to be able to take direction, follow direct instructions (eg to leave the room when his supervisor and school admin tell him to leave because the discussion is not for him), not make excuses for poor behavior and not be defensive.

      Also, nothing you describe sounds like a “passion for teaching”.

    7. whingedrinking*

      A “knock it off” discussion is not inherently unkind. Telling someone what they need to hear can be a very kind act, even when it’s not pleasant.

  26. IcicleToes*

    Hi! OP3 here, thank you for all the helpful tips on keeping my feet warm. As far as any plug-in electric solutions go I am pretty sure our H&S/estates team won’t allow them. The slippers I wear at home look like koalas, so I think I will have to buy something more professional to keep at work. I think I will definitely look into some lined moccasin style slippers.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I suggested a plug in shawl. I’m not sure that plug ins are allowed where I work either but this seemed to fly under the radar for me.

    2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I’d look at maybe looser fitting shoes and some of those fluffy “feet heater” type socks. My feet were always numb with cold at work (outdoors in January) and I started wearing a very thin pair of bamboo socks from TK Maxx with a pair of fluffy socks and lacing my work boots less tightly and it helped.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Hey OP3, you say “thick socks” but are you wearing WOOL socks? It really makes all the difference in the world, and you can get them in plain and patterned, and they’re just socks, not thick ragg-wool style hiking socks.

      Also, if your shoes are tight, that’s working against you. If your soles are thin, ditto. If you’re wearing cloth shoes, try wearing leather ones. If your shoes have thin leather soles, try shoes with thicker rubber soles.

      (I just have cold toes a lot, so I’ve got lots of tricks. You have my sympathy.)

      1. Avasarala*

        My life changed when I realized I could wear wool in winter and linen in summer instead of polyester and be uncomfortable all year round!

      2. Bob Dob*

        I agree about wool socks–the thickest wool socks are so warm that I can’t even wear them indoors (too hot). I have moccasin-type slippers lined with lambswool (LL Bean), and while they are warm and very comfy, they are not appropriate for work, and not as warm as outdoor shoes rated for cold weather, combined with wool socks. I wouldn’t recommend that OP wear her fuzzy koala slippers at work, in any event.

  27. Original Poster*

    Hey guys, Original Poster here. I went back to talk to her the next day. She had no idea it was a problematic word- apparently people in her community (African American) use it all the time. But what she said was- I thought about it all night after I saw your face and I realized I’d offended you and was really concerned. I basically kept it short, told her that I realized she probably didn’t know, but that the word was super offensive and definitely should not be used, esp in the workplace. It was a good conversation and she said she wouldn’t use the word ever again. And we also agreed that if that ever happened again we would mutually tell each other. I’m very relieved- like I said I like and trust her which is something that made this much harder.

    To people in the comments who didn’t know this was a thing- it is. Similar to the older term Hymietown.

    1. Reality.Bites*

      I glad it worked out so well. And such a relief to you, I imagine, to confirm your co-worker is the good person you’d always thought her to be

    2. No name yet*

      Thanks for the update – sounds like it went basically as good as it could, for both of you!

    3. CoffeeforLife*

      My Google searches today really need to get wiped. So many words/phrases that I’ve had to look up and are so cringy!! Like H-town…

      1. Jdc*

        I was about to google it but my brain went to hymen and I didn’t even want to know what That was.

        1. Original Poster*

          Nope. good thought, wrong direction. Hymie is an old insult for Jews. Don’t know the etiology. Its of the same era as calling us/them a kike and asking where our horns are.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            And… now I have Eddie Murphy’s parody song stuck in my head– he did a sketch after Jesse Jackson used the term to refer to NYC in the early 80s. According to an article I just read when I looked up the video, the parody drove Rev. Jackson to apologize for his remarks.

    4. Fabulous*

      Yeah, I definitely have never heard that term and wouldn’t have given it a second thought either, especially if I had grown up hearing something referred to as such. I’m glad she was open to learning.

    5. annie o mous*

      I have never heard either term tbh. The J town word would sound immediately wrong to me. I have never heard the H town word before. If you don’t mind sharing, OP where are you from? Just curious. I am from US in the Midwest and neither term is familiar at all!

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I’ve never heard either one until this discussion. I generally don’t know a lot of slurs because I didn’t know anyone who used them much growing up. My family is from the Midwest and Southwest. I googled J-town and got a bunch of hits about a historic market in Chicago so I am still unclear on what the connotation is that makes it so offensive except for the general distastefulness of referring to a place by the apparent ethnicity of its inhabitants.

        1. Observer*

          Historically, when the word Jew is used as a descriptor, as opposed to Jewish, it’s intended as a slur. I’ve given some some examples upthread.

    6. Thursday Next*

      This is great, OP. Your coworker sounds very empathetic and I’m glad the two of you could be open with each other, to such positive effect.

      Alison, I’m hoping you can sticky this update—it’s a great resolution.

    7. Jaybeetee*

      I’m glad you were able to resolve it in a peaceful way. The wording of your letter suggested a possibility that she sincerely didn’t realize how offensive it was.

    8. Morning reader*

      I learned all the bad old racist terms from All in the Family. Happy to say I have still not encountered most of them used in real life.

    9. Salty Caramel*

      I’m glad there was a good conversation out of it and you’ve agreed to watch out for each other. It’s easy to mess up.

      When I was a kid in the 1970s, there used to be things like The Official Polish/Italian/Irish/Jewish Joke Book. About 90% of it would be too offensive to use today. (the rest would be puns).

    10. learnedthehardway*

      I’m glad that your colleague was receptive, and I think that your approach was very constructive. I figured that this was unawareness rather than being deliberately or even casually/carelessly offensive, and I’m glad for both of you that she was educated and that you’re feeling like you can trust her.

    11. J*

      Not to be all “not all African Americans”, but, I’m a person in that community and have never used that phrase or heard it used in conversation. Your co-worker may well be unaware of the slur, but I wouldn’t chalk that up to her community.

      1. Observer*

        Well, I’m going to take the OP at their word that they understood their friend.


        What this particular community does is not necessarily an indicator of the African American community as a whole. It really is a pretty diverse community.

        1. Blueberry*

          Yeah, but there’s the ‘danger of the single story’ as it were. People often say “Well my other Black friend said X or did Y so why don’t you?” to Black people who don’t fit their preconceptions. I’m glad J pointed this out and I was about to do so.

          1. Observer*

            Good point. I guess I wasn’t thinking that someone would take this to mean that this is common in the wider African American community – it sounded quite geography specific to me.

    12. A Kate*

      Aw, I love a happy ending! So glad she realized how harmful the term could be and was willing to talk with you about it instead of avoiding you out of shame forevermore.

  28. Koala dreams*

    #5 It’s a kindness to the students, the teachers and the aspiring teacher to terminate him sooner rather than later. It would be a shame if he completed his teacher training and only then realized teaching is not about disrupting conversation and being rude to others. It’s too bad he won’t see reason, but you have already been generous and given him several chances, and he has refused to listen to you. Now all that’s left is terminating him.

    I understand that you feel empathy for him, but maybe you can feel empathy for the students and teachers that he causes problems for too? Empathy is not a one use-voucher, it’s possibly to feel empathy for many people.

    1. Observer*

      Worse, that he gets his certification and never realizes – he’ll be a terrible teacher.

  29. Reality.Bites*

    Someone tutoring children has very limited potential working hours. Taking one hour of their time is like taking 2 or 3 hours away from someone working full time. Tutoring the kid one hour a week is taking a 7.5% hit on their gross income.

    1. Another worker bee*

      Yeah, I came here to say this. I used to tutor and I would 100% would have never worked for free at a peak tutoring hour (~4-8p, M-Th).

  30. DAH*


    I have a rule – and I have said this to well-meaning people, no one has permission to be generous with my time. With a background in HR, I have had people forward my contact info so I could “help” others for free, been asked for free advice by consultants charging their clients, etc. I started collecting free resources for others and it served me well.

    I like Allison’s response. When asked for free help, my response usually includes something like, “my volunteer hours are spoken for; if you need free resources, I can pass on my list. Otherwise, I can work with the person on a rate that works for them.”

  31. Perbie*

    Lw1; how many free good and services Does your brother give you? I’m going to guess none or very little. I disagree with doing anything for free if you don’t want to unless they’re the kind of person who reciprocates in some way. If he pushes and you want to get snarky ask why he’s never given you free (whatever product or skill he has). Now, if he has done a lot of help / work for you, then maybe consider giving sometHing back.

  32. Shira*

    General PSA: using “Jew” as an adjective or prefix to describe pretty much anything will sound antisemitic, whether you mean to or not.* Try it and see! (Do not try it.)
    My friend dated someone (non-Jewish) who referred to traditional Jewish prayer shawls (tallitot) as “Jew capes.” CRINGE.

    *My only personal exception is “Jewfro.”

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      Years ago I had clients with the last name “Joo,” and they pronounced it Jew. Everyone thought I was making slurs!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        OH NO. That is horrifying (and hiliarious). “Gotta get off the phone, the Joos are here.”

        1. Julia*

          I would probably make very awkward sentences every time, referring to them as Mr and Mrs Joo and their kids, or anything to get around that cringyness.

  33. I'm just here for the cats*

    #1 Do the parents even want the tutoring? Sounds like the brother is one who thinks he knows best and has a tendency to overstep. I would say that the parents should come to you themselves. They presumably know that their aunt does tutoring. If they want or need help for their child they need to talk to you. Heck, maybe grandchild doesn’t need tutoring and granddad is putting his nose into everyone’s business!

    I love Alison’s advice on this but I would add one more thing. If your able to could you possibly add in a “family discount”. This way if your brother is

  34. LGC*

    Full disclosure: I’ve heard about the school closings LW2 mentioned and…I wish I could be surprised. (Let’s just say this isn’t even the first time I’ve heard Jews blamed for a disease outbreak this year.)

    I’m seconding Woodswoman – it’s often more effective to not go in guns blazing. (IME, it’s REALLY difficult to do when the comment is directed towards a group you’re in! This is why allies are so important!) You definitely do have the right to say, “I find using [that term] really bothersome, please don’t use it (around me).” And this language is extremely soft – feel free to escalate as much as you’re comfortable with.

    And definitely make a note of this! I agree that you shouldn’t go to HR over this one instance, but if she continues to be racist…this is a useful data point to a good HR department.

  35. Nelson*

    So this isn’t intended to absolve the coworker in Question 2, but possibly provide some context… it sounds like I lived in the city where they work (a Jewish day school in the area was recently quarantined for coronavirus testing), and the historically Jewish neighborhood in the city was actually named Jewtown for a long time (but was changed for obvious reasons). I’ve heard older folks in the city use that name from time to time (it makes me cringe to hear it, but old habits die hard I guess). So it’s possible your coworker was going by the old name rather than using an intentionally created slur to describe the neighborhood.

      1. Nelson*

        Yeah I was taken aback when I heard it for the first time and then a lifelong resident told me about it.

        (Right by Little Italy, right?)

  36. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Here’s what stands out to me. A parent of the prospective tutee is OP’s niece or nephew. If Niece or Nephew wanted OP to tutor their child, they’d ask and they’d talk about rates.

  37. Jdc*

    LW3: while I loathe Ugg boots as any sort of fashion statement I had this same problem and bought “slippers” that were basically loafers in looks. They real sheep skin quickly regulates your body temperature. That’s why they were made for surfers when they get out of the ocean (not snow boots people! No one would make suede snow boots a regular thing). I would keep them under my desk and switch out when i has to get up.

  38. Jedi Squirrel*

    #1 — I have a family rate for my services that is 150-200% of my usual rate, because family members feel entitled to contact me any time of the day or night and demand a lot of consultation. Needless to say, I don’t do any services for family members any more, haven’t for a long time, and don’t feel the least bit bad about it.

    1. Auntie Social*

      Ha! That’s what I tell people wanting a discount from my husband’s law firm just because we’re in the same organization (not real friends, because friends wouldn’t do that): “Just tell the office that you get the family rate, and they’ll charge you double”.

    2. Quill*

      One of my best friends got burnt this way designing cards for her sister’s wedding (which is a long story of lack of competence: the wedding got called off because the bride and groom didn’t book far enough in advance, and had to be postponed a year.)

  39. Jedi Squirrel*

    #2 — I wouldn’t hesitate to call this out. This is similar to sports teams that appropriate American Indian motifs for a mascot and claim it’s not racist. Sorry, but just because you don’t feel it’s racist doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      I’ve had to explain that way too many times that if you’re not of the group being maligned, you don’t get to decide what’s racist.

  40. dadooronron*

    “nearly always results in “Oh, I didn’t know you were Jewish!” — which is gross, as if their bigotry would have been okay in front of a different audience”

    Excuse my ignorance, but I don’t understand why this is so terrible to say. I have Jewish friends and don ‘t think anything of it. I’m sure at some point the subject might have come up, but why is this different from saying “I didn’t know you were French” or “I didn’t know you were Catholic.”

    Please don’t slam me I truly want to understand so I don’t accidentally offend anyone.

    1. Original Poster*

      Its the difference between “Oh I wouldn’t want to use a racist term” and “Oh, I wouldn’t want to use a racist term around someone it applied to- and I’ll keep being racist behind your back”. At least, to me.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        As a white-passing POC, I can confirm this.

        *Appears white*
        *Lots of racist jokes*

        “You know I’m not white”

        “Oh, okay, we won’t say that while you’re around.”

        I’ve had this happen not once, but multiple times over the course of my life. And people still don’t see that their behavior is racist, they just assume that you’re whining about it.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          + a zillion.

          The problem isn’t that you said it in front of me; the problem is that you said it at all (and the underlying problem is that you think this attitude is OK).

        2. Maria Lopez*

          That’s why I never enlighten the person I’m talking to about what group I belong to. They will then just use it as an excuse not to listen.

    2. Ferret*

      It’s because it’s in response to being called out for anti-semitic language – and therefore implies that the only reason to avoid using it is if you are in the presence of a Jewish person, and would have been totally fine to continue otherwise.

      More generally there are a lot of dodgy stereotypes about looks/activities for Jewish people and this sort of statement often feeds into them – the easiest comparison I can think of is for gay people who aren’t stereotypically camp who get irritated by people assuming they are straight.

    3. Ashley*

      I think because it comes across as them saying “Oh! I didn’t know you were Jewish! I shouldn’t have said it because you are Jewish and are therefore offended, but it would have been perfectly fine to say it if you *weren’t* Jewish”.

    4. Ginny Weasley*

      I’m not Jewish so someone who is should absolutely correct me if I’m wrong but my understanding is that the issue is more that people say “Oh, I didn’t know you were Jewish!” after you’ve just told them that their comment was offensive as if they wouldn’t have made that comment to YOU if they’d known (rather than realizing/accepting that it’s offensive whether or not it’s being said in the presence of someone who is Jewish or not). I think it would be fine to say in a different context, like if for instance your coworker mentioned that they were taking some time off to go spend Hanukkah with family from out of town and you said “Oh, I didn’t know you were Jewish, enjoy your time celebrating with your family!”

      1. dadooronron*

        Oh, I didn’t realize that people would expect “Oh I didn’t know you were Jewish” to always follow a racial slur. I would never use Jewtown or another epithet, but if a friend said she didn’t eat pork, and I asked why, and she said “Oh I’m Jewish”, it would seem to be a natural response to say I didn’t know she was Jewish, and then move on to the next topic.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s fine because that’s an entirely different context. The issue, as others have explained, is saying it in a context where it implies “My bigotry was only a problem because I said it in front of you, but it would have been OK in front of others.”

          1. feministbookworm*

            There’s also often a difference in emphasis when spoken that’s hard to identify when it’s written. In your example above of innocently offering a Jewish person bacon and being corrected, your response probably sounded like “oh, sorry, I didn’t *know* you were Jewish!” vs the antisemitic person being called on being antisemitic and saying “oh, sorry, I didn’t know *you* were Jewish!”

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Because in this context, it makes it sound like the offended party is only offended because she’s Jewish, implying that it would be ok to say such things in her presence if she weren’t.

    6. hbc*

      An exchange that’s perfectly fine to express your surprise: “I want to visit France but I don’t know where to go.” “I’ve spent a few summers in the Alsace with family, I can give you some tips.” “Oh, I didn’t know you were French!”

      Different: “The Frogs certainly make good bread.” “I’m French, and you may not know it, but “frog” is an insult.” You should be surprised by two things here–the French colleague, and that you used a slur. If you’re a decent person, the slur should be the thing that resonates most strongly with you, so I would expect you to react to that first. (“OMG, sorry, I didn’t know!”) If instead your first reaction is to your colleague’s origin, it implies that you either don’t think the slur is a big deal, or you know it’s an insult and that’s why you only use it when there are no French people around.

      And I’ll add that being hugely surprised by someone’s ancestry, religion, or country of origin has a pretty high correlation with unconscious bigotry. You wouldn’t be all “I didn’t know you’re from California!” with someone whose birth state has never come up, so acting like this person is surprisingly non-Jewish-seeming means you have a pretty strong stereotype for Jews.

    7. Broadway Duchess*

      I think it’s because, intentionally or not, it sidesteps the issue of the offensive word/phrase.

      Offender: “Blah, blah, racist thing, y’know?”

      Offendee: “You shouldn’t say (racist thing). I don’t know if you know, but if comes from (origin) and is really problematic. I’m part of (insulted group) and it’s not okay.”

      Offender: “Oh, I didn’t know you were (whatever group)!”

      I think the appropriate response should almost always be an apology. It needs to express regret of the poor word choice, and understanding of the reasons, and what will change going forward. Just indicating surprise smacks of, “Oh, well if I knew you were one (of them), I wouldn’t have said it” and that isn’t the lesson.

    8. Marthooh*

      Because they’re responding as if their bigotry would have been okay in front of a different audience.

    9. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      What everyone else said. It’s also a bit like someone saying something derogatory about, say, fat people or women to me, a fat woman. If I object they might say “I didn’t mean you” or “but you’re different”. Meaning that they still think it’s perfectly fine to have whatever bigoted view because they see you as an exception to the stereotype.

    10. Health Insurance Nerd*

      The issue that saying “Oh, I didn’t know you were Jewish!” in response to someone pointing out that you’ve said something offensive/racist, is problematic, because whether someone is or is not Jewish doesn’t make the behavior any less offensive.

    11. Bananers*

      Everyone else has covered this pretty thoroughly, but I also want to recommend Vanessa Hidary’s spoken word piece “Hebrew Mamita” (on YouTube) for a good explanation of another layer to it — it’s sometimes regarded as a compliment that someone passes as not Jewish, and it decidedly is not

      1. Avasarala*

        Yes, this phrase often accompanies its equally gross cousin “But you don’t look Jewish”

  41. LearnedSomethingNew*

    This is another case where I’m very happy to have stumbled across something online so I can be sure to never say it. I had never heard the phrase mentioned in Letter 2 before, but if someone had said it I would have assumed it was just an equivalent of China Town. The people saying there is NO WAY the person didn’t know the term really aren’t considering how different people’s backgrounds are, it might be common in some places/groups but like I said, I have literally never heard it before this thread.

    1. Anon For This One*

      Yeah, LW came back with a follow up and it seems to basically be that the co-worker didn’t know. I believe that, too. I’m biracial and have lived in the Chicago ‘burbs all my life. The area known as Maxwell Street was quite frequently referred to as Jewtown. Some of my Black relatives, the older ones, still do unless you explain why it’s a problem. I can believe that growing up and hearing terms like that normalize it. When you know better, you do better.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I live in the Chicago ‘burbs too but have never heard Maxwell St. referred to as such, that’s … both fascinating and horrifying?! Kind of funny because I associate Maxwell St with the market and the blues musicians that came to the area in the 40s, I didn’t know it was a predominately Jewish area at one time. The more you know.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I think that close proximity of African-American and Jewish communities may not be that unusual because of the shared history of prejudice against them. I’ve heard of it being the case in other large cities.

        2. Anon For This One*

          I always associated Maxwell Street with the hot dogs before I knew its music history! My aunt did med school and residency at UIC and I used to visit her a lot. Grabbing a Maxwell St. Polish or hot dog was always our lunch!

      2. Dust Bunny*

        It definitely normalizes it. I have relatives who grew up in a town whose high school mascot, until about 40 years ago, was an awful Asian stereotype. A cousin of my parent’s generation referred to the food of this particular nationality as “[slur] food” until she got her first professional job and stunned her coworkers into silence by suggesting it for lunch. This would have been in the 1970s, so the fact that it was awkward in the lily-white smallish-town Midwest at the time should tell you how bad it was. But it just didn’t occur to her because everyone (locally) used the term and she thought of it as being simply descriptive rather than pejorative.

        She reformed. But yikes.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Yeah, I hadn’t heard it either, and wouldn’t necessarily realize it wasn’t ok to say. Ignorance is a thing.

    3. Dasein9*

      Yep. I taught on the South Side of Chicago for a while and the entire classroom was shocked when I shut down someone using this phrase to refer to Maxwell St.

      A few of the students did extra credit research into the neighborhood names and several asked the Very Good Question: Why is this phrase wrong when “Bronzeville” is perfectly okay? (Yes, the word “bronze” does refer to Black people’s skin colors.) I didn’t even try to answer, but asked them to keep thinking about that.

      1. Anon For This One*

        I think it’s awesome that you encourage thinking about the problem in addition to making it clear not to use a term. I remember being young, maybe 7 or 8, and using the word “gypped.” I had just always heard it as cheated or conned and obviously didn’t know of its original connotation. My dad heard me and Shut. It. Down. Not in a mean way, but in a serious way. I understood then that words have meaning and power. It’s a good thing when adults don’t gloss over things like that and attribute it to youth or whatever.

  42. Thankful for AAM*

    #1 I got a heated electric shawl for under $40 (it’s FL so I don’t own slippers) when I was at a workplace that was cold. I could tuck it under my feet and wrap my legs or I could wear it on my shoulders and it kept all of me warm as needed.

    They have electric lap blankets too.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t see how. Unlike a teacher, the tutor is not responsible for grading the work. A biased family member cannot create a advantage for the particular student.

    2. Jennifer*

      I highly doubt it. What advantage would the relative have over any other client? People help out relatives with this kind of thing all the time.

    3. Smithy*

      While I don’t think that a conflict of interest works here – the OP could make a statement of wanting personally to avoid mixing business and family. This only works if there are no other family members the OP would consider tutoring under any circumstance.

      But it may be that the OP has an easier relationship with another family member and their children, and would happily tutor those children for free or a sharp discounted rate based on that relationship. Either way, I see this like someone who’s a hairdresser or make-up artist being asked to do their job for free for a family member’s wedding. How much drama would come along with saying “yes” will have a lot to do with the overall relationship. Because people’s children, their weddings….that has a high potential for family drama having nothing to do with how professional someone operates as a tutor or hair dresser.

    4. People Confuse Me*

      Not as such, but an option to respond would be, “I think it would be hard to be objective with a relative,” and not take the job at all instead of getting into discussions about money with family.

  43. hbc*

    OP5: As much as I want to just have a blanket statement saying, “Terminate the self-important gasbag,” I think it makes sense to review what the goals of your training program are. I’m guessing this is violating some of them given that you’ve been given permission to terminate, but you would probably feel more confidant in your decision if you review them.

    I would be very surprised if you were meant to give a stamp of approval on people who can’t collaborate with peers. I also suspect that those students who supposedly love him aren’t really being heard by him and are not being given “guidance” so much as being lectured at. But even if that part isn’t true, if in any way you’re supposed to assess whether someone would be a good employee, you’re not doing your job if you let him out with a positive recommendation.

  44. time for lunch*

    OP#3, consider wool insoles, such as the ones used by hunters and ice fishers in winter. About $6-10, though you can pay more. And merino or cashmere blend socks if you’re not already wearing them. Insoles frankly may be way too warm. Typically it has to be below 25F for me not to overheat in them.

  45. Senor Montoya*

    OP #5: completely agree w Alison. This is a person who should not be teaching if this is how he behaves, especially because he doesn’t stop when told to stop AND doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. In fact, he thinks others are behaving badly, when it’s him.

    That’s why people pursuing this degree do student teaching: to see if they like it, and for trained, experienced teachers and administrators to see *if they are suitable* for the job.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      As a former teacher, I couldn’t agree more.

      I had a student teacher whose priorities were just wrong. Everything was about her needs, not her students’ needs. She had a very poor grasp of content and basic pedagogy. She did get along great with certain students who normally didn’t have great relationships with the adults around them, but that’s not enough to be an effective teacher. Just wanting to teach doesn’t mean you actually belong in the classroom.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        “Just wanting to teach doesn’t mean you actually belong in the classroom.”


        I really, really disliked that the TA program had a requirement for certain graduate degrees that they must teach. I joined because I enjoyed it, I like to think I was decent at it (I got an award, so there’s that), but good googly moogly some of the other TAs were actively damaging to the students’ learning. Incredibly awful – never graded on time, things were not marked consistently, they were talking at a level about 39248329 above the students (this is gen chem, y’all, not advanced advanced theoretical organics), often talking just about their research and not the subject matter… and some of them legitimately wanted to convey knowledge! But they were horrible at it, no matter how excited they were to be a TA.

        I mean, I’d love to be a horticulturist, but while I like plants and gardening and all things green, I do not have the patience for knowing eleventy types of tulip and how to manicure trees. I’m a very bad garden designer. I like native prairies. No one would pay me for garden design. I will stick with compliance for my day job and prance around in my small prairie planting, squeeing at caterpillars, at home, where it’s okay if it’s messy and chaotic because it’s *my* garden.

        1. Blueberry*

          You like native praries? If I lived in the Midwest I’d totally want to hire you to help design my garden. :)

  46. agnes*

    LW #1 I had a business many years ago that employed a lot of people. My family wanted me to hire every family loser under the sun to “help them out.” I made a decision that I would not hire any family members, nor would I cut the price of my product for family members. (the product was a consumable that my family could have easily consumed to the point of compromising my ability to provide it to full pay customers).

    I explained that I kept family and business apart because I saw too many people who mingled family and business and wound up hurting both of them. If they wanted the product they could order it like everyone else and if they wanted a job there were millions of other employers out there. Some of my family had hurt feelings over it, but they got over it.

  47. Jennifer*

    #2 Tell her that the comment is gross and she shouldn’t be speaking that way at work or anywhere, but particularly not at work. The goal here is to get her to change her behavior, not necessarily to deprogram her racism because it’s probably a lost cause, also super time-consuming, emotionally exhausting, and not the job of minorities.

    There’s no hiding the fact that I’m a minority and I know there are people who say things privately that they’d never say to my face. There’s nothing I can do about that besides expect them to behave appropriately at work.

  48. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: What does your brother do for a living? Ask him when his free services to you kick in.

    Seriously, though, I would not go with this. He doesn’t get to set you up for unpaid work, period.

  49. Dust Bunny*

    LW2: I am not even within shouting distance of Jewish and, yeah, I would absolutely have called this woman on it.

    An intern of ours–who did not get the job, by the way–commented to me once that she called Business X for assistance for one of her utilities and that their customer service “even has people who speak English!”. Just the look on my face stopped her cold. She backpedaled and apologized and didn’t make that mistake again, but, wow. It was not OK.

    1. Jdc*

      How is that so awful. There was just a post the other day on another site and many comments about how many customer service lines have people who do not speak English as a first language and for technical issues it can be very difficult for the customer.

  50. Aquawoman*

    I feel like “tried to get me fired” is way too vague. As a manager, that leaves me guessing as to where the drama originated; people could characterize a lot of things as “trying to get me fired” all the way from merely mentioning to a higher-up that they had dated and she didn’t want to work with him to making up lies about him physically abusing her or stealing from the workplace. She may very well be awful and her work history suggests that’s true, but even just reading the letter made me wonder what the actual story was.

  51. Anon Failed Capitalist*

    For the tutor: Way back in my college days, I was a low-level weed dealer. My policy was roommates and lovers get it free, friends and family at cost. Only acquaintances paid full price with markup. As you can probably surmise, I never made any money. (Just enough to smoke shake for free.) consequently, I don’t recommend this.

    If you’re inclined to tutor the granddaughter, you might establish a policy for a family discount, but set it at a rate where you’re not taking a loss. “I’d be glad to help! My usual rate is x but I offer a family discount of y. Contact me at work on Monday and I’ll send over my standard agreement package.”

  52. Death Rides a Pale Volvo*


    Um, I mean…how simply awful, especially now that it’s Purim.


  53. Stormy Weather*

    LW3 wool socks have helped me when my office gets cold. I tend to buy SmartWool, which have some cushioned options. They’re not the cheapest things on the market, but I think they’re worth the expense.

    1. Shad*

      SmartWool is excellent! And comes in a variety of padding/thickness levels depending on just how cold it is. Personally, I’m almost always good with the thinner ones (southerner here), but there are options suitable for everything up to skiing.

  54. Buttons*

    It is unclear in the last letter if the OP addressed the problem directly, or only attempt to “redirect”. It is a rare and extreme case that a person gets fired without warning. Something like this isn’t cause for firing. Part of being a leader is coaching and developing people. He may not understand what he is doing, the motivations behind it, or that it needs to be corrected. Tell him. If you aren’t telling him then you aren’t being a good manager.

  55. StrangerThanFiction*

    You could have a contract that guarantees the service provided will be worth every penny paid for it, and make it clear that you take that commitment seriously.

  56. Wing Leader*

    Ick to people who think they can use their family members for free. My husband’s cousin is a mechanic and the family does this to him all the time. “Oh, take your car to our nephew Michael! He’s family so he’ll fix it for free!” I take my car to him (because I trust his advice), but I ALWAYS make sure to pay him something.

  57. Effective Immediately*

    Just a note from healthcare compliance: I don’t know if the rules in the UK are different from the US, but the Department of Health here mandates certain footwear in healthcare settings, especially on a floor. Anything fluffy (the the potential for absorbing biohazardous material or transmitting infection) would be prohibited here.

    It might be worth checking with the manager first to make sure they’re ok, given those restrictions.

  58. TootsNYC*

    You could add, “After our relationship ended, she tried to get me and others fired, and I’m concerned about something like that happening here too so I wanted to be up-front with you about the history.”

    I think this would absolutely look like you’re trying to stir up trouble.

    I’d stick with, “we used to work together, and we dated, and it ended very awkwardly.”

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      That’s very vague though, and describes many relationships, many of which were probably not as dramatic as OP #4’s situation.

      I understand the urge to sound neutral on this, but the OP wrote in because they can’t be neutral.

    2. Wing Leader*

      Yeah, that just makes it sound like y’all had drama but it has nothing to do with work. OP needs to make it clear that it does involve work. It sucks that OP has to do this, but the employer needs to be aware.

      1. Blueberry*

        Maybe a phrasing that indicates that despite the LW’s best efforts the ex brought the drama to work? *contemplates*

      2. TootsNYC*

        then maybe mention, “I broke up with her because of what I was seeing personally and in the office, and she ended up being asked to leave pretty soon after. I’m hoping that’s all in the past for her, but in case it gets awkward, I wanted you to know from me first.”

        I just think the specificity of “she tried to get people fired” is bringing drama where you don’t really want it. And to be honest, it’s just sensational enough that I’d frankly thing that the employee was exaggerating.

    3. Jdc*

      I agree. Right or wrong I would just hear “drama”! Especially since he seems to be new at the job if I recall exactly what he said.

  59. chai latte*

    To LW#5: Please, please, please terminate. If this guy is causing problems among the grown-ups imagine what he could be doing with the students. His claim that students love him is one I hear all the time from our worst faculty/substitutes and is a knee-jerk reaction of defensiveness. I worry about the impact we have on students even with the best intentions (I work with seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds) but with a blowhard who interrupts constantly and makes everything about himself? He needs some self-awareness, reflection, and redirection to a different career path.
    (Sorry if this sounds unforgiving, but we’ve just dealt with a similar problem and no amount of coaching led to improvement.)

    1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Not to mention that “students love me!” and “I’m an effective instructor” are two very, very different things. Sure, a lot of kids will love the guy who lets them goof off all day and doesn’t assign homework, but that doesn’t make him good at his job.

    2. Rainy*

      Very few clinical interns have ever been terminated from our program, but the most recent (years ago) was terminated summarily because their behaviour was discovered to be incompatible with the standard of professional behaviour we expect. It was bad enough that warning and allowing the intern to continue meeting with clients would have been unethical on the part of my organization.

      I think if this guy has been told clearly that his behaviour is a problem and it persists, it’s probably intractable. If he hasn’t been told clearly what he’s doing wrong and what the stakes are, and if the students will not be harmed by another week or whatever of contact with him, it’s good to do that warning stage, but if the students are being impacted, he needs to be yanked out of the classroom immediately.

      To Boochie’s point above, my immediate thought was that he’s not a good teacher, he’s just an easy marker and the kids like turning in crap and still getting passing marks, which is what seems to usually be the case in these situations.

      1. Mama Bear*

        There are a lot of very likeable people who are very bad at their jobs. I agree to give him very clear feedback and if it doesn’t improve, then let him go.

        If he’s not teaching effectively, then the students aren’t getting value out of the class even if they like it. I wonder how much control he actually has over a classroom. OP shouldn’t worry about him obtaining his degree. OP should worry about the impact on the school. Maybe this guy *shouldn’t* become a teacher. I had an acquaintance in college get all the way to student teaching and have an epiphany. He turned his education classes into electives and graduated with a different degree (like History or something, I forget the specifics.) OP’s final degree is OP’s problem. As a parent, I would much rather this be handled at this level than become someone’s problem later. If he’s not getting a clue, then he’s failing this part of his education. Please don’t pity pass him.

  60. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – I think that you do need to disclose the former relationship and the outcome – not just for yourself, but to protect your coworkers. I agree with Alison that your manager is probably the best person to speak with. You want this on the record before your ex tries to pull anything. If you have a good HR advisor, they might be a person to speak with as well.

  61. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

    I wear slippers all the time in the office. We don’t have external people coming into the space, so I don’t worry.

    If it helps, I’m an executive director and wear slippers with Bob Ross’s face on them

    1. Quill*

      Those are great!

      I’ve just been slipping heating packs into my boots but that’s more of a muscle tension solution than for heat.

  62. Normally a Lurker*

    LW #1 : I was a prof tutor for years (like 25 of them) before switching professions to something else entirely with a steadier schedule.

    The number of times I was asked for the friends and family discount as “do this for free” was… none zero.

    I will say, it always helped to lay out for a lot of those people exactly how many hours of work they were asking for, and what that translated to into take home pay – including travel time on both ends. It made the no, i’m not doing that, go down easier to here: you are asking me for $300 of free work a week for 2 hours of tutoring plus an hour of travel. That’s $1,200 a month my budget no longer has. I can’t afford to lose that kind of money. Can you?

    To be clear, a simple “No, I can’t work for free” *should* be plenty. But let’s be real, it’s often not. ESP in family situations.

    I did do a lot of what Allison suggested: Here are some really great self study books. I can meet with you twice for an hour each to cover over a study plan, and again later to answer any questions you might have. But I cannot commit to regular free tutoring.

    And to be clear, I *did* actually do free tutoring to several lower income individuals I knew needed it and I knew couldn’t afford it. Spoiler, it in not way effected my ability to charge anyone else.

    Anyway, good luck!

  63. Llama Llama*

    For #5, could there be something larger in play? This sort of obviously and me-centered-ness sounds a little autism spectrum to me. It might be worth having a gentle but very straight forward conversation. If they are on the spectrum (diagnosed or un diagnosed) it may take having it spelled out in black and white and very clearly to help them realize what they need to to change. Like: “when you come into the room with two people talking do not interrupt us, that is considered rude. Just grab your item and leave. If you have a question or concern that you need to tell me please email me and I will follow up with you when I am available.” or “the parent/teacher conference is intended to benefit the student. it is not the time to talk about your achievements. talking about your achievements does not help the student.”. Something very black and white and straight forward. And even be very clear about the repercussions. If you continue to interrupt (specify who) or talk about X then I will have to terminate you from this work study situation.

    1. Observer*

      Actually, I don’t think that this sounds especially autism spectrum at all. In any case, it really doesn’t matter. He HAS been told about the problem and deflected and claimed that he’s great and everyone just doesn’t like him because he’s so much better than everyone else. And also was given direct instructions that he ignored multiple times till he finally complied.

      Enduring that kind of rude and disruptive behavior – behavior that actively harms students and staff – is not reasonable in either the legal or colloquial sense.

      Also, we don’t do armchair diagnosing on this site.

    2. Axel*

      Autism doesn’t make people repeatedly ignore being told to stop doing something and respond with criticism of their behavior with “all the students love me”. I am on the spectrum. A good portion of our social circle is. Coming out of the woodwork to armchair diagnose every rude, self-centered man on the Internet disregarding other people’s requests for his behavior to change only harms us and spreads the idea that autistic people are just rude and mean. Please don’t do this kind of thing.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m generally opposed to armchair diagnosing. It doesn’t change the advice: be clear about the expectations, document the conversations, and move to dismiss if you don’t see change.

  64. AMC*

    LW: I think you can just ignore your brother’s request, mostly because this isn’t his child. Tell him to have Little Annabell’s parents call you, and you’d be happy to discuss arrangements with them. Then watch that call never come.

  65. Emma*

    I’ve never commented on one of these before, and with ~450 comments above me, this is likely to get lost, but I have a suggestion for LW #3 anyway: black Ugg boots. I have a pair of knockoff “Ugg” boots that I got at Old Navy for like $20 and they completely changed my winters. (I live in the Northeast, where winters are brutal.) I wear black leggings or tights probably 95% of the time, so the black boots create a pretty streamlined and basic look. A million times better than the standard tan ones. Not exactly the dressiest, but it works. A better-looking option than slippers, that you should easily be able to wear around the office without issue, and they genuinely keep my feet warmer than anything else I’ve ever tried, fuzzy slippers included!

  66. Sylvia*

    #5 – Is it possible that this person lacks the social knowledge to recognize when people are having a private conversation? The reason I ask is that I’m going through this in my personal life with a family member (who is a nice, intelligent, and helpful person, but this behavior is disruptive and annoying no matter what the person’s intentions are). Or maybe he believes that a conversation taking place while others are in the room is not a private conversation and fair game?

    This doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s being a disrespectful know-it-all to his colleagues by interrupting, but he is a student and maybe he could use some help in this area.

    1. Paulina*

      The OP says “it took several direct instructions before he finally understood that this was a private conversation.” And it seems he still tried to derail it anyway, and “there have been several similar incidents since then.”

      So it’s not a lack of social knowledge. It’s a lack of listening to anyone’s needs other than his own, which is particularly problematic for a teacher.

    2. Jdc*

      My step son does this. There are some reasons I suspect he could be on the spectrum but if he was it would be beyond high functioning. I wonder though sometimes if he just doesn’t get the cues. He is about to graduate in a year and has great grades so we aren’t even bringing it up until end of school year but we are getting him tested as it could help him. Trust me knowing him that him knowing would derail him right now. But I did see similar behaviors in that letter. Social cues and such. I for sure have to tell him “please don’t stand there and eavesdrop”, “you’ve been standing there a while do you need something”. Stuff like that. It’s clear it just doesn’t even occur to him that it’s off.

  67. DroptheDeadDonkey*

    Op #5
    I’m not sure where you are based, but if you’re in the UK the University that runs this course would want to know about his behaviour. It goes towards his fitness to practice and needs to be considered in the wider context as to whether he needs further training before graduation or if he is even a suitable person to be a teacher.
    The uni will have a policy on this. I except there is something similar in other countries.

  68. Dahlia*

    OP1: It’s very, very common to have something like a pair of mukluks for inside in the winter. That kind of thing can be a little more expensive, but something that looks more like a boot would probably be more acceptable, and make you feel less self-conscious.

    Also, look for thermal socks specifically.

  69. DMouse*

    Right after I read today’s post, I was on a call with a coworker who I like very much, and she used an inappropriate term for an ethnic group, and repeated it several times. It’s a very well-known thing not to say, so I was very shocked. When I corrected her, it was clear that she knew it wasn’t a nice word to use. It was very surprising because she’s a great person and this was very out of character.

    1. pancakes*

      Unless you’re a member of that group yourself I’m not sure how you’d know the full extent of her character in relation to them.

  70. Space Cadet*

    OP #3 – If it’s cold for you, isn’t it also cold for the patients? Unless they have separate heating in the rooms or something like that, I’d complain to whomever keeps it that cold, for everyone’s benefit.

    1. Jdc*

      Hospitals are always freezing in my opinion. They have blanket warmers which are basically the best idea ever. Like when your mom used to put your towel in the dryer so it was warm in the winter when you got out of the shower. So for those who don’t know, ask for heated blankets. They have them. I used to work for a company that sold them and we had a demo model in our office. Loved it.

  71. ElleKay*

    “Members of the team have frequently complained that he interrupts their coaching sessions with students, interjects comments when they are speaking with students’ parents, and redirects the conversation toward himself when they are speaking to a student, parent, or another team member. When I spoke to him about it, he felt that the other members of the team resented him because all students in the program are fond of him”

    Sentence 1 & sentence 2 have no relation! If his response to “people are saying that you interrupt them” was “Everyone is jealous of me” and you ended the conversation there then this is part of the problem. I suspect this goes back to something Alison says often: how clear was the conversation you had? If you didn’t say “You need to stop doing X and Y” then I’m ,not surprised the behavior hasn’t changed. Whether (or not) people are jealous of him isn’t the point; the point is that you need to directly address the behavior, name it, and require that it change.

  72. Manager with ADHD*

    For the “Jewtown” OP, please, as others have said, take them aside and explain how derogatory a phrase it is. I’ve had to do this with people in my locale who never had any interactions with Jews (that they knew of) and routinely use the phrase, “jewed down” to mean someone who intensely bargained with them, or low balled an offer for something they were selling. I usually reveal that I’m Jewish and it’s a slur, and they may not have known that, but now they do so please don’t say it again. But I also intervene for other terms I find racist and derogatory and simply say something along the lines of, “I find that language offensive, please don’t use it around me.” If they ask me why, I’ll explain, but you don’t need to be of the offended group to find this type of language offensive.

  73. Annie Nymous*

    RE: #2

    On a related note: The discussion of “Jew Town” makes me think of our trip to York and the district just outside the city walls called “Jewbury” – as in, where they buried all the Jewish people from the Clifford Massacre.
    If it’s not too far afield, I’d like to ask the English side of AAM: Is this something that’s talked about much at all in regular history classes, or does it just become another hiccup in “1066, Billy Conker and all that”?

  74. Matt*

    I (a guy) had some irritation around my ankle several years ago, to which my doctor’s office was like “…try some different shoes?” Since I was feeling it with both my work shoes and my sneakers, I wound up finding a pair of slippers at Walmart that look at least from a distance kinda like loafers. My ankle got better, but now I keep them in my office for winter days after taking my boots off. (I also have an older pair of proper shoes there that I was using for that purpose, but I haven’t tried wearing them since I broke my ankle rather badly 2 years ago, since they were starting to feel kinda tight before that, and after getting 2 plates and 14 screws put in, my ankle’s a little bit fatter now…)

  75. Jessica*


    “Jewtown” is offensive because “Jew” (a noun) is generally intended to be derogative when used as an adjective.

    e.g. “a Jew lawyer” or “in Jew-town” (yikes)


    “a Jewish lawyer” or “in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood” (contextual, obviously, but not automatically a problem)

    Used as a noun, again, it’s contextual, but it’s not automatically a problem. I am a Jew. My rabbi is a Jew. Maimonides and Einstein and Carl Sagan and Marilyn Monroe and Sammy Davis Jr. and Bernie Sanders and Jesus and Jon Stewart are all Jews. If you’re involved at all in Jewish community, you will frequently hear Jews say things like, “As Jews, we know XYZ.” It’s our *name.*

    That has been the name for an individual member of our people for millennia, ever since the kingdom of Judah was the only bit of ancient Israel to survive. (Judah -> Roman Judea -> Jews, case you didn’t know.)

    It is not a slur (unless it’s *used* as one), and non-Jews saying that our very *name* is somehow taboo or shameful is not okay (even if you mean well). It’s our name. We’ve carried it for a long time, usually with pride. We’ll still be carrying it as a people long after everyone in this conversation is gone.

    -Don’t use “Jew” as an adjective.
    -Don’t decapitalize it as “jew” when you’ve capitalized other proper nouns. (That’s often a white supremacist dogwhistle in English.)
    -While some Jewish women are reclaiming the term “Jewess,” that’s an intracommunity thing. It’s a term that was usually used in derogatory ways (implying that Jewish women were somehow not fully women–a Jewish woman is a Jewish woman, or a Jew).

  76. Former Employee*

    For OP#2, I believe it’s time for a thought experiment. If there is an area in the vicinity that is predominantly African American and it has its own name, such as “Harlem” in NYC (though it has become very integrated in recent years), ask this person if they would refer to the area as N-word Town. I hope they would be shocked and realize what they were doing. However, if they say they would do that, then the OP probably erred in the first place in thinking this was a good person.

    1. Observer*

      That does not really work – n** IS a slur, and has always been used with disrespectful intent. The same cannot be said of the word Jew.

      @Jessica said it very well – please read her post.

  77. LogicalOne*

    #2. It just baffles me how people think it’s still okay to speak the way they do with racist comments like that. They must not have grown up mentally and are still in a middle/high school mindset. If I was in your position, I would’ve said something awkward like, “Well I’m Jewish so……” and let the awkward silence settle in. Of course they may rebut and apologize, but sometimes a nice guilt trip is much more effective than flat out pointing fingers or calling em’ out.

  78. Len F*

    I’m a Jew.

    There’s a substantial Jewish population in my city, mostly concentrated in a few suburbs that have Jewish schools, kosher delis, that sort of thing. I don’t live there.

    I myself have used the term “Jewtown” to refer to it. I think I literally said “I don’t want to schlep all the way to Jewtown to buy matzah”.

    I haven’t given it a second thought, until now. Other uses of “Jew” as adjective do indeed trigger my alarm bells, but that term apparently does not.

    Should I consider not using it? I didn’t really think of it as a slur, but I don’t want to normalise it, if it is…

    …….then again, I’m not sure how I’d feel if I heard someone else use the term, now that I think about it. Hmm.

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