my boss started using Yiddish after she found out I’m Jewish, sleepwear for work travel, and more

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

1. My manager started using Yiddish after she found out I’m Jewish

I started a new job last year with a very small team that is entirely white. After I put in a leave request for the Jewish High Holidays last year, my immediate manager began peppering our conversations with Yiddish words — “I’ve got to schlep this over to the loading dock” or “I’ll work on my schpiel before the meeting” or even just “Oy.” I hadn’t been there very long (maybe six or eight weeks) before I put in the leave request and “outed” myself as a Jew, so I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but … we live in the deep South. There’s a very small Jewish community in our area and it’s not uncommon for people to tell me I’m the first Jew they’ve ever met.

We’ve been working remotely since I began with an expectation that we will go back into the office in person a few days a week soon. I’m worried the Yiddish-isms will be more frequent in person. Any advice on how to handle this?

Any chance she’s Jewish herself? If she’s not and she’s throwing in Yiddish because she wants to relate to you better or make you feel comfortable or show she likes Jews … that’s not okay (similar to if she started throwing in Spanish words after discovering you were Latina), even assuming it’s well-intentioned.

That said, “schlep” and “schpiel” and even “oy” aren’t uncommon to hear from non-Jews; they’ve made their way into English more than, say, “tsuris” or “meshuggeneh” have, so it’s possible that the timing is coincidental. But if it’s a definite change since she learned you were Jewish — and especially if it’s more than the three examples you listed — personally (and as a fellow Jew) I might just say outright at some point, in a tone of genuine curiosity, “I wonder if you realize you use a lot of Yiddish words around me. Is it because I’m Jewish?” If her response indicates that she is indeed breaking out the Yiddish specifically for you, you could say, “I’d rather you talk to me the same way you do to everyone else.” (Obviously, this only works if you’re comfortable saying that and your sense is that the relationship allows for it; realistically, the power dynamics will sometimes make that feel risky.)

2. Should I bring up offers other people in my internship received?

I recently completed a month-long internship at a small company, which I got through my master’s program. They offered me a job when my semester ends: executive assistant to four project managers. I then found out someone else in my program, who did the same internship and has the same level of previous experience as I do, got offered a project manager position. Everyone in the company is paid the same hourly wage, so my issue is not with any salary disparity — I just worked very hard in this internship, so hearing that they offered this person a better position was upsetting. I think maybe they liked the grunt work I did as an intern so much that the job they’re offering me is just continuing that role.

Do I say something? For example, asking if there was anything I could have done better, or why they thought I was better suited to the executive assistant role? I was about ready to accept the job before hearing about the other person’s offer, but this has made me feel undervalued and leaves a bad taste in my mouth about the leadership in this company.

The most likely explanation is that they didn’t think you were as well-suited to the project manager role as the other person was. The other person may have demonstrated different skills or more initiative or something else that led to them being seen as a stronger pick. It’s like with any hiring process — even if you’re qualified or work hard to get the job, someone else may be a stronger match in the end. That said, there are other possibilities too, like the one you raised, or racial or gender bias, or even nepotism.

You can definitely ask for feedback though! If you were interested in a project manager role, you can ask if they can share feedback about why they felt the other role was a better fit.

Also, do you want the executive assistant role? That’s a very different job than project manager, and if you were going for project manager type roles, there can be ramifications to taking an EA position instead — a big one being that you can get pigeonholed on a track you don’t want.

3. My coworker talks a lot about how old she is, but I’m older

I’ve been in a new role for just over two months, and it’s going well! I have one little thing that I’m just noticing with this one colleague and it’s not a big deal but it just seems to keep coming up, so I wondered what your thoughts are.

I was with my former organization for 10 years, and have held a few prior jobs as well. So, my new colleagues know I am experienced, but I’m also new and learning. I don’t know how I am perceived age-wise, but I’ve often been told I look and seem younger than I am. One of my colleagues, who is a senior leader, has been at the firm for 18 years. In the casual moments of chat at the beginning and end of meetings, she often talks about how she was born in the 70’s, referring to the TV shows and music she grew up on as if none of us have heard of it, or as if it’s going to seem so funny and out of date to us. I’m four years older than her, but it seems clear she assumes I’m younger.

I don’t say anything, and I figure it’s no big deal, really. I mentioned it to my partner who totally didn’t think I should care. But there’s part of me that feels a little awkward about this. If she stopped, it would be fine. But what if she keeps doing this? Do I just let her go on thinking I’m much younger than her, and if she finds out one day, it’s no big deal? Is it off-base for me to feel a little strange about this? I don’t want to say something, but it would be nice if it didn’t keep coming up.

I don’t think you’re off-base for feeling a little weird about it — you’ve got someone repeatedly making an assumption about you that’s wrong, and it’s not something you should have to correct, but the more she says it without correction, the weirder it probably feels. That said, it’s not a big deal if you don’t bother addressing it; she can presumably manage her own feelings about the mistaken assumption if she realizes it at some point.

For what it’s worth, if these are big groups, it’s possible she’s not directing her remarks about age to you specifically but more the general youth of the group as a whole. But if it’s clear that she’s including you specifically in the people she thinks are much younger than her, why not respond with “I grew up on that same music” or “fellow 70s kid here — I used to love that show”? (For that matter, there’s also nothing wrong with an outright “I think I’m actually older than you!” but it sounds like you don’t want to go that route.)

4. Sleepwear for work trips when you’re sharing a hotel room

I will be going on a work trip in June where, for budget reasons (we’re a small state university, I’m a student research assistant), I will be sharing a room with one or more people. Normally, at home, I sleep in just my underwear. This is obviously not okay while sharing a room with a colleague. I need some kind of sleepwear.

I do not own any sleepwear. Can I use some clean workout gear? I have tank top or short-sleeved shirt and shorts sets, which cover everything that needs covering and are comfortable enough to sleep in; I also have a hoodie and leggings, in case the air conditioning’s being overactive. Does that cut it, or do I need to go track down something that’s slightly “nicer” because this is a work event? I don’t care if my roommate thinks I’m ugly or unfashionable, but I do care if they think I’m not taking this seriously.

(I’m a guy, but I transitioned to male recently enough that everyone who’d be here knew me as a woman, and they’ve been fine about it. I haven’t specifically asked my supervisor how he intends to handle this, but my best guess is that I’ll be rooming with another male student.)

Clean workout clothes are fine, and super normal in this situation!

Also, because this always causes shock when it comes up: It is indeed common in a handful of industries, particularly academia, to share hotel rooms. (Not beds though.)

Read an update to this letter

5. I accidentally conflated two different situations in an interview

I recently went on an interview for a role in an organization I really like. I got a provisional offer and am considering it. However, I realized that in answering one of their interview questions, I may have conflated two work situations from my past, and spoke about the content and topic of situation 1 but used the events of situation 2 to describe how I managed situation 1 (the management aspect being a central part to the question and answer). The two situations occurred during the same project I worked on several years ago, and as I no longer work at that organization and am not really in touch with colleagues from there, I can’t check old emails to verify or get in touch with anyone.

If I am somehow able to determine that I made this mistake, am I in any way obligated to correct the record for my potentially new organization? The interviewer took detailed notes, so if I accept the offer and work at the company, the inaccuracy might become part of my record. Should I say something like “thank you for your offer. I realize that when answering Question X, I made Y mistake, conflating two events that occurred around the same time” and explaining the details of the situation? Or should I let this go? What is the best way to correct the record when needed following an interview? Is it even advisable to correct it at all, or could this lead to the company rescinding the offer or some other adverse consequence?

Nah, you’re fine and don’t need to correct it. People sometimes forget details from years ago or mistakenly conflate two situations. Obviously you don’t want to do that and it’s not ideal, but it happened and it’s not a huge deal — definitely not anything you need to go back and correct now. (And it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll ever look at their interview notes again once you’re hired!)

{ 531 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    To keep the comments as useful as possible to LW #1, let’s assume that she did indeed see a noticeable change in her boss’s use of Yiddish after she learned the LW was Jewish. Otherwise (based on the comments so far) I think the page will fill up with people talking about how often they use Yiddish words in their own life — which has been flagged as a consideration but won’t be helpful if it takes over the conversation. Instead, let’s talk about what to do if it is indeed a clear change. Thank you!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve removed a large number of comments that were:
      * dismissing LW #1’s concerns,
      * sharing stories about the commenter’s first time meeting a Jew or encountering Jewish culture (very much not the point, and please consider how off-putting and othering that is), or
      * talking about how many words the commenter didn’t know were Yiddish or trying to explain the usage of Yiddish words by saying they weren’t Yiddish (not the point with this letter if the boss increased her use of them after learning the OP is Jewish — and as someone else pointed out below, it’s reinforcing the ways Jews’ cultural contributions have chronically been erased).

  2. Viki*

    4. Shorts, tank top, hoodie etc. that’s all fine!

    I tend not to care what someone is sleeping in, as long as I don’t see any genitals and I don’t trip on underwear.

    1. Cmdrshpard*

      I sleep in athletic shorts and t-shirts. Some of my most comfortable tshirts are on the older rattier side, but for a trip where I would share a room I would bust out my nicer tshirts. FWIW cis male.

      My wife also wears similar outfits to bed

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        My favorite comfy cotton tee shirts are decades old, but none of the holes are in problematic places.

    2. Formerly Ella Vader*

      I have the impression that nowadays, when young men need to be covered up for sleeping in shared accommodations, they’re more likely to be wearing something like gym shorts and a t-shirt, than something purchased as pyjamas. So you should fit in just fine. If you’re not used to sleeping in clothes, experiment beforehand to figure out what’s less likely to make you toss and turn (loose or snug, long or short sleeves, etc).

    3. Jack Be Nimble*

      Yup! I think relatively few adults wear actual pajamas or sleep sets to bed. Most people sleep nude, in their underwear, or wear sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt. I think as long as you pack clean things in good condition, you’re in the clear (i.e., no sweatpants with visible stains or huge holes).

      1. alienor*

        Flannel or cotton pajama pants and t-shirts are a very popular combination. I don’t know anyone who wears the pajama “suits” with a button-up top, though (well, except my grandpa in the 1970s).

        1. Metadata minion*

          I do! I have a deep love of flannel, though, and if I were going to be wearing pjs around my coworkers I’d probably swap out the top for a t-shirt so I didn’t look like a giant five-year-old. ;-)

        2. straws*

          I don’t know any adults that do, but my 3 year old is obsessed with that pajama style and it’s way too cute to not indulge him.

          1. Kacihall*

            My kiddo has decided that pajamas are only onesies, and anything else are just sleep clothes. Therefore he made us all buy some pajamas to wear for when we have anyone spend the night.

            I did not wear my Batgirl onesie when we jokingly had pajama day at work. (There were only two of us scheduled in the office one day between the holidays. So naturally the CFO showed up that day.)

        3. KayDeeAye*

          I do! I adore pajamas, and have lots of pairs with various levels of warmth, depending on the season. But I am an adult female. I don’t know any men who do, though I do know some who wear pajama bottoms and t-shirts.

          1. OhHi*

            I’m a nanny and the 3 year old calls his flannel pajamas “comfy cozies” and it’s my favorite thing.

        4. kristinyc*

          I do! (Similar to what the hosts were wearing at the very end of the Oscars…). They’re modal fabric and sooooo comfortable. I have them in shorts sets and pants/longsleeve. I also do a t-shirt/regular pajama pants. I’m always cold, and I have a toddler and usually end up getting out of bed at least once or twice a night for him, so I want to be wearing something. I’ve also always been in the “But what if there’s a fire????” re: sleeping nude/in undies, but I get why lots of people prefer wearing less.

          1. JustaTech*

            “What if there’s a fire” – on one of my first ever business trips the hotel fire alarm went off in the middle of the night and everyone at the conference ended up standing in the garden in out sleep clothes and I was very grateful to have happened to have packed my “fancy” pajamas (a silk long-pant, long-sleeved button-up set). There were more than a few folks wrapped in blankets until the alarm got turned off.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I sleep hot, so in college when I had a roommate I slept in shorts and a tank top even in the dead of winter.

              Which led to one memorable instance of standing outside my dorm in the snow at 2am wearing smiley face shorts, a tank top, a jacket, and sneakers with no socks. I was very cold.

            2. Kacihall*

              I used to sleep in nothing or maybe underwear. Then had a situation where cops burst into my husband’s and my room at 3 am because my grandpa with dementia forgot we moved into his house the week before. I am aware that the odds of anything similar happening are slim to none but I can’t bring myself to not wear a shirt and shorts to sleep in now.

              1. allathian*

                Ouch, what an awful experience. I’m so sorry.

                I prefer to sleep naked, at most in undies when I’m on my period. I have a nightgown on the chair by my bed that I sometimes throw on if I have to get up, say if my son gets sick in the middle of the night. I won’t bother if I just need to pee in the middle of the night.

                But my preference for sleeping in the nude is just one more reason why sharing a hotel room with others would make me uncomfortable, because nightclothes would add another layer of discomfort to an already uncomfortable situation. Heck, I can barely tolerate my husband in the same hotel room when we’re traveling, because I’m a very poor sleeper and need to sleep alone to get a restful sleep. There’s no way I’d be comfortable sharing a room with a coworker, because I’d feel a need to be “on” with them, and that doesn’t exactly promote restful sleep.

        5. Daisy-dog*

          I really love wearing a matching set of PJs – it just feels very cozy and special. My husband also has a set. But we have these simply because they feel good. So to OP, I’d recommend getting a set if you think you may lounge around in them in the future – it’s great for lazy weekend mornings or sick days. Otherwise, any other type of comfy clothes is fine. You may not actually want to wear a hoodie to bed if you normally just wear underwear because it might feel a little suffocating.

        6. Koalafied*

          Yep! Pajama pants fill a comfortable niche that few other kinds of pants did/do – there was really no bottom half equivalent of a t-shirt in terms of being soft and non-constructing. But we already had tshirts for our top halves, so a lot of people go for the pajama pants but don’t need a pajama shirt.

        7. DataSci*

          I love my PJ pants in winter (very soft cotton, lighter-weight than sweatpants but on weekend mornings I can sit around in them and drink coffee)! Very much on team “pajama pants and t-shirts” here.

        8. quill*

          Pajama pants seem far more popular than stereotypical “pajama shirts” which makes perfect sense to me, given that the image of a pajama shirt buttons up and I’m pretty sure it’s less comfortable than sleeping in a t-shirt

          1. Zelda*

            Not quite as comfy, no, but I do sometimes opt for those if I’m going to be appearing in semi-public in my PJs: staying at my in-laws’ home, traveling by train (the bathrooms are down the hall from the sleeper cabins), sharing a hotel room with a colleague. A t-shirt is what I do at home, but it’s a bit drapey over my chest when I’m not wearing a bra. A button-up that’s made of a woven fabric has more structure, so it can be less revealing, especially if it’s a dark color. Don’t know whether that’s a concern for the LW, but I know I don’t care for sleeping in a bra; a binder would be right the heck out!

            1. quill*

              Ah, this is true. I have half a dozen old softball t-shirts that are both sturdy and darkly colored (I swear we were green or blue teams for all six years…) so I didn’t think about that. I’d also probably throw a robe on for a sleeper car though.

          2. whingedrinking*

            ^^ This. Also, if one is a busty person, one does not need yet another garment that doesn’t stretch and is either too tight in the chest or way too big everywhere else.
            I also prefer tank tops to t-shirts for the most part because apparently we can put the Library of Congress on our phones but we can’t make shirts that don’t act weird around the armpit area on the large-chested. Chop ’em off entirely, I say.

        9. Lenora Rose*

          My hubby does sometimes wear the button up pyjama top, but just as often goes the pyjama pants and t-shirt route.

        10. Mallory Janis Ian*

          ha I do! I have a couple of flannel pajama sets from LL Bean and I wear them as evening loungewear and sleep in them.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I feel like traditional pajamas have almost entirely died out. My mother, who’s in her mid-70s, is the the only person I know who wears nightgowns instead of a t-shirt and shorts/soft pants. She even has a housecoat (not a robe) to wear over them, which is a total throwback.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          I guess it depends on what you consider “traditional.” Flannel is definitely still available – I can even sometimes find flannel pajamas in tall sizes, which is *great.* At last this 5’8″ woman doesn’t have to have her ankles and wrists hanging out of her PJs unless she wants them to. And I have lots of pairs of pajamas styled the traditional, button-up way but made of t-shirt material (also in tall sizes). I even have a few in standard cotton, though I don’t tend to wear those unless it’s really, really sticky and hot.

          I love pajamas, I really, really do.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            But of course the soft-pants+t-shirt combo is incredibly common, and if the OP doesn’t want pajamas, there are lots of perfect respectable options.

          1. How About That*

            Soft cotton knit nightshirts for me, but no underwear. I can’t stand anything binding or confining when I sleep. I could never share a hotel room though, so there’s that.

        2. quill*

          I have what isn’t technically a nightgown, but isn’t a dress either: it’s sweater material and has long sleeves and a high neck but it’s only mid-thigh in length. I wear it with leggings when it’s REALLY cold at night.

        3. LunaLena*

          Depends on where you shop. I’ve been buying traditional pajama sets from Victoria’s Secret for myself and as gifts for my sister-in-law for decades now. I’ve also definitely seen them at places like Kohl’s and other popular retailers.

          I probably own way too many pajamas for my own good, ranging from old gym shorts and t-shirts to sleepshirts to flannel/cotton/satin pajamas with button-down top. What can I say, I like having a variety to suit how lazy I feel and I love how cozy they are.

        4. Lenora Rose*

          I wear nightgowns, but since I also live in skirts, and the only pants I wear the majority of my life are leggings o go under the skirts for weather or professionalism, I could definitely be counted an outlier.

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            Joining you in the nightgowns and skirts corner! I tend to modify my nightgowns by adding a ruffle at the bottom for extra length.

            I also have shorts for underneath, in warmer weather.

        5. Gothic Bee*

          I briefly went through a “real pajamas” phase a few years ago (I’m in my 30s), but then realized it was kind of a waste to have a bunch of clothes I only sleep in, so now I’m back to t-shirt/shorts or sweatpants. That way they do double duty. They’re pajamas but I can also use them to work out in or throw on when I need to not worry about getting dirty, and if I wear them in the middle of the day to lounge around the house, it doesn’t feel like I’m wearing pajamas.

        6. Princesss Sparklepony*

          I love my Lanz flannel nightgowns. But I am old… I’ve been wearing them since the 1970’s at least. Best flannel ever.

      3. ThatGirl*

        honestly the line between pajama pants and loungewear is basically nonexistent. I (cis woman) have owned pajama sets over the years, but as long as it’s comfy, who cares what section of the store it’s sold in.

    4. Incoming Principal*

      Absolutely this.
      Also, on Alison’s comment about some industries doing the room sharing thing, I have even had that for internal trainings at MBB consulting because we went to a smaller hotel, had it at Fortune 500 company retreat once. It happens more often than people think.

      1. Not a cat*

        I worked for a company that made us sleep 3 or 4 to a room, so, if we couldn’t get a cot, someone often ended up sharing. THEN-one coworker was diagnosed with Tuberculous. They told the company immediately, and the company told him not to tell anyone. He, being a good human, told everyone. SO….we stopped having to share rooms.

    5. Anonymous Poster*

      Gym attire is perfectly fine. In many situations, people wouldn’t bat an eye at a man sleeping with only gym shorts on either. My kind of rule is, if it flies at the local public beach it’ll be fine in other let’s-go-relax situations too.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      When recovering from various medical treatments, my sleeping outfit is old yoga pants and a T-shirt. (I normally sleep in a nightgown, but that’s not as comfortable for getting up and sitting for a little while.) I wouldn’t blink at someone wearing something similar to sleep, even if I could tell it was from the “clothing you would put on thinking you might exercise” part of the store–that clothing is soft and stretchy and comfortable.

      Daughter keeps old tank-shorts combo at home to sleep in when she visits.

    7. KimberlyR*

      Agreed. Personally, I would not be able to sleep in those “nice” cotton sets you see on old-fashioned TV shows, if thats what the LW thinks they have to purchase. But comfy clothes that cover all the bits is totally fine! I would imagine the coworker will also be in whatever they deem comfortable with decent coverage. (And if not, please let us know, LW! Thats a whole separate letter I would want to read!)

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      Agreed. Acceptable sleepwear is pretty widely varied, and I doubt roommates will care as long as you’re appropriately covered up. (I mean, formal wear would probably raise an eyebrow, but, as long as I’m not waking up covered in sequins, you do you.) I have one kid who could go to bed in flannel PJ pants and a t-shirt one day and athletic shorts and a sweatshirt the next.

    9. generic_username*

      Yeah, agreed. What you wear to sleep (as long as you’re covering areas that shouldn’t been seen outside your home) isn’t going to make anyone have any judgements about you professionally. Your behavior on the trip will definitely have more bearing on that – keep your space sort of tidy (or tidy enough not to bother the other inhabitant of your room) and don’t get hammered/stay up all night before any work events.

    10. Medusa*

      Yeah, LW 4: you’re fine, but may I suggest that you look into a pair of comfortable pyjamas anyway? Just for your own benefit (in case you travel for work again). I have a pair of pyjamas that I’ve had for seven years and wear them all winter long because they are *PERFECT*.

    11. Free Meerkats*

      I agree with this. I don’t share on work trips, but I’ve shared with friends at cons and that’s pretty much the rule.

      I normally sleep in nothing, but when sharing I wear compression shorts.

    12. Worldwalker*

      My go-to is sweats. You can sleep in them, run out to your car to retrieve your toothbrush, etc. Also useful for hotel rooms with the heat/AC set unchangably at “arctic” and bedding made out of Kleenex.

    13. Eileen*

      Exactly! I actually also ended up in a weird situation where I was on a 10 day graduate study abroad conference thing and because of the way numbers worked out ended up rooming with someone from a completely different school. I think we were both in some combination of athleisure for sleep.

  3. Mo*

    #1 – Those specific words (schlep, schpiel & oy) are shockingly common, even in Deep South vernacular. Like, just in general and outside of people who are Jewish. I’m sure there’s some brilliant AAM reader linguist who might know why that is. I was in my late 20s? early 30s? before I knew that they were originally Yiddish words. (I learned via Buzzfeed quiz. Not my finest hour.)

    That said, I believe the OP’s instincts if they feel the manager is being weird (especially in what sounds like a pretty insular area in the Deep South) and Alison’s advice is great.

    1. TPS reporter*

      I assume that those of who grew up in a sparse Jewish population picked up Yiddish from TV like Seinfeld. I’m Jewish but didn’t know anyone Jewish before college. I definitely feel more comfortable using Yiddish around other Jews, even though I would also agree that schlep, schpiel and oy are incredibly common.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And why I think Alison’s first thought–that manager is also Jewish–should be given serious consideration for any response. Even if the boss’s last name is Jones and she isn’t a race you would start off guessing was Jewish, as was true of one of my son’s good friends.

      2. Worldwalker*

        I was born on Long Island, and most of my parents’ friends were Jewish. I grew up thinking that was just how people talked.

        Since then, I’ve lived in five different states in widely different parts of the country. I’ve gotten a good look (listen?) at all sorts of regionalisms. I find them fascinating.

        But back to the OP and the boss: my inclination would be to ignore it. If it’s something the boss is doing because the OP is Jewish, it will probably just fade out after a while; actually changing your speech patterns takes a lot of work.

      1. HQB*

        It’s not clear whether “spiel” entered the English language via Yiddish at all; it may have come directly from German, or from both.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Spiel (German) and schpiel (Yiddish) have different meanings though, even though they are clearly related and pronounced the same. The way it’s used in the example in the letter is the Yiddish meaning.

          1. HQB*

            The German “spiel” has, and had, meanings consistent with the use in this letter (or consistent with being the source of the meaning in this letter) – that’s where the Yiddish word came from, after all. All the etymology sources I am seeing online make it clear that the source of “spiel” in English is unclear and it could have come from either German or Yiddish or both.

            That said, it does have more of an association with Yiddish than with German, at least in the US.

            1. BubbleTea*

              In German, doesn’t spiel mean play? Not the same meaning as schpiel, or at least not how I use it. I didn’t realise it was Yiddish either (nor schlep). The Jewish population is a lot smaller in the UK as a percentage of the country but it seems words still spread.

              It’s possible the boss doesn’t even realise consciously that she’s doing it, but that she is still being influenced by her new knowledge of LW’s ethnicity and faith. Or perhaps she mistakenly believes that she is showing how inclusive and accepting she is. Like telling a Muslim how rarely you eat pork – tone-deaf, ignorant, and shows how acutely conscious the person is of what they consider a difference about the other person, but not necessarily indicative of malice. And therefore much harder to address! When something is clearly offensive you can call it out much more easily. I like Alison’s scripts as walking a middle route, since they’re appropriate whatever the motivation for the frequent word use.

              1. Beth Jacobs*

                Game is das Spiel in German and shpil in Yiddish. It doesn’t mean a sales pitch in either of those languages, but it’s obviously connected (as in “bring your A game”, which also doesn’t mean childrens’ play).
                That’s just how languages work – meanings, spellings and pronunciation are often changed when the word takes root in a different language.

                1. HQB*

                  In German, “spiel” can also mean a particularly fluent playing of a musical passage, among other, more niche meanings.

              2. metadata minion*

                If a word starts with “schp” or “schm”, it’s almost certainly from Yiddish. English doesn’t otherwise allow those sound combinations, and the vast majority of loanwords we have with those clusters are from Yiddish.

                1. BlauerKeks*

                  They could also come from German though or rather German via Yiddish, as has been pointed out. “Spiel” is pronounced “schpiel”, and “schm-” is a syllable that exists in German too, like “schmieren”. Or maybe the English variants come from both languages equally.

                2. Emi*

                  And to complicate things even further, “schleppen” is in fact a German word as well, and the English loanword is sometimes (if incorrectly) written “shlep.”

            2. Emmy Noether*

              So, it seems that I was wrong and the usage in the example is neither German nor Yiddish (in both of those languages it means game/play not speech/pitch). It’s apparently a new meaning that developed in English use.

              I can attest that it cannot be used in that sense in German, which is why I wrongly assumed it must be the Yiddish meaning.

              1. Feral campsite raccoon*

                Spiel can be used to mean “a dramatic play” in Yiddish, as in Purimspiel. I believe that’s where the sense of “giving a speech” evolved from.

              2. HQB*

                In German, “spiel” can also mean a particularly fluent playing of a musical passage, which links it to a particularly smooth verbal pitch.

            3. dov ber*

              Just to be a little pedantic, Yiddish didn’t come from German. They both evolved from a common ancestor language. They’re like siblings or cousins, not parent-child.

              And it’s always better odds that an obvious recent loan word in American English came from Yiddish rather than German, just given the particular cultural influences.

    2. matcha123*

      I’m in my late-30s and I just learned, reading this question, that those words are Yiddish. I’m pretty sure my very black mom who is a boomer used those words when I was growing up, as with other adults around me.
      I can only guess that people who grew up in larger towns and cities with a mix of races and religions just took on words and phrases without much thought. I still think it’s wild that there are people in the US who focus on someone’s religious background, but I was raised in an area where religion wasn’t heavily emphasized.

      1. HannahS*

        It’s not really just a religious background, though; it’s kind of an ethno-religious identity. Like, antisemitism gets applied to Jews regardless of whether they’re religiously observant or not.

        1. Liz T*

          And Yiddish in particular is specific to Ashkenazi Jews, making it more ethnic than religious.

          Hebrew = religious
          Yiddish = ethnic

      2. Medusa*

        I moved to the US in my adolescence and stayed there for some years. I’m a native English speaker, but I used pop culture to pick up “American” words that people were using that weren’t in my vocabulary, so a lot of these Yiddish words ended up in my vocabulary, just because they were used on a number of sitcoms.

      3. Cercis*

        I remember saying “and then I fell, right on my …. tuchus” (because I didn’t want to say butt at work) and a coworker did a double-take and said “wait, are you Jewish?” It took me a few beats to remember/realize that tuchus is Yiddish.

        It’s worth flagging to the boss, but it could also be that she’s been watching Mrs. Maisel or old Seinfeld reruns (I think that’s probably where I picked up tuchus, but I have no idea).

    3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I grew up in a smallish town in the Midwest and I know we used schlepp and schpiel growing up in the 50s and 60s. I don’t know if they’d already become part of the general language, or if it was just in my family. My Mom grew up in a city neighborhood that was almost completely Eastern European immigrants in her parents’ generation, so for all I know, a good portion of my vocabulary came from words she learned in that environment. Isn’t that how the English language has developed over the years?

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Whoops, didn’t see Alison’s comment in time. Yeah, if it’s less commonly used words, it’s probably worthwhile to mention it. It may be a bad habit the boss needs to break but won’t until they’re called out on it.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah, I broadly agree with Alison’s advice. Personally, I would wait a few weeks of in-person work to see if they actually show up though. I’m not clear if these Yiddish words are being peppered into Zoom calls or Slack or email, but a lot of people can come across or be more contrived online in a way that doesn’t manifest in-person. Also if the in-person work involves more group conversations, the boss might naturally start using them less.

      I also wonder if, before using Alison’s language, it would be worth clarifying that the boss isn’t Jewish herself?

      1. Rachel Greep*

        Seeing how it appears the OP was nervous to “out” themself as Jewish, I wonder if they are reading more into this. Maybe this sort of language always peppered the boss’s speech, but the OP is hyper-aware now because they are worried about being treated differently. Sometimes people use various terms that just land differently in a given situation. For example, I know a lawyer who uses the phrase “doesn’t have a leg to stand on” quite frequently. It sounded really bad when she unthinkingly used it with a client whose leg was amputated.

      2. FrenchCusser*

        Someone once informed me that I wasn’t allowed to use a Yiddish word (putz), not because I’m not Jewish but because I’m not from New York.

    5. I&I*

      Not a brilliant linguist here, but phrases generally get adopted into other languages when they neatly express a concept the adopting language doesn’t already have a word for. ‘Schelp’ and ‘spiel’ both do that; same with ‘klutz’. ‘Tsuris’ and ‘meshuggeneh’ may not have exact equivalents, but English does have a variety of ways to say ‘trouble’ and a whole lot of ways to say ‘idiot/lunatic’, so probably there was less of a gap for them to fill.

      I’m not Jewish, so I can’t claim any great expertise, but if OP is concerned, and the boss isn’t Jewish, that might be one thing to look out for: do the words she uses have an English equivalent that would be more natural for a non-Jew to use, or is she trying to express a concept that Yiddish just happens to do better than English? If the latter, it’s more likely to be coincidence than the former.

    6. nobadcats*

      I am reminded of Toby Ziegler’s quip in The West Wing, “Don’t bring the Yiddish if you don’t know what you’re doing!”

      American English is at the same time both a greedy, but generous language, that’s the beauty of it. I’m not Jewish, I’m, as my brother in law calls me, “Jew-adjacent.” He’s taught me so many Jewish traditions and Yiddish that my speech is spiced and peppered with a bunch of Yiddish. I don’t even notice it until someone says, “What?”

      So it might just be a comfortable turn of phrase, as I do.

      1. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

        Around here, in writing, we use “Jew-adjacent.” In person we say, “Jew-ish” so we can add the hand wiggle.

    7. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      If I’m honest my first thought was that maybe the manager recently binged “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. Or perhaps that the LW peppers their own speech with more Yiddish than they realize, and the manager is the type of person that pick up linguistic tics from others. There’s lots of reasons that someone might have a slight change in speech patterns, and as Alison points out, it’s not like these are uncommon words in American English. I use “spiel” all the time, and I’ve had no more than average exposure to Jewish American culture.

      The timing is slightly suspicious, but hardly proves anything. I think there’s just not enough evidence to draw a line between “I took these days off”, and “My manager picked up a slight vocabulary change”. If it was me, I’d chalk this up to a weird coincidence and ignore it.

    8. Admin of Sys*

      There may also be a bit of code switching happening if the manager grew up in the north or had northern family? I grew up in a heavily Jewish area in the north and didn’t realize how much Yiddish was peppering my language until I moved south, and people kept looking at me funny. I eventually switched away from using Yiddish terms, since no one appeared to know what they meant. But 10 minutes into talking to someone who /does/ know them, they immediately return, at a probably unrealistically high level as my brain relaxes back into old patterns and is thrilled to be able to use ‘schlep’ again.
      That still may be a bit problematic, as it still creates a shift in interactions due to the OP being Jewish – but it may be a lot less deliberate than it seems, depending on the managers background.

      1. NormyNorman*

        This was my first thought too. I grew up in an area with a large Jewish community. I learned about Jewish holidays as part of my preschool education. My speech patterns have more Yiddish phrases than most peoples’ and I never realized it until I moved to an area where people looked at me strangely when I used some of the less common phrases. If I’m talking to someone who uses those phrases I jump right back into it with little to no thought because it’s just the vernacular I grew up with.

    9. generic_username*

      All three of those words are fairly common among non-Yiddish speakers. I think I may have vaguely known that schlep was Yiddish, but I had no idea that schpiel was. My mom uses “schlep” all of the time and she’s a Southern woman (she also uses “schnozz” for nose, which I believe is also Yiddish)

      But also, LW says they noticed a difference after asking off for the Jewish holidays, which makes this weird on her manager’s part.

    10. DashDash*

      Hidden linguist here: there are surprisingly large pockets in both the US deep south and midwest of groups who immigrated in the 19th century from what is now east Germany (ish), of multiple religions. Some came over speaking Yiddish, a lot came over speaking German, and had full linguistic pockets form with their own dialects and overlaps with local English. Then WWII came around, speaking German was outlawed in public in some of these areas, and it became an underground mishmash.

      So location is less relevant than it seems, and these loan words entered the English vernacular in different ways depending on location.

      1. KatieP*

        I was coming here to say pretty-much this. My Dad grew-up in a part of Houston with a large Jewish population, and just picked-up Yiddish by osmosis. When I was growing-up, he used Yiddish words a lot, and I didn’t know they weren’t English, so they worked their way into my vocabulary. Then, my Jewish boss asked me where I learned what a putz was.

    11. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I once had a (Jewish) boss who objected to non-Jewish folks using the term “kosher,” which has definitely found its way into vocabs around the world. I think that some people are more sensitive to that kind of thing … so I just stopped using it. If it bothers the OP they could certainly ask their boss to stop … couldn’t hurt.

      1. Ex-Teacher*

        To be fair, there’s a bit of a difference between words with little religious significance like “oy” or “schlep”, compared to a word with religious significance being appropriated for nonreligious purpose. Often times, people will say “that’s not kosher” when referring to something unacceptable to do which has nothing to do with dietary requirements. That sort of appropriation is insensitive compared to using a word for a generic act like “schlep.”

        But I agree that there could be a good reason for OP1 to ask the boss for more information and/or to stop.

    12. JSPA*

      People who grew up with yiddish words (whether from being Jewish, or just culturally adjacent) lose a lot when they code switch to repress them. As soon as they’re in a situation where other people know and appreciate them, the switch back to using them can be automatic.

      The boss may or may not be jewish, but if her parent is from NYC, L.A. or someplace else where these words were omnipresent even before Hollywood helped to spread them, she may simply be un-repressing them, not dredging them up on purpose.

      I like Alison’s question, as it doesn’t have to be pointed (though it can be); it allows for many responses.

      Yiddish is an excellently expressive language. The ne plus ultra (Latin!) of taking a complex stew of history, causation and emotion and siphoning all of that into a single, short noun.

      There are other things you can call a schmuck, in public. But schlub, schlemiel, schlimazel? Or how about klutz? (That’s also yiddish, though more fully assimilated into English).

      And when you have the perfect word, but only as a loan word, it’s a pain to use a description, when that one word would do.

      1. Worldwalker*

        English doesn’t just borrow words, it seizes them wholesale. Large parts of English vocabulary are from somewhere other than the (Germanic) Anglo-Saxon and (Romance) Norman-French that it originated from. That’s why English has the richest vocabulary and most impossible spelling of any language in the world. For any given concept there are multiple words, each with slightly different shades of meaning…and that still isn’t enough, so we import words like “schadenfreude” for a concept that didn’t have its own word)yet). Yiddish has some wonderful words for that—“schlep” doesn’t quite mean “take”, for instance. So it has contributed, willy-nilly, to the linguistic hash that is English.

        1. Raboot*

          I feel like your intention here might be along the lines of “haha English what a funny language” but what you’ve ended up saying is that it has “the richest” vocabulary and implied that other languages don’t have “multiple words, each with slightly different shades of meaning” for things which is actually kind of insulting to other languages.

          1. DyneinWalking*

            Eh, I largely agree with Worldwalker. English does have a very… let’s say “varied” vocabulary. Take for instance the fact that for common meats, the word for the meat is unrelated to the word for the animal (e.g. beef vs. cow – supposedly because meat was more commonly eaten in the higher social classes who spoke French, so the French word of the animal became associated with its meat while the animal kept its original name).

            While I only speak German and English, so can’t speak for other languages, I will happily admit that the English vocabulary is much “richer” than the German vocabulary. Not because English has more words as such, but because English has so many unrelated words for related meanings. According to Wikipedia, “adoption of words from other languages is commonplace in many world languages, but English has been especially open to borrowing of foreign words throughout the last 1,000 years. […] [W]ords from languages other than the ancestral Anglo-Saxon language make up about 60% of the vocabulary of English.”

          2. katie*

            this is not a judgement on english or any other language- its simply a fact about english. the way it has evolved, and the way that it just adopts words without any regard their own parentage- it does have the most varied and rich vocab of any language.

            an interesting book on the topic is the mother tongue by bill bryson

    13. DJ Abbott*

      My mother used the words schlep and schpiel. We’re not Jewish… her family is Mennonite and her first language was a German dialect that (I’m told) is similar to Yiddish.

  4. prof*

    Alison, I’m sorry to say that sharing a bed is unfortunately all too common in academia, especially for grad students at conferences. 4 students to a single room with two beds isn’t uncommon. And yeah it sucks…

    1. Well...*

      Whoa I’ve never seen that in academia. I’ve shared rooms several times but never a bed.

      1. JSPA*

        I have. One person sleeps under the covers. The other sleeps on top, with a spare blanket. Or people bring sleeping bags.

        Most commonly done in a 4 or 5 person room, where the chances for untoward behavior are presumed to drop precipitously. Or where it’s assumed someone will take a cot, and someone the couch, but the cot and couch are trash, or nonexistent, so doubling up on large beds is the only remaining reasonable option.

    2. Sandlapper*

      Agree. Professors are generally trying to stretch the travel money as far as possible. In my worst experience, we even had one sleeping on the floor.

      1. quill*

        I mean I’ve done that at a convention but it was a recreational convention. With people I knew personally and who wouldn’t have a professional reason to be mad that I kick in my sleep.

        1. Worldwalker*

          In my student days, we once stuffed 13 people in a double room at Balticon. After being repeatedly stepped on by late-returning roommates, one person relocated to the bathtub in self-preservation. (I was safely under a table, but I woke up every time she yelled when trod on, so I was glad)

    3. Cricket*

      As an undergrad, a few classmates and I were invited to a conference if we paid our way. You better believe we were sharing beds with people we had only ever talked to in class before, and bringing sleeping bags to camp on the floor! Don’t know that I could do that now in my late 30’s though. :)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s certainly what my daughter’s cohort did. But it’s different when you’re undergrads choosing to do this to save money on your own behalf, rather than people taking a business trip that is fully paid for by their employer.

    4. rkz*

      Yup. In my humanities grad program we had a certain amount of travel money for conferences, but it typically would only actual cover all the costs if you slept 4 students to a room with two beds. If you wanted to pay out of pocket to splurge and have your own bed you could do that, but not many grad students have the extra funds. I was always lucky to have close personal friends also in my program to room with, but that’s definitely not a guarantee!

    5. Rock Prof*

      Yeah, this was common in grad school for me too. We often had to pay for our hotel personally up front and it could take weeks to get reimbursed. We stayed at one very traditional hotel where you had to check the key in and out, and there were like 8 of us in a room, some with sleeping bags. We had to stagger entrances so the hotel didn’t get suspicious.
      I make sure whenever I take students (undergrads) to conferences that I have them only share rooms at the worst and not beds. Since I normally only take 1 or 2 at a time, they often end up with their own room anyway

    6. Overeducated*

      I remember asking a colleague in my first professional job post-PhD if she wanted to share a room to save money. She looked at me like I had two heads and didn’t respond. Now I understand why….

      1. Sandlapper*

        Same. My first job after the post-doc my supervisor had to explain to me that, as a professional, I did not need to share hotel rooms when traveling.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes, one of my colleagues who was fresh out of university asked me if she needed to share a room with me on a trip we were undertaking to a conference. I probably looked at her like she’d got two heads. We do not share rooms in our company. I mean we don’t stay at the Ritz (more like the Premier Inn) but having a room of your own is a key part of business travel.

    7. alt ac*

      Especially when (at my institution) the prof has to pay out of pocket and wait to be reimbursed. I took half a dozen students to a conference and had to pay for it all (rental car, hotel, conference fees, food) myself and wait six weeks for that check. It’s ridiculous.

    8. moql*

      Yes. We were technically given the option of attending less conferences and getting our own hotel room, but missing those would have been really bad for our career. It was also common to let a friend share your bed to help them attend a conference they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to go to.

      1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        To be fair, the whole “THERE IS ONLY ONE BED” trope does get a little weird when there are, in fact, two beds, but two of your friends/colleagues/officemates are awkwardly trying to sleep in the other one five feet away.

        Oh, grad school. There are things I miss about that time…but that’s not one of them.

    9. MrsThePlague*

      Sharing beds seems…extremely inadvisable, from the standpoint of student safety and possibility for sexual misconduct. Sharing rooms I can see being a bit better but beds?! It feels like a scandal waiting to happen, to be honest.

    10. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah, in undergrad I remember we were supposed to be two to a bed at the Residence Life conference I got to go to (I decided to sleep on the floor instead). The CS professor got us each a separate bed for the regional programming competition trip, but at the time we were surprised. The two girls got a pretty normal two bed hotel room, but we found the suite he rented for the 4 boys quite fancy! It had 2 beds, a pull-out sofa, AND a cot! Plus a table and an extra sink, which we used to throw a very mild room party and invite one of the other teams over to play cards.

      The four boys would have shared a normal two bed hotel room without complaint (it’s what we were all expecting until we checked in), but it was pretty cool to have a hotel suite available for us all to hang out in as a team that weekend. (We had no supervising professor or other advisor on the actual trip since he had a schedule conflict, so it was just 6 students and the nicest hotel set-up any of us had ever been in charge of at the time. I’ve been in nicer suites now, but I didn’t even know hotel rooms came like that as a teen.) Our professor wasn’t from the USA, and I don’t think he knew he could culturally get away with making undergraduates share beds.

      1. Evan Þ*

        Your username is weirdly appropriate here! Seven hobbits would have it a little easier since they’re smaller than seven normal-sized humans!

  5. Turanga Leela*

    I once went to a lecture that featured two presenters. The first finished speaking, and the second said, “I mostly agreed with that, so I’m going to kibitz more than I’m going to kvetch.”

    My friend sitting next to me whispered, “He’s going to what more than what?”

    So LW1, you could always amp up the Yiddish and see if there’s a point at which your manager doesn’t understand you at all. (Seriously, though, if she’s using the Yiddish because you’re Jewish, that’s unacceptable. A shanda!)

    1. rudster*

      Outing myself now as a total nerd, in high school kibbitzing was what we chess team members called gathering behind the players in the match and commenting quietly commenting on the play among ourselves.
      Schlep and Spiel are also found in German word in exactly those same forms.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      So LW1, you could always amp up the Yiddish and see if there’s a point at which your manager doesn’t understand you at all.

      I feel like this is a set-up for a 90s sitcom episode. The boss will running from conversations with OP to crouch in a stall in the bathroom, frantically calling her one Jewish friend from college trying to parse out what OP has said.

      1. WindmillArms*

        George under his desk at the Yankees on the phone to Jerry, who’s on the phone to Uncle Leo. lol

    3. yala*

      LW1 could go one better, and start making up words and claiming they were Yiddish. (I knew an Irish guy who would do this with “Irish Slang”). See if the boss starts using them.

      One one hand, like loads of other folks here, I’m not Jewish, I grew up in the south in a town with a Jewish population, never actually met a Jewish person until my friend/dance partner in college, but I still knew a lot of Yiddish words (including those) without knowing they were Yiddish. (For that matter, there were a good handful of French words I grew up knowing and using without knowing they weren’t English, until someone was confused when I called them “canaille.”)


      There’s a difference in folks just using words, and folks making a point to Use These Words, and that difference can come across in tone, or in someone going out of their way to make a sentence to use a word. I wouldn’t be surprised if OP is picking up on that, and it sounds really uncomfortable, but probably the only way to handle it is to Wait And See.

      Even if it is the case, odds are good the manager will get bored with it eventually. Alternatively, she’ll turn it into a whole Thing, at which point LW will probably have something definite to point to and say “Please don’t do that.”

  6. Annony-mouse*

    As a former grad student who shared rooms at conferences 1-2 times a year for 6 years, I can’t tell you what any of my roommates slept in on those trips other than it was clothes of some sort that covered everything that needed covering.

  7. Dark Macadamia*

    #3 I feel like born in the 70s is too young to actually feel old and too old to joke about feeling old! I’d probably not say anything, but if you really feel the need maybe something like “oh don’t say that, if you’re old that means I am too!” (Also: it drives me up a wall when people act like you can’t know about things from before your own childhood, especially with the existence of the internet. I’m a lot more familiar with famous/classic media than anything released after I finished college!)

    1. Making up names is hard*

      I thinn this person is having a midlife crisis, hence the “joking” about being old.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I had a boss like that. I was 8 years older than her and she was always talking about none of us understood the horrors of being over 30. Because I was old, didn’t like her, and knew I had the capital to do it, I would say things like:
        “[NAME] can it, I’m 8 years older than you!”
        “I passed 30 ___ years ago. I’m well aware that it is pretty freaking cool” Her comments were always negative
        “If you are old, then what am I? Ancient?”

    2. John Smith*

      Although I’m the youngest in my department, it’s only by a matter of a few months, yet people think I’m a lot younger (by 10-15 years) than I actually am (and they know my real age). Comments from them as to the perceived youthfulness can be damaging, like I have a lot to learn or don’t have some magical wisdom or knowledge of life that they possess. An unfortunate effect is that new hires / interns pick up on this and sometimes see me (and once treated me) as junior in terms of seniority even though I’m one grade below management. It takes a bit of enhanced assertiveness, shall we say, to get the point across. One person was shocked that my driving licence was older than he was (he was trying to educate me on changes in the driving exam a good few years back). Whilst it can be flattering having people think you’re younger than you are, it’s not very nice when they treat you like you’ve just left school!

      1. kicking_k*

        I came up against this once. There wasn’t any real professional disadvantage, but I had a new boss and it became clear over several weeks that she thought I was fresh out of college. It wasn’t that dramatic an error as I was still in my twenties and had changed careers after doing post-grad and temping for a while, so my job title was “graduate trainee”.

        I got married midway through the year and at that point it was easy to indicate that I wasn’t 22 – “oh, Fiancé and I have been together for X years – we met at university.” At this point the boss raised it herself (she had privately thought I was young to be getting married) and we had a laugh about it. Turned out she was a few months younger than me – and young for her role. She was an excellent boss notwithstanding being quite new to it.

        1. Wenike*

          I definitely look and am perceived as younger than I am and am actually older than my boss by a few years (previous boss I was older by over a decade). Just this last week though, a discussion came up about where the border was for various generations and one of my coworkers mentioned that that meant she was Gen X and I was told her (privately) that I thought she was in her 30s. She said something about being so older and I mentioned that I was really only 4 years younger than her, which surprised her as she thought I was in my 30s too! We both had a good laugh at being perceived younger than we were and life went on. Thinking back on it though, I probably did have some of my previous bosses at other jobs think I was younger than I was and also the whole female in a tech role being problematic. Previous boss I mentioned earlier never treated me like I was younger, likely helped that I was hired before him. But, he worked day shift while I worked nights and was much more visible. Current boss is really helping to show how much I can bring to leadership, which is very rewarding.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I have this same issue. I’m the youngest in my workplace by a few years, but people routinely think I’m a decade younger than my real age. It really can be damaging… even though my colleagues are generally respectful professional people, I can tell they treat me differently because of my assumed youth/inexperience.

    3. Batgirl*

      Depends. I was born in the late 70s and that leaves plenty of room for fully grown people to not get my references sometimes. It seems politer to just wave it off as myself being old rather than the interminable “so young” comments workers in their twenties get. I don’t really think that oldness is a bad thing, or even that I’m the oldest person in the room. It’s more avoiding pointing out people’s youth, which I always hated. Though I don’t think it’s a big deal either way.

    4. MK*

      Yes, it is odd for a person in their forties (maybe early fifties?) to keep bringing this up. I get how an elderly person might fall into the habit, and I certainly did comment on it when I realized people born in the 21st century were adults now, but to keep mentioning how old you are at middle age is just as ridiculous as claiming that you are not middle aged at 40.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I think it’s often less about how old the person is and more about how old they are relative to their companions. I can go from feeling pretty young (at work or with a particular group of friends) to pretty old (with my sisters and my cousins) in the course of a day.

        For two years I was in a course where a lot of my peers were younger than me and I definitely had to bite back some “I’m so old” jokes. I think they’re unbecoming, generally, but they seem like a knee-jerk reaction to some self-consciousness. Sort of desire to laugh the elephant out of the room.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Yeah, I was at a wedding recently and felt ANCIENT because I’ve been married for over a decade – but I got married young and the couple was the exact same age as me and my husband. I feel like this has been a common joke among my peers as we entered our 30s and saw each other reaching more life milestones because there’s a “wow, we’re REALLY not kids anymore” realization as things change. But on the other hand, when I’m around parents whose youngest kid is the age of my oldest I feel like a baby.

          It definitely makes her sound insecure and like she spends a lot of time comparing herself to others

          1. Forrest*

            The thing where your children create a new age-starting point is so weird! I have a friend who is 12 years younger than me, and had her first baby at exactly the same time as me. But she’s also been a stepmom to an older child since her early twenties. So we have this incredibly complicated relationship to time where 1) she is way older than me in “raising teenagers” years 2) exactly the same age as me in “having a baby and doing baby things” years, and 3) way younger than me in “remembering things from before the 90s and being established in your career” years.

            1. Petty Betty*

              I’m in my late 30’s and have grandchildren. I started young. My oldest waited until he was a legal adult, but it still made me a “young” grandparent. Many of my peers are still just starting their families while I only have one left that’s under 18, and is firmly a teenager. I’m planning my “after kid” stage while most of my friends are still dealing with diapers or elementary school. And a *lot* has changed in the 20+ years since I first started having kids. Supply costs are so much more, and income levels have not gone up to compensate.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, sometimes I realize I’m the oldest person in a group by 15 years and have to keep myself from saying anything.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          One of my coworkers was born the year Mr Gumption graduated from college. Something he is continually amazed by because she is way more together and mature than us

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I think it’s often less about how old the person is and more about how old they are relative to their companions. I can go from feeling pretty young (at work or with a particular group of friends) to pretty old (with my sisters and my cousins) in the course of a day.

        For two years I was in a course where a lot of my peers were younger than me and I definitely had to bite back some “I’m so old” jokes. I think they’re unbecoming, generally, but they seem like a knee-jerk reaction to some self-consciousness. Sort of desire to laugh the elephant out of the room.

        1. Ed123*

          I’m the oldest in my football club. I was born in 1990 so not ancient by any means but I am almost the only one that was born in the 1900s. So yeah, there are old jokes from me and others. We had a night out and one of the other club members (hadn’t met before) came to ask how old I am since the other girls talk about me like I’m a club legend. Made a comment about how I started to play in 1994 when I was just 4 yo. One of the girls go “wow. that was 10 years before I was born”. And this person is an adult that I was having a totally legal drink with. At work I feel young, at hobby I feel old.

        2. KRM*

          We make a lot of “I’m old” jokes at work but mostly because we have a pretty even split of “people who are old enough to remember doing X manually out of necessity” and “people who are young enough to have always had things commercially available” (I work in a lab). So the older folks trade war stories and the younger ones laugh at us, as is only proper (so many stories about accidentally inhaling SDS powder while making our own gels…).

        3. Nina*

          My company skews young. Very young. Median age is somewhere in the late twenties, mean age is somewhere in the early thirties. In my building there are nine of us in our mid twenties, and one forty-five-year-old grandfather. Jokes about age are just a thing.

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I think it’s often less about how old the person is and more about how old they are relative to their companions. I can go from feeling pretty young (at work or with a particular group of friends) to pretty old (with my sisters and my cousins) in the course of a day.

        For two years I was in a course where a lot of my peers were younger than me and I definitely had to bite back some “I’m so old” jokes. I think they’re unbecoming, generally, but they seem like a knee-jerk reaction to some self-consciousness. Sort of desire to laugh the elephant out of the room.

        1. Anon for This*

          Or how old they are, not in age years but in whatever experience is relevant years. Someone who is 30, has been working at company for 10 years, and remembers that silly inconvenient process was implemented after Joe tripped over a stray piece of paper and went head first through a plate glass door, is going to feel old when new hires who are older than 35 are talking about how weird and silly it is that all paper must be kept inside desks at all time, never on top of desks.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Odd to bring it up? I think that depends on what one experiences. I worked in one place where people told me because of my age I should not be lifting. hmmm. I was 45.

        I noticed a collective change in the people around me shortly after I hit 40. Some of it was a bit more respect or deference. But some of it was comments- “you should hire that [task] out at your age it’s not the best idea to that [task]”. I started hearing a lot more- “let me get that for you”.

        I honestly think that some people just don’t know what to expect from a middle aged person, so they default to, “Do you want help with that?”. In other examples, a middle aged person can assume I am having the same difficulties they are having. They can’t lift something so they assume I can’t lift it either, for example.

        I see a lot more of this type of thing (offers of help and assumptions) than when I was 20. The difference is pretty stark. I am wondering if she is seeing a similar thing and that is what is driving the running commentary.

        I do think that Alison has a great point, OP, about checking to see if these comments only occur in groups OR if you are seeing them in private conversations with her also. If she doesn’t say it in private conversations with you, then it could be that she does realize you are in her age bracket.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Where do you live? I mean, I’m pushing 60 and never get offers of help for lifting stuff! (no grey hair to speak but plenty of wrinkles…)

        2. MK*

          Odd to “keep” bringing it up! As I said, I might make a similar comment myself occasionally, but it sounds as if this is a staple of this person’s conversation.

      5. alienor*

        I realized a few years ago that a couple of work friends and I (then in our mid-40s) were constantly referring to how old we were, or reminiscing about the past, and made a deliberate effort to stop doing that. I figure ageism at work is bad enough without going around reminding everyone “HEY GUYS, I’M SUPER OLD” all the time.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I am definitely starting to come to this same realization, especially in regard to illegal, yet pervasive age discrimination. Someone thinks I’m 10 years younger than I really am? Maybe I should STFU and let them.

          I’ve also heard some people do this and had the inner dialogue/flush of embarassment that I must sound that way as well. Plus it can come across as fishing for compliments. Awkward either way.

        2. filosofickle*

          I’ve had the same realization but can’t seem to stop! I’m weirdly obsessed with my age — not because I feel so ancient, though I am markedly older than most of my colleagues and that does bring it out, but more because I don’t feel that old. How am I almost 50? It’s surreal. So I’m always kind of wrapping my head around it and referencing it way way too much.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          We had someone do this in an interview recently! They had worked at our company as a contractor in the early 2000s and it felt like they started every single answer with “well, way back in 2002” or “I’m not a young person and back in the day we…” There were 4 of us on the panel and all of us in our mid 30s to mid 40s. It was so uncomfortable.

          1. alienor*

            I’ve had someone do that in an interview as well. It’s true they were older (probably around 60) but I was longing to tell them that they weren’t doing themselves any favors by making a big deal out of it.

      6. Harried HR*

        Ok maybe I’m just feeling feisty this morning…. but Middle Aged surely means middle of your life span. So if the average life span is 80 years… then 40 is the beginning of Middle Age correct ??

        1. MK*

          Except the middle part of your life span doesn’t begin exactly midway, it begins sooner than that. And the idea that you are considered young till you reach the midway point and then become middle aged makes zero sense to me, 40 to 60 isn’t the middle part of your life, it’s the third quarter. I suppose it depends on your definition, but personally I started feeling off about being referred to as “young” in my thirties; sure I was not old, but I wasn’t a young person anymore and there is nothing wrong about that. The whole thing feels part and parcel with the glorification of youth in our culture.

          Though, even by your own definition, if 40 is the beginning of middle age, you are middle-aged in your forties.

        2. alienor*

          Strictly speaking, if you divided an 80-year life span into thirds, then each third of your life would be about 26 years, and the middle part would be age 27-53. Something tells me 27-year-olds wouldn’t be too excited to hear that, though.

          I prefer to go with my friend’s assessment–she’s a medical professional and works with a lot of elderly people, and she says middle age lasts until 65 if you’ve taken care of yourself (barring illnesses that are out of your control). Sounds good to me.

          1. Nightengale*

            I declared myself “middle aged” at 29. (I’m 45 now)

            This was in response to our medical school lecture series on caring for patients across the life span. Our professors tended to be very absolute. On Tuesday, the lecture on young adults basically said that the important topics were romance and sex, drinking and other substances. None of which were relevant to my life at all. On Thursday, the lecture on middle age started off “people may have chronic health conditions but can still be working and active.” As a chronically ill/disabled person, this sounded a lot more like me. If they were going to be so essentialist about all people in a given age group, than I guess I must be middle aged!

            Then again, I wore cardigans and listened to classical music and was old at 12. . .

            1. Wisteria*

              On Tuesday, the lecture on young adults basically said that the important topics were romance and sex, drinking and other substances.

              Yeah, nobody over 40 does any of that stuff. It all become illegal at 12 midnight on the dot the day of your 40th birthday.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I actually would say something, I think. These sorts of jokes (made repeatedly, not as a one-off) make me feel like this person has a little bit of self-consciousness about her age and how she is percieved, and she would probably feel on the back foot if it came out later that OP was older than her.

      That’s not to say OP has an obligation, but it might make things feel smoother in the long run.

      1. Babyface*

        Hi! I’m the letter writer for #3. Reading the comments offers a good perspective and a reminder that this colleague is speaking about age because they are also likely wanting to make sure people don’t treat them as younger they are. It comes up in both large groups and also just in our team meetings which are 4 of us. That’s when it’s more awkward for me. I do acknowledge it’s a bit of an ego issue in my part – I don’t want to be treated in a condescending way because they assume I am so young. Thanks all – will post an update if I do try to say something!

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          You sound very conscientious. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

        2. Eat My Squirrel*

          I dunno, honestly, if it were me I would not say anything because then all of her comments would be “you’re all too young to remember this. Well, except Squirrel.” And then not only do I have to listen to her announce her oldness all the time, but then she’d also be basically calling me old all the time too. That would annoy me more than her thinking I’m a young’un.

        3. Julia*

          Being perceived of as young isn’t always a detriment. I’m 46 and people assume I’m in my early 30s. Sometimes people think I’ll great at my job because I’m youthful and great with technology. Other times people think I’m inexperienced and in need of mentoring/help. I try not to take it personally and address the negative perceptions in the moment. If someone condscendingly refers to my lack of experience I correct them and move on. Trying to keep my ego out of it helps.

          1. The OG Sleepless*

            That’s another reason I don’t lean into the “I’m so much older than you” thing at work. Ageism is very real in my field. I feel sometimes like I went straight from “she’s so young she doesn’t know anything yet” to the brink of “she’s too old, there’s no way she’s staying current with her knowledge” with nothing in between.

          2. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

            Yeah, I’m pushing 40 here but due to the nature of my work, I spend a lot of time around people who are my parents’ age or older. They definitely think I’m a baby and/or a technical wizard, when really I have arthritis and a few gray hairs, and I’m good at pushing buttons until the thing works. I find I have to do a lot of gentle reframing in the moment.

        4. Purrscilla*

          I have this problem sometimes also – my industry tends to have a lot of younger people, and I spent some time in graduate school with the result that my boss is often younger than me. Nobody ever seems to realize it if I don’t say anything, and I’m constantly torn between mentioning that I’m also older so they don’t think I’m an inexperienced kid, and keeping quiet so I don’t run into age discrimination. Currently I’m tending toward the second option (or asking them nicely to stop saying they’re old).

          Sometimes I think I should change my appearance to look older, but I don’t *want* to take the blue out of my hair or dress more formally or wear makeup. (I’m 45 for reference.)

    6. LobsterPhone*

      I have the opposite problem with my colleague – she’s only a few years older than I am but refers to herself as ancient and speaks to me and other colleagues even closer to her age about cultural references from her (and our) youth like she just time travelled into the office. She’s also pointed out local landmarks in our small city like I’ve never encountered them before. To give this some context, I’m 46 years old and have lived in this city my entire life.

      1. Lady Elaine*

        I had an assistant manager years ago who would occasionally make comments like, “I’m no spring chicken,” or, “I’m older than I look.” So one day I asked her how old she was anyway. 27. Oh really, me too! I was born in [month], how about her? Oh, born in the same month? … Reader, we were both born on the exact same date. After marveling at this coincidence, I wheeled on her: “You’d better stop talking about how old you are from now on!”

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        At one point, my boss and her boss (born the same year as each other, and definitely older than me) were joking about how they were not old yet. I enthusiastically supported this. As I pointed out, “I’m younger than you. If you’re not old, that means I’ll never be old!”

        (I’m another of those “older than I look” people. I don’t generally volunteer my age, but I do tell people when they ask and there has definitely been some surprise at my answer.)

    7. I take tea*

      “I feel like born in the 70s is too young to actually feel old and too old to joke about feeling old! ”

      Hah. No. I think it has to do with the environment. I certainly feel old sometimes, probably because I work with a lot of students in their early 20’s. I’m the same age as their parents, probably.

        1. Ruby + Rowdy*

          Doesn’t even have to be their grandmother! I know my mom felt extremely old when, upon taking me to my new friend’s house in kindergarten, new friend’s mom recognized my mom as her 7th grade English teacher. Friend’s mom was in my mom’s class the very first year she started teaching, so it wasn’t the biggest age gap in the world but she still brings it up as the first time she felt OLD.

        2. quill*

          Had a high school teacher declare that if she ever saw a fourth generation of students, she was done. (The math works out because she was at most six years older than her first ever class.) I never did find out if she ever got a fourth generation student, but she did retire five years after I had her.

      1. Lore*

        I have a new coworker who somehow figured out that we’d gone to the same college (and, as it turns out, so had her boss and a close colleague of mine, both of whom I’ve worked with for 10 years without knowing that, so thanks, recent graduate for figuring that out!). Anyway, she mentioned that her parents had also gone there and we did the math and realized that I had gone to school with her parents (they’re a tiny bit older but not so you’d notice). I truly don’t know which of us was more flabbergasted in that moment. To her infinite credit, her immediate response was, “Well, you seem a lot younger…”

      2. I'm Not Phyllis*

        I was born in the late 70s but have had some recent medical issues and if age is how you feel – lately I feel ancient. It’s easier to joke about struggling to get up by saying “I’m gettin’ old!” rather than “everything hurts – give me a minute.” Definitely not intended to insult anyone who is older than me so I definitely appreciate this insight though!

    8. I take tea*

      Btw, I just love when people know about and like things that aren’t contemporary. Being a fan of older music, for example, it made me ridiculously happy to hear a twelve year old sing a song that was a hit when their grandparents were young.

      1. Lexie*

        I worked with a kid who was a huge fan of 80s rock (20 years later) because that was the parents’ era and the kids grew up listening to their music.

        1. DataGirl*

          I have a special place in my heart for 50’s and 60’s music, especially early rock and classic country, because it’s all my parents listened to. It reminds me of simpler times.

    9. kathy*

      I have definitely used language like this when I’m worried that people aren’t taking me seriously or if they are under-estimating my experience or seniority. Perhaps your co-worker is trying to remind you (or herself) that she belongs in your cohort?

    10. Formerly cool*

      As someone born in the late 70s, I can say I don’t feel “old” so much as I’m increasingly aware of how much older I am than people in their 20s and 30s. Like, I recently walked into a restaurant where the 20-something kitchen staff was loudly singing along to a playlist of music from the early 2000s, and realized it was the equivalent of me getting into “classic rock” from my parents’ high school years when I was that age. I try not to remark on it too often, but it’s definitely something I notice more and more, especially since 90s/00s nostalgia is cool now.

      1. Lexie*

        It sounds like we are about the same age and it hits me when my husband has the oldies station on in the car and they are playing stuff from when I was in middle school.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          I’m very grateful to my local “middle school music” station for calling them throwbacks instead of oldies lol

      2. MsSolo UK*

        We’re bracketed by students on each side, in a terrace house with paper thin walls, and it’s very weird when they break out stuff like the Spice Girls and other 90s wonders – you weren’t even born then! You’re too young to be nostalgic for /my/ youth!

        (though I’m loving the 90s/00s clothing revival!)

      3. ThisIsTheHill*

        Also a late-70’s baby. It really hit me when my eldest nephew graduated high school in 2018; their class song was from ~2003 & all I could think was, “You were still in diapers when {song} came out”.

      4. DataGirl*

        I have teenagers and I can’t tell you how many times they play me a ‘new’ song that was popular when I was in high school. I’m like girl I saw that band in concert a decade before you were born…

    11. Person from the Resume*

      I also get told that I look younger than I am. I don’t mind, but also I don’t mind telling people my age. I don’t understand the vanity of hiding your age or pretending to be younger.

      But in this situation AT WORK where someone is claiming an age gap and by association experience and wisdom that comes along with it, I think the LW should say something. This strikes me as a tactic (conscious or unconscious) to claim authority that comes with more experience and knowledge than a midlife crisis. (Though we see what we see and empathize in different things.)

      LW should say that she’s older than the “old lady” or nearly the same age or generation as her. Something pithy that fits the wording. “I grew up on that pop culture tidbit too. I’m even a bit older than you.”

      IMO this works your years off experience into the conversation.

    12. The OG Sleepless*

      I was born in the late 60s (so I’m in my mid 50s) and I work mostly with a group of women in their early 30s. Nobody really brings it up that much. I sometimes have to remind them that I need to grab my reading glasses before I can do a task, and none of them seem to ever remember that if I’m standing near a source of white noise I CANNOT FREAKING UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY’RE SAYING which drives me CRAZY but I digress. I guess the only time I even mention it otherwise is if I’m telling a story from when I was younger, and I feel the need to remind them “this was before cell phones, so I couldn’t call them” or “this was before the internet, so I really didn’t have a way to verify what he told me.” I don’t much like the idea of constantly reminding my coworkers how much older I am than they are. It seems like…such an old-person thing to do.

    13. Generic Name*

      I’m 42, and I was at a work event with a bunch of 20 and 30 somethings who were all talking about their babies and toddlers. I am deep in the trenches of having a teenager, and I felt positively ancient after that event. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I did mention it to my coworker later.

    14. DataGirl*

      I was born in the second half of the 70’s but consider myself to be much more of a 80’s/90’s person since those were my developmental years. That being said I know a lot about popular culture of the 50’s-70’s because a) I was a latchkey kid and grew up on TV/reruns and b) my parents never embraced later cultures so my early exposure to music, books, etc was all from the 50’s and 60’s.

      I guess my point is you don’t have to be older to get older cultural references, but given that this colleague seems to be making a point about their age a well placed ‘Oh yeah I loved that show/song/book when I was a kid.’ or ‘Weren’t the 70’s great? Freedom to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted as long as we were home by dark.’ would gently point out OP’s age without making a big deal about it.

    15. Prospect Gone Bad*

      So much this. I love and hate this letter because I have the same thing. When I’ve called it out I get told some variation of “you aren’t that old” and I usually don’t push it, but I want to scream “we are basically the same age!” I think people confuse keeping up your appearance and up to date with age. Like age is a style that changes with your behavior. It’s sort of annoying becuase I thought I’d have people complimenting me on remaining youthful looking at this age. Nope. Instead it’s a bunch of people who are my age and aging and want to say “kids these days” comments at me. I also don’t agree with the premise that we are old or so middle aged. I feel barely middle aged but it is still different from my parents’ middle age where they sort of gave up at 40 something because they didn’t realize that a lot of stuff is avoidable with exercise and diet and sunscreen.

      1. matcha123*

        Very much agree. One’s body doesn’t shrivel and turn to dust once you hit 30. Or 35. Or whatever age.
        People are allowed to like things that were popular before they were born and popular with people decades younger than them!

    16. quill*

      Not to mention, before everyone had the internet, reruns of popular media, especially cartoons and other “[Decade] kids” nostalgia-generating media was just as prominent as new progamming! The fact that I know classic Scooby Doo, or Rocky and Bullwinkle, has a lot more to do with cartoon network still having the license to show it (probably even now) than my age.

    17. the Human Fund fundraiser*

      Even people born in the same year can have different cultural refernces, depending on whether they had older siblings/ older friends introducing them to certain music, films and show when they were actually a bit too young for it. I had an older sister, who always shared her music with me, and was the youngest kid in the neighbourhood which sometimes leads to people saying: Aren’t you too young to know about this first hand? (I remember waching Total Recall with the neighbourhood kid and not understanding it one bit :D). At least that’s what I noticed. In addition, I am a foreigner in the UK actually, so all the typical 80s/90s British refernces that I know of I have learned about after moving here, which I sometimes like to surprise people with).

    18. TrixM*

      I get so embarrassed when fellow gen-Xers go into that routine! Sure, if there are other people around the same age, or we’re all talking about childhoods, or a colleague or two have a shared interest in Doctor Who, totally fine. Maybe even interesting sometimes!

      But so frequently the LW has noticed? During meetings, etc? Oh boy. I did not give a toss about the music my parents’ generation were into (sure, I had a Beatles phase.. but my mother was into Conway Twitty). To this day, I have no idea what they watched on TV – Bonanza and I Love Lucy, maybe?

      Anyway, a bit of nostalgia is fine from time to time, but I really don’t expect anyone to get my references to Sapphire and Steel or care about my opinions on Flying Nun artists. I feel my hair curling in shame just thinking of it. In meetings! I’m actually trying to think of universal references – Star Wars, if you were into it? (I was not) Madonna? (Ditto)

    19. matcha123*

      I feel for that letter writer. I am often assumed to be a lot younger than I actually am. I don’t really correct the person on their assumption because I’ve always believed that assuming someone is more talented or smarter due to age is not a good idea.
      It does get annoying when the person who (usually) is older assumes I’m a lot younger than I am, tells other people I don’t know something or that I have no experience, then I have to tell the other person that I in fact do have that experience, and then watch them go off confused…

      I’m also an elder Millennial who grew up watching a lot of news and adult programs, so I can reference shows that I was probably too young to watch; I went to schools that had technology that wasn’t widespread across the US at that time, so younger people think I’m the same age and then get confused when they find out I’m older. Fun times.

    20. Worldwalker*

      No kidding. I know more about Augustus Caesar than about Kim Kardashian. And more about Sherlock Holmes than Jessica Fletcher. Most of my favorite music was written hundreds of years before I was born.

  8. Ness*

    Shorts and a t-shirt are totally fine to sleep in. I really can’t see anyone judging a coworker for not wearing “nice” sleepwear.

    But also, LW should check in with his supervisor about the rooming situation, instead of assuming. I think there’s a good chance his supervisor is feeling uncertain how to handle this, given the recent transition, so LW should make his preference known.

    1. OrdinaryJoe*

      Yes – please check with the manager AND who is being assigned to be the roommate. It’s up to everyone to be 100% up front about what they are comfortable with, what they’re not comfortable with, and potential concerns. If it was me, for my own piece of mind, I’d want to make sure I wasn’t walking into an uncomfortable situation or forcing someone else into an uncomfortable situation. All of that can be avoided with a few quick emails.

      1. Jacob*

        “Forcing someone else into an uncomfortable situation” … you mean the horror of a cis person sharing a hotel room with a trans person? The cis person’s discomfort would be their own to manage, not the letter writer’s responsibility.

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          100% this, but I was going to suggest checking the roomie situation as well. My concern is completely for the LW’s comfort and safety though.

        2. OrdinaryJoe*

          My concern – as I stated – is for everyone’s comfort. You don’t know other people’s religious restrictions, their personal beliefs, their spouses’ issues. The LW should be comfortable and the other person should be comfortable.

          It would be the same if someone used a medical device to sleep with, was a very loud snorer, had to sleep with the TV on, etc. You’re sharing a room with someone – be upfront about the situation and make a potentially stressful situation slightly better for everyone.

          1. Uhhhhh*

            Literally the only reason a person’s religious/personal beliefs or spouses’ issues would be relevant in this situation is if the potential roommie is transphobic so nah, that’s on them to deal with and nobody should have to accommodate their “comfort” around this (as it would really be accommodating their bigotry). LW is out at work so if any of their coworkers are transphobes, the onus is on them to object if they get assigned to the same room, not the LW to beg permission to exist.

            Also, consider not comparing a person’s existence as a trans man to a loud annoying noise that nobody wants to hear.

          2. Jacob*

            As a trans man, luv to be compared with snoring or inconsiderate tv watching.

            Lots of cis people are uncomfortable with trans people, it’s true. That is transphobia, and it should not be indulged.

      2. OP 4*

        Yeah, now that you point it out I really should bring that up. We’re currently cementing who’s coming, because there’s a couple members with scheduling overlaps or family emergencies. I’ve emailed the professor saying that I understand the budget means I’ll probably need to share, but once we have the final list, I would like to pick a roommate who I know is going to be okay about it. (I haven’t asked anyone for their specific opinion, and no one’s been rude enough to offer, but when people show up in Critical Role pride flag shirts, that sends a different message than showing up in Turning Point USA shirts.)

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, unfortunately there are those people who would be uncomfortable with a trans person, and more for your benefit than theirs, it makes sense to try and pair you up with someone who isn’t transphobic and there won’t be any problems sharing a room.

  9. WomEngineer*

    #2 is another episode of “hiring isn’t personal.” I agree with Alison’s advice to focus on getting feedback and evaluating where you want to be. I’ve been there, but with peers getting chosen for different worksites or getting full-time conversion offers. Although rejection is frustrating, it stings less when you know what you’re working towards and feel in control of it.

  10. Making up names is hard*

    The idea of using progressively less common Yiddish words is hilarious.

    You could also say something like “I’ve noticed you use a lot of yiddish words. Are you interested in the language? I don’t speak it, but I heard there is a great [fact about Yiddish revival programs /theater/etc]. Would you like me to send you the link?”

    That might help you figure out whether this person is Jewish, a Yiddish enthusiast, or anti-Semitic.

    I do think you should take some kind of action, even if it is one of these softer approaches rather than a confrontation. If this person really is using these words only since they learned you were Jewish, whether consciously or not, this is an anti-Semitic micro-aggression, bordering on harassment. Hopefully it’s not a sign of more serious tendencies in your manager, and maybe they just need a wake up call, but I encourage you to address it. I grew up in the South, and was most of my friends’ parents’ first Jewish acquaintance, and people are surprisingly unaware of what might be offensive to a Jewish person or anti-Semitic. Good luck!

    1. Not A Manager*

      Does it matter if the person is Jewish, a Yiddish enthusiast, or anti-Semitic? (I mean, yes, of course it matters, but does it matter in terms of speaking Yiddish at LW?)

      I think the key issue here is whether the boss generally speaks this way to everyone, or just to LW.
      LW doesn’t want to be othered by some secret language whether it’s a private language between two “insiders,” a private language between an insider and an admirer, or a mocking language. I think LW should shut this down without going on a hunt for motivations. “I’ve noticed that most people around here don’t really use Yiddishisms. I don’t myself, for that matter. I’d feel more comfortable if you just spoke to me the same way you speak to everyone.”

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        It matters because code-switching is a normal thing humans do and likely is harmless. When I lived in the South, as a Jew very much surrounded by non-Jews, I left a lot of Yiddish expressions out of my speech- no one would have understood them anyhow. Once I learned someone was Jewish, then they had a way of slipping back in, because it was like- Oh, this one of my people. Cool. I didn’t even notice it until one day at synagogue I realized I sounded like my Grandmother. Oy vey! Even secular Jews who don’t celebrate or take off the holidays (which I rarely do) often probably also do code-switching like this if they grew up around a lot of Yiddish.

        1. MsM*

          I think that may be true if you didn’t grow up in an area with enough Jews around that everyone speaks a certain level of Yiddish without even thinking about it…but as someone who *does* come from that kind of background and doesn’t really modify my Yiddish usage no matter who I’m talking to (if I want to bond, I’ll reference specific stuff from Hebrew school or holidays), I’m a lot more inclined to trust OP that this feels weird and not-friendly (or at least deeply misguided) than a lot of these comments seem to be.

        2. Making up names is hard*

          I agree that code switching is very real! As is wanting to indicate subtly that you too are Jewish. I do not have a last name that reads as Jewish (in fact, it’s from my non-jewish side), so I often try to drop my identity into conversation. But I don’t want to just say “hey you’re Jewish, in Jewish too!” Because that seems weird, ßo I usually mention something about a holiday.

          I personally am leaning on the side of this not being code switching, and more being the micro -aggression, simply because LW’s manager has had ample opportunities to say something about celebrating other Jewish holidays since LW took time off for the HHD in September.

          1. AnotherLibrarian*

            Yeah, I suspect this is something else as well and I’m not 100% sure how to approach it. My point was simply to suggest that code-switching does happen among Jewish folks and the origin of the language change does matter. Having said that, if it makes OP uncomfortable then it should be addressed, though I am stumped to know how to address it.

      2. Smithy*

        As a Jew who grew up in the Midwest, without leaving my city I was in some places as the only Jewish person anyone had ever met and other places with a far higher Jewish representation but also cultural fluency.

        So I just want to echo that code switching is very real, and can occur between fellow community members as well as those with higher Jewish cultural fluency or proximity. And in either case it can still feel welcome or unwelcome, but the intent matters. If the person is Jewish or has Jewish cousins, then it’s likely done in an effort to reach out – and while it may not be appreciated, likely requires a softer approach.

        I will also say that as a Jewish person who doesn’t read obviously so, I’ve tried different ways to bring it up to avoid other assumptions but also sidestep anyone feeling bad that yes I’m in the office on Yom Kipur (cause I may have genuinely not noticed, and even if I did – still would have come in…..). Yiddish words, bringing in hamentashen around Purim have been ways I’ve found comfortable to share my tribe membership as cultural but not religious.

    2. Len F*

      I’m Ashkenazi myself. I read it not as antisemitic but a boneheaded attempt to connect.

      I had a coworker once who was a bit like that sometimes. In my case, he had trouble reading social cues in general, and I knew he meant well, but it was still quite irritating.

    3. pancakes*

      “. . . and people are surprisingly unaware of what might be offensive to a Jewish person or anti-Semitic.”

      I don’t think it’s at all surprising that people who live relatively insular lives and make no particular effort to learn about the larger world beyond their own day-to-day lives would have sizable gaps in their knowledge about it. There are lots of great reasons to broaden one’s own horizons besides trying to avoid inadvertently giving offense, but that in itself is certainly one.

      1. Bagpuss*

        That’s true, but it’s also true that people who *do* make an effort to learn about he wider world can still have sizable gaps in there knowledge, make mistakes, or take advice from the wrong person, or take well-meaning but inappropriate actions.
        And everyone will have *different* gaps in their knowledge, not to mention the issue of knowing what you don’t know.

        1. filosofickle*

          I’m the person with a gap that needed to see this letter. I have had loads of Jewish friends and colleagues in my life and picked up a fair bit of Yiddish — I love language and particularly how expressive Yiddish words are. So when I am around Jewish folks I do tend to use more because I can’t use it everywhere. But I also hear the impulse that’s trying too hard and also see where it’s othering and icky. It was helpful for me to see this and will avoid in the future.

          1. pancakes*

            We all have gaps! It wasn’t and isn’t my intention to suggest that there’s a subset of people who somehow, miraculously, know all there is to know about the world.

            I feel like I should add that it also wasn’t my intention to suggest that the letter writer’s manager is necessarily being offensive. I just wanted to respond to the idea that it’s surprising for people who live rather insular lives to reveal themselves to have rather insular knowledge of the world.

  11. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    Your boss starting to use Yiddish is very weird and very Othering. She sounds like the kind of white person who would shake hands with other white people and give fist bumps to Black people (pre-COVID).

    1. MicroManagered*

      Whaaaaaaaat are you talking about? That’s a lot of assumptions from a letter that only mentions very common vernacular Yiddish terms.

      1. pancakes*

        Not really, no. I don’t think the letter writer would’ve been moved to ask how to handle this if they didn’t feel it was at least a bit othering.

        1. Lila*

          Exactly. It’s a little disappointing to see so many commenters interested in emphasizing how normal and innocuous this is, rather than taking the OP’s word that something felt off.

      2. Loulou*

        Yeah, this is a wild leap! Especially since Jews overtly signaling their Jewishness to other Jews in non-Jewish environments is an established phenomenon (Google “bageling”) — that is just as likely to be the situation as anything else people have come up with.

        1. Liz T*

          It’s not a wild leap at all, because you’re assuming the manager is Jewish. If the manager were Jewish, she could say something about the part of Jewishness OP had referenced–the actual religious and cultural observances.

          We Jews are assuming that the OP is not crazy, that the manager is not Jewish, and this is exactly like The Phoebe’s example. Even if you thought it might not apply in this situation, how on earth would it be a “wild leap?” Because you think this phenomenon doesn’t exist?

          1. Loulou*

            I’m not assuming the manager is Jewish. I’m saying there’s a possibility she is, and I would consider that roughly as likely as her being someone who high fives black people while shaking hands with white people.

            While we’re on the subject, though, really interesting that you seem so comfortable assuming I’m not jewish? “We Jews” is honestly a wild way to say “people who had the same interpretation as me.”

      3. Nameless in Customer Service*

        One person’s “assumptions” are how they dismiss the pattern another person can recognize due to experience.

    2. Rolly*

      If the boss is not Jewish, it’s othering to start using it only when learning the OP is Jewish. It’s emphasizing the OP’s different background.

    3. Prospect Gone Bad*

      LOL I don’t think someone learned a bunch of Yiddish terms so they could use them as a cudgel. I’ve worked in a two places that were 50%+ Jewish. I think it’s just a given in some areas of the country, which is why I appreciate Allison’s more generous reading of this instead of assuming ill intention.

      1. TransmascJourno*

        This comment is really dismissive to what others here have shared. It’s also dismissive of what LW1 described.

    4. Classical Music Nerd*

      Thank you, Phoebe of this Group, for being so clear about the Othering effect. I feervently agree and feel quite dismayed at this whole incident, even though it’s second-hand, and LW I feel you. (I’m Jewish too, but most people have no idea until I let them know — and do I like to let them know in situations where it wouldn’t be oddly out of the blue, to keep from being invisibilized.)

      Check out a very insightful and wryly humorous book by David Baddiel called “Jews Don’t Count,” making some penetrating points about how Jewish people are treated as treated as unsympathetically white by many on the American political Left, and treated as unsympathetically non-white by many on the American political Right.

      Alison, thank you for your notes at the top of the page — very comforting to be “seen” in this way. And imho your advice in response to the letter is right in the zone.

  12. LittleMarshmallow*

    LW1: I could be waayyy off on this, but is there a chance that you use those words and your manager is sort of mirroring you? A lot of people unconsciously pick up random words from people they talk to a lot so the uptick in using Yiddish words could be because your boss is hearing you use those words. We have so many little random phrases that people at my work say that I only hear and really only use at work (sort of our own teeny tiny regional dialect…haha). Examples are “what doin’?”, pronouncing manual like they do on WALL·E (manwell), saying the k in Knife (and the e at the end k-niffee) and so many more.

    If it bugs you, say something, I know I would rather know if words I was using were annoying someone. I’m trying to practice more Spanish so sometimes I mumble the Spanish words for things to myself. I hope it wouldn’t offend someone that speaks Spanish fluently but if it did… I hope they’d tell me so I can try not to do it. I admit it seems unlikely that this is the case here. But the answer is the same. If it bugs you say something. But, at least for round 1, try to assume she’s not just “making it weird” because she knows you’re Jewish and be gentle about it. If she doubles down and gets weirder after first inquiry then be more aggressive about it.

    I think I’d also advise taking her at her word if she says she’s not doing it because you’re Jewish. You can see in the comments the amount of people that use your examples in English so it’s very possible she has not made the connection. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t ask her to stop if you’d prefer that non Jewish people not use Yiddish words around you.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes. Everyone loves updates!

      1. Nina*

        Look, I work in a place where all knives, of any size, are generically referred to as ‘a sword’ with the w pronounced (a colleague with limited English made a joke about a tiny pocketknife and the name stuck forever). I don’t find ‘k’nifee’ weird at all.

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      OP said it only started happening after she requested time off for Jewish holidays. I personally would not give her boss the benefit of the doubt. How the OP wants to handle it is a different issue, and might depend on whether or not she is concerned that saying something would put her job at risk, but it does not seem innocuous.

      1. Lila*

        Totally agree. There seems like a clear connection to when it started no matter how common some people feel that Yiddish words are.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      We don’t know whether OP knows or uses Yiddish at all. If her family are Sephardic, it’s not part of her heritage.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        It’s not necessarily part of her heritage I meant to write. Obviously it would be fine for her to consider it so, but weird for someone else to think that Yiddish is synonymous with being Jewish.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Yes, or rather anything other than Ashkenazi. There are several Jewish ethnicities and of course lots of Jews from a not-predominantly-Jewish ethnicity!

        1. Making up names is hard*

          I’m Ashkenazi and I don’t consider Yiddish part of my heritage. If my family did speak it (which is likely), they stop by the mid 1800″s based on family records/papers, possibly earlier. They lived in communities that spoke modern German amongst the Jews and other non -german non-russian languages elsewhere.

          1. Canadian Librarian #72*

            I mean, German Jews/Yekkes did once speak Yiddish (Western Yiddish dialect); it’s just that they gave it up when they began assimilating into German society… they were emancipated much sooner than most Eastern European Jews, and consequently easterners retained Yiddish for far longer. It’s the reason that Western Yiddish is mostly a dead language today, whereas Eastern Yiddish is actually seeing something of a renaissance.

            Of course you’re under no obligation to consider Yiddish a meaningful part of your personal heritage. But it definitely is part of Ashkenazi Jewish history as a whole, including Yekkes.

    3. Intent to Flounce*

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who pronounces it as kerniffy. Also bahamas for pyjamas (in honour of a wonderful Basque colleague who pronounced it that way and it stuck) and consearchatree (for conservatory) because my kidlet couldn’t pronounce it when little. And a host of other oddities. More of a family thing than a work thing though, I admit. Work is more about reading acronyms as if they were real words but mispronouncing them.

  13. Drew*

    #3, I’ve had friends/acquaintances with one foot in the grave since they were 25. Some people just seem to focus on feeling old.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      For sure…and people in the “when you’re as old as I am” camp never like it when they find out they’re not the oldest person there. One coworker kept talking about himself as if he were in his 60s. He was 38. I was 52. He really did seem older than I ever felt. I never did tell him my actual age. I think that would have made him sad.

    2. Dixie*

      Yep. I have one friend who tried to talk about how we were “middle-aged” at 30. I told her, “You may be, but I’m not.”

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I defined “middle-aged” as the years when I took my grandchildren with me to visit my grandmother.

        Mathematically, I am clearly in the second half of my life, although it’s too early to know whether I’m in the third or fourth quarter!

    3. Sporty Yoda*

      This: I’m in my mid-late twenties and oft bring up how elderly I am. Sometimes, this is to 19-year-olds (AKA “the youths”). Sometimes, this is to people ten years my senior.

    4. Meep*

      Truthfully, part of it is sexism. Women are told that they have an expiration date and usually that is when they turn 30. Think about how many actresses in their 40s and 50s that are cast as grandmothers because they are “too old” to play the main character.

      With that said… The first thing that popped into my mind reading it was the time my former toxic coworker didn’t want to hire an admin assistant because she was “too old”. The admin assistant was in her mid-40s. The coworker in question? Well, she is 59.

  14. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP2. Executive Assistants don’t do grunt work. It’s a skilled occupation and many EAs have degrees. I have worked as a senior EA for over 20 years and just retired. I earned over $100,000 a year for at least half of that time. I had a long and rewarding career. Rewarding both financially in that it has enabled me to buy a home, investment real estate and save and invest for my retirement, as well as personally rewarding having worked for major financial organisations, human rights organisations and in combatting cyber crime. Don’t turn your nose up at an EA position because you think it’s beneath you. It’s not the career for everyone, but please don’t write it off as “grunt” work and be insulted you were offered a job as an EA.

    1. HHD*

      100% agree. I briefly worked as an EA out of uni, and was terrible at it, my brain just doesn’t work that way. Good EAs are worth their weight in gold, are incredibly highly skilled at admin, diplomacy and negotiation, and are often paid accordingly. It’s also an amazing way to learn how an organisation really works, so absolutely don’t be insulted.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Exactly. Our EAs basically run their c-suite folks. You want to get anything done, you go to the EA. To have made it where they are, they are organized, sharp, have excellent people skills, and, bluntly, know how to get shit done. It’s an art form and a rare combo skill set.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Absolutely agree. It is very much worth asking why this was the role offered because it may be an honor instead of an insult. The executives may have really like the OP and wanted them to learn the business directly from them. The OP may be a Jack of All Trades and they recognized that they will absorb the most information being exposed to the ins and outs of everyday operations. They may be exposed to business deals and negotiations. The execs may have seen leadership qualities and want to train the OP for an executive position and this is the fastest way to learn the ins and outs.
      OR…it could be that a project manager role wasn’t available and they didn’t want to loose the OP, so this is a temp position.
      OR…it really could be that an executive stereotyped the OP as secretary. But I wouldn’t leap to that conclusion. A simple conversation will clear up the mystery.

    4. eastcoastkate*

      Fully agree with this- but EA to 4 project managers doesn’t sound like what I think of as an EA. To me EAs (especially ones making over six figures) are supporting high-level executives.
      I do think it’s tough to sometimes ‘break out’ of the admin assistant/EA realm once you’re in that box- same with many other fields that once you’re in it people tend to think of you in that realm. I think Alison’s details about truly what kind of work LW wants to do is key- do they want to project manage? EA can be a great field- but definitely different than project management.

    5. Judy Johnsen*

      I think one can get pigeonholed in that role, and if she has her heart set on being a project manager, I can see her being disappointed in being offered a different position .

    6. moonstone*

      You’re kind of missing the point. EAs are very valuable, but the issue here is that OP wasn’t looking to be an EA. And let’s not pretend there isn’t a history of forcing minorities into admin positions regardless of their skill set. It is possible it was a deliberate, thought out decision by the company, but OP is right for side eyeing it.

  15. Emmy Noether*

    Alison’s example of it being unacceptable to start throwing Spanish words at a Latina… that is really, infuriatingly common. People will start speaking Italian at my husband because they think his last name may be Italian (it’s not). When they learn we are raising our daughter bilingual, they will randomly throw words and phrases in the other language at her. Which is not how one is supposed to go about raising a small child bilingual (consistency is key, though I know that a few inconsistent interactions won’t matter).

    1. Roeslein*

      Genuine question – assuming the other person’s native language is in fact Spanish, why would it be offensive to occasionally speak some Spanish with them? I’m a native French speaker and people (including my boss) often try their school French on me, and it never crossed my mind that it might be offensive. At work I often say a few sentences in Polish to my Polish colleagues, and I am told they appreciate it as few foreigners go through the effort of learning Polish (unless they live in Poland obviously). Where I am from switching to the other person’s language when you can is seen as basic courtesy.

      1. Roeslein*

        (I should add that there are absolutely situations where language switching is othering – for example when Dutch people switch to English whenever they hear Dutch spoken with a foreign accent, no matter how well. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case you describe if it’s just a few words.)

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        So, I think it is *very* situational. For one thing, it can be work for the native speaker, and many people don’t enjoy giving impromptu language lessons. I speak conversational Swedish and sometimes in the US people will tell me what their grandmothers used to say or whatever, but the accent is usually pretty off and it can feel awkward to tell people that they’re definitely remembering that proverb wrong or whatever.

        In certain settings too, you also run the risk of implying that you think this person will understand you better if you use their language — which can be offensive, especially if you’re not particularly good at their language.

        Essentially you want to be careful about learning something about someone (like that they’re from Mexico, or their Jewish) and then deciding that you’re going to abruptly change how you interact with them when there were zero problems before.

        That said, I do know people who LOVE to share and encourage others in their native language, but I think it’s only something you should broach thoughtfully.

      3. Cambridge Comma*

        Because it can often come across like you think there is something wrong with their English, or that they aren’t really American. If your colleagues are Polish citizens born in Poland, there wouldn’t be the same sensitivity about suggesting they aren’t American. Though don’t underestimate the extent of people being polite when they actually don’t like something.

        1. Jill*

          How is speaking in someone’s native language making the other person feel that they “aren’t really American?” Genuine question. This country has no official language and we have millions of people who speak an extremely wide range of languages.

          1. pancakes*

            No one is saying it’s always or only going to come across that way, just that in some circumstances it can. Context and tone are always going to be important.

          2. Nameless in Customer Service*

            1) ThisIshRightHere has a thread where she describes an excellent example of how someone who thinks they are speaking someone else’s “native language” can treat that person as a Weird Other Creature rather than a fellow human being.

            Here’s another example, which I hope is clear enough. I have a friend who’s Latina, but her last name sounds German. This is because her Cuban father has a German last name. At a fortunately now-past job, she mentioned her family to some coworkers. The next day one came to talk to her holding a few sheets of paper, which turned out to be a printout of a Google Translate-style translation of work questions into Spanish, which the coworker stiltedly read out while my friend stared in utter bogglement at her. When she said, in the English she’s been speaking all along, “What was that?” the coworker said, “I thought you’d like it if I talked to you in your language.”

            The icing on this particular cake was that my friend’s manager agreed with the coworker. Fortunately my friend has since found a more collegial working environment.

          3. moonstone*

            A lot of it has to do with the history of racism in the US. Nonwhite ethnic groups are marginalized and othered. It’s not exactly the same situation as being in a multinational country where all the nationalities are respected more or less the same.

      4. Emmy Noether*

        The main thing is the assumption. If someone asks me first if they can practice a language on me, I don’t love that either (because giving conversational lessons is work, and work I do not like doing), but it’s fine, and not offensive. But people need to (1) verify this person actually speaks that language (2) make sure it’s welcome and (3) warn beforehand so people can code switch.

        For my daughter it irks me because consistency is very important in raising a child bilingual. You aren’t supposed to just mix languages, because it makes it harder for the child to tell which word belongs to which language. Plus I want her to learn the correct pronunciation. I know it’s not going to do harm when it’s very occasional, it’s just… don’t people realize they’re being confusing to her?

      5. Littorally*

        In particular with unpromptedly speaking Spanish at a person just because they’re Latino…. there’s a lot of presumptions about immigrant-ness, not belonging, etc that are baked into it in a way that doesn’t really come up for non-Latino folks, at least in the US. Because immigration specifically from Latin America is such a big deal politically, and immigrants from Latin America form a particular class to the degree they do, it’s something that can be very loaded, even if the individual has the best of intentions.

        Depending on the person, it can come across as ‘I assume you don’t speak English/I assume my ratty high school Spanish is better than your immersion-driven English/I assume you speak Spanish at all/I’m accusing you of being a first-generation fresh-across-the-border immigrant’ and it’s… oof. Just maybe don’t until/unless you’ve got a good connection with someone in the first place.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          I would say it’s the case with racialized languages more generally – I’m South Asian, and get a lot of “Namaste” once people find out my ancestry (in conversations where greetings have already occured!). My East Asian friends get people trying out phrases on them, too – often ones learned from anime or k-pop. It definitely feels othering. It’s the “perpetual foreigner” phenomenon layered on top of the more innocuous curiosity someone from France (or another less-racialized country) might experience.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            One of my good friends is South Asian and her mother’s side speaks Malay, and her mom knows some Sanskrit.

            Her mom has a story about going on vacation once and meeting a white couple. The woman asked about their languages and got very excited about the Sanskrit, explaining that she had been going to a yoga studio for years and practiced “Sanskrit chanting”. So my friend’s mom, intrigued, asked her to perform one.

            The woman leaned over close to her face, closed her eyes, took a deep inhale…and just said “Ooooooooommmmmmmmmmm”

            Apparently it was really hard to keep a straight face.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              That is hilarious. I know that it’s almost always well-meaning, but I’m just…astounded by the lack of self-awareness.

              I remember training for an internship, where the *DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION* training was conducted by a white, Christian woman *who had given herself a Sanskrit name*. The whole thing was just a massive cringefest – it felt like something straight out of a sitcom. At one point, she actually said that she was grateful for my presence in the room because it gave her the opportunity to talk about how she does yoga and has a guru. It was wild.

            2. quill*

              Oh she 100% was not obligated to keep a straight face, I have just narrowly avoided keyboard tea.

        2. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          Not to mention that “Latin American” is a huge umbrella term for a bunch of different cultures and experiences and original dialects! Like, folks’ random Spanglish flavor text is going to land really differently depending on whether the person they’re trying it on has roots in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, etc. etc. There are some things that generalize fairly well, but not by any means all of them.

          I’m Cuban, We Don’t Have Tacos

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            Also, as an example, I have a student who is Guatemalan and where she is from, she spoke a language specific to her region that was NOT Spanish, and in fact learned Spanish when she moved to the US as a young girl (from TV, same as how she learned English) because everyone expected her to be fluent in Spanish and other native speakers would address her in that language frequently.

      6. Washi*

        I think there’s also a difference between trying out school French/Spanish (can be annoying, but a genuine effort to communicate in the language) and treating the language as a joke or oddity by shoehorning in loco/chica/burrito/whatever random Spanish words the person happens to know.

      7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I think it totally depends on the person, and the language in question. My partner’s native language is only spoken in his home country, and he’s totally chuffed when he meets people of other nationalities who can speak with him.
        And then I’m English (in France) and I’m sick to the teeth of people practising their English on me. Dammit, I used to get paid good money to do that, and there are people nowadays who earn their living doing that, so why should I do it for free? And we’re at a party and I’m here to have a good time not work. And it’s been so long, I don’t remember how to explain why what you’re saying is wrong. And in my current profession I have to work hard at crafting beautiful texts in English, and I hate hearing people crucifying my language and I even worry that it’ll rub off on me.
        Those who try to insist get treated to the tale of how I once started yelling at a student for making an innocent remark (the first sign of burnout as it happens), and how I might do the same to them, except, as previously mentioned, I’m at a party and I’ve had a few drinks so I might not remain as polite as with that student.

        1. Fuzzyfuzz*

          Yelling at someone who made an innocent remark is not something to brag about…yikes.

          1. anonymath*

            It’s not a brag, it’s a warning that this is a sore spot! “The first sign of burnout,” you know?

          2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            Seems like an experience that provides a vivid explanation on why it isn’t always a good idea to start speaking in the other person’s language

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I think it totally depends on the person, and the language in question.

          I had a longer reply, but this sums it up succinctly. The only thing that I’d add is that the more genuine the interest in and enthusiasm for the language, the better the results tend to be, but it can still backfire–occasionally spectacularly.

      8. Nanani*

        It’s highly situational and depends on the execution.

        It can be done in a condescending manner – You poor thing who doesn’t really speak English!
        It can be done in a confusing manner – their fluency in the other language isn’t actually that high and now you (or your kid) has the burden of trying to figure out what they meant through
        It can be just a big time waster overall – they treat you as a free language tutor but you’re trying to finish the interaction not be their duolingo replacement

        It can also be totally fine, just now I had a mixed language conversation with a CSR who is on both ends of the Press # for Language tree.
        So, it’s not automatically rude to switch languages, but well-meaning not-bilingual people often do it in irritating ways. Which can add up when you’re in a minority group and this happens. all. the. time.

      9. Critical Rolls*

        I want to give a less fraught example that highlights the potential ridiculousness of this. If I were from southern California, and moved somewhere in the eastern U.S., I wouldn’t appreciate it if my boss started calling me “dude,” describing things as “gnarly,” and referencing “catching ten” as an attempt at bonding. Part of this is because it relies on a bunch of assumptions, part is over-familiarity, part is othering/singling out. Add in the dynamic of a historically oppressed group and it flies past “please don’t” to “OH NO.”

      10. Meshuga*

        From the Jewish perspective historically we have been othered. There’s also the very real fear of danger (antisemitic attacks are on the rise) especially in an area with few Jews. To have someone going out of their way to single you out as Jewish can feel like a message. It may be innocent but I can understand why they might question it.

      11. Liz T*

        If I saw someone do this to a French person from France, and they didn’t know for sure that French person was cool with it, I would find that very cringe-worthy.

        But as we’ve no particular history of dangerous prejudice against French people from France, it would not be worrisome in the same way as with a Jewish person, or someone who immigrated from a country outside Western Europe. (There are a very few countries that don’t face specific immigration prejudice in the US, and France is one of them. Belgium too. If you’re a white person from France or Belgium, Americans are likely to make positive, rather than negative, assumptions about you.)

      12. Liz T*

        Also I should add, there’s a difference between trying to actually converse in a language you’ve studied, and that you know the other person speaks, and peppering a stranger with random phrases because of their skin color or ethnicity.

      13. MeepMeep02*

        It can be a Complicated Thing for the other person and you may not be aware of it. I came from Russia. When well-meaning Americans hear that, they fall all over themselves to use all the Russian words they know (which is surprisingly a lot, in some cases), tell me all they know about Russia, tell me how they visited Russia 5 years ago and just looooooved it!, and so on and so forth. It’s all very well-meaning, but here’s the bit they don’t know.

        I am a refugee from Russia, which means that my family fled that country to escape persecution. In Russia, I was not considered “Russian” – I was a Jew. In Russia, “Russian” means something like “white” – and I wasn’t (I couldn’t put “Russian” in the ethnicity category of my passport, for example). The Russians were the people who beat me up in school, who threatened me and screamed at me outside of school, who held antisemitic demonstrations in the center of the city, who denied my mother and father access to universities and jobs. They are the people from whom my great-grandfather fled for his life to escape a pogrom on his village. You get the idea.

        Ever since I got out of that country, I’ve been working like hell to erase my connection with it. I no longer have an identifiably Russian accent. I am fluent in English; most people who know me think that it’s my native language. I have never been back, and I do not intend to. (even before the recent war)

        The people who say “Zdravstvuyte” to me because they think “Hey, Russia! I know something about Russia!” do not know any of that, nor can I expect them to. I smile and nod and treat it as a well-meaning attempt to connect, which it is. But it grates on me every time.

      14. moonstone*

        I speak Spanish as a second language and it really depends on the situation.

        Situations in which I speak Spanish include: – my Latin American majority hometown where most of the community speaks Spanish

        – in my current non-Hispanic city, when I communicate with service workers who evidently primarily speak Spanish

        – with a friend who opted into the conversation

        Situations where I don’t speak Spanish:

        – Communicating with service workers who speak English better than I speak Spanish. The point here is to not create more work for the service worker – just be efficient in your communication

        – In a workplace situation where everyone is speaking English. Even if the person is a native Spanish speaker, if THEY THEMSELVES didn’t opt to speak Spanish, don’t single them out by throwing Spanish at them.

        In other words, bilingual people aren’t your on demand language tutors. If you want to practice your foreign language skills, only do so in consenting situations or go join a conversation group or something.

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      The way my brother says “Gracias, senor” in a completely Anglo pronunciation to waiters at Mexican restaurants? I want to crawl under the table every time he does it.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Ideas about raising children bilingual vary a lot. Of course it’s ridiculous for them to do that after you already told them about your and your family’s approach, but that doesn’t mean the other methods are inherently wrong.

  16. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. If the boss was Jewish, then wouldn’t she have said so?

    I am thinking of a similar situation at work with a new joiner, and an existing co-worker who both happened to be the same (not so common where we are) nationality started talking to each other in their native language.

    1. Blueberry Girl*

      No automatically. I had a coworker that I didn’t learn was also Jewish for 5 years. We went to different synagogues (ironically, there were only 2 in town) and she thought I knew. Her name wasn’t very Jewish and my name is so absurdly Jewish that even complete strangers can usually guess I’m Jewish. It just never came up. Also, straight up asking if someone is Jewish is sort of… rude in Jewish communities, because of the history of persecution. So, just asking isn’t always done. However, the weird increase in Yiddish would be a good reason to inquire..

      1. Smithy*

        Absolutely this. I don’t have an obvious Jewish name/surname and don’t appear stereotypically Jewish – to add to this, I’m not religiously observant.

        All that being said, I will try to “out” myself at work because I’ve enough other awkward interactions of people assuming I’m Christian and that being equally awkward. Now my preferred approach has normally been along the lines of a short “growing up during Hanukkah/Passover/Rosh Hashanah” anecdote as opposed to dropping Yiddish and bringing in bagels. But I’ve certainly gotten both responses from Jews who never thought I was Jewish and those who felt it was obvious.

      2. bookworm*

        Its funny, my experience is the opposite of this as someone who is not Jewish but has an ambiguous name and physical features coded as being Jewish as well as a lot of exposure to Jewish culture is that I often get Jewish people (coworkers, dates, etc) asking me out of the blue to confirm their assumption that I’m also Jewish (I’m also a homing beacon for the Chabad-Lubavitch folks…). Agree with others that using Yiddish is a weird way to try to telegraph Jewishness, or to convey being generally welcoming. Much better to stick to making sure the office catering isn’t a bunch of ham and cheese sandwiches and not scheduling work events during the high holidays…

    2. Lila*

      That was my thought, especially if it was right around the high holidays, it would be much less weird for manager to comment on their own plans than to suddenly increase the Yiddish words, if they were Jewish as well.

    3. Canadian Librarian #72*

      Maybe. Maybe not. And while you can’t always tell who is Jewish (for several historically contingent reasons), Jews often can tell if someone else is – sometimes because they look classically/stereotypically Jewish, sometimes because of speech patterns (though not what LW 1 is describing), sometimes because of clothing or jewelry. The term “jew-dar” is not infrequently used to describe when you just get a vibe that someone else is a Jew.

  17. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    I was in academia for a while as a writing teacher and bailed after enough years as an adjunct, visiting author and single semester special program gig. In my penultimate year, I was a full-time lecturer or instructor or some such that paid me enough to live on and included health insurance. Four of us serfs went to a writing conference together on our dime. I could have lived with two in a bed if the two women in the other bed didn’t spend the entire night loud whispering on how attracted they were to each other but they shouldn’t sleep together because one of them already had a wife. Me telling them to keep it down did not go over well. One half of the non-couple didn’t speak to me for the rest of the weekend. She was my ride and ditched me there several hours away from home.
    I did get to be in some kind of small group event with Dorothy Allison. I think we all had a crush on her.

    1. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Congratulations for getting out of the biz! I hope you’re somewhere nice doing something where they pay you fairly and you don’t have to grade stuff.

  18. Sleepy cat*

    #5 The scene-setting isn’t important here – you gave them an example of how you handled a situation. It’s ok. And those notes will not become part of your record – that would be very strange. So please try not to worry!

  19. astral debris*

    #2, am I off base or is it a little odd that the company offered an executive assistant position to the OP? EA work takes quite a lot of skill to perform well and is often critical to a company’s success, please don’t think I’m denigrating the position, but the OP’s entire relationship with the company is through their master’s program. The OP doesn’t say, but if their classmate was offered a project manager role then I wonder whether an EA position would even be in line with their degree or area of interest.

    1. TechWorker*

      Presumably you can have both entry level EAs and entry level project managers. Plenty of project managers do not have degrees in project management… (I’m fairly sure none of the ones I work with do, infact).

    2. Forrest*

      There is *so* much unexplained here, like why the company had everyone on the same hourly rate. I think it’s very possible that neither of those job descriptions is being used in the conventional sense, and it would be worth LW really digging in to what they mean by them.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, executive assistant to four project managers is a strange job title – I am sure it exists but often EAs work for manager-managers, not PMs. But both these job titles can cover a lot of space, so indeed needs clarification.

        The same hourly rate is weird, too!

        1. KC*

          Maybe it’s not so much an EA role as it is a coordinator role, and the hiring managers just didn’t properly title it? It’s not totally uncommon, though, for EAs to assist multiple executives. I was an EA for two execs at one point, and an EA friend of mine worked for seven partner-level attorneys at an old job!

      2. Threeve*

        I’m also confused by “semester ends.” Does that mean she’s going to start working (maybe part time?) while still in the degree program, or does it mean after graduation? If it’s the latter, I would strongly suggest exploring other options.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes. I am so confused by the hourly rate thing that I feel that either:

        a) there’s some kind of miscommunication here, and if something like salary hasn’t been explained properly then the jobs may also not have been explained properly;

        or b) this company operates in such an unusual way on a really fundamental level that most general advice is not going to be relevant. (I mean, everyone? Everyone at the company? Not everyone hired out of OP’s intern programme or everyone in any entry-level role or something like that, everyone in the whole company? The CEO and the accountant and the project manager and the exec assistant are all on the same hourly rate? I’m so curious!!)

        Either way, yes, really closely looking at what’s been offered is the way to go here.

    3. Chili pepper Attitude*

      I think it is odd that they offered one a PM role and one and EA role without also offering and explanation. We want to keep you and this is our only opening, is very different from, we are happy to keep you but don’t think you demonstrated PM skills.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        It’s probably a matter of “we have one opening as PM, and Dorothy clearly demonstrated that she has all the skills and personality for that. While you probably could do well in that role too, Dorothy looks like the strongest candidate for that. However we were very impressed with how organised you are and we do have an EA opening, and we feel that you could well do very well in that role”.

        1. DashDash*

          Or from what I know of an EA job . . . “Dorothy isn’t quite ready for that but could learn more PM; OP showed skills X, Y, and X, which we need but can’t teach.”

      2. Forrest*

        Or, “We really need someone with your skillset in this role and we think you’ll thrive here”.

      3. anonymous73*

        Why would offering a job require an explanation other than “we thought you’d be a good fit for this role”? Just because they were in the same program and have the same educational doesn’t mean they would both thrive in the same role.

      4. pope suburban*

        There is a very cynical part of me that wonders about the demographics in play here. Not that that could be the only reason, obviously, it’s just a problem I’ve seen play out time and time again, across industries and at various levels. I’ve been pigeonholed myself a few times, and if that’s what happened to our LW, I can well understand feeling diminished for reasons that have nothing to do with the nature of an EA position.

    4. Sutemi*

      I was wondering about this too, in my industry PM would be a title for someone with several years of experience. Project coordinator might be the entry level roll or someone might transition to it after getting several years of experience as a technical individual contributor. All of the executive assistants I’ve known had years of experience as administrative assistants before moving up as well.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In my industry, translation, a PM basically reroutes emails. A text arrives that needs to be translated, PM sends it to a translator. The translator sends the translation in, PM forwards it on to the client. There may be other steps involved, like doing an estimate beforehand, converting the pdf into an editable file for the translator, having someone else proofread it and billing, but it’s all very basic stuff.

      2. anonymous73*

        As a Project Manager who had to do a lot of job searching and applying recently, I can tell you that there are a wide variety of permutations for what companies call a PM. At an entry level, the tasks are probably more Coordinator and they just call them all PMs.

  20. ThisIshRightHere*

    Oh, OP1 I feel your pain! I had no idea this was a thing until a few years ago when a white colleague suddenly started speaking to me (and only me) in his (contrived and incorrect version of) African American Vernacular English. I don’t even use AAVE at work, so other than my being Black, I’m not sure what made him think this would be welcome. He’d greet everyone else with a perfunctory good morning, but yell to me “ThisIsh! How you be?” and the like. Omg, cringe on a hundred thousand trillion. If it annoys you as much as it did me, you definitely need to take Alison’s advice and nip that in the bud ASAP.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Ewwwwww. So ridiculous. I will admit, I had a brief time when I tried to bring back ‘crackalacking’ (i.e. “what’s crackalackin’? instead of hi). It….did not last long at all and I only did it with one coworker – we’re both Black – after I mentioned I thought that was a fun phrase. I told him we should try to bribg it back and he said no leave it in the past so then of course I had to say it a bit just to bug him!. But man, oh man, I woule have been livid for a coworker to single me out gir different style greetings that way. Ugh.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Oof, that sucks. How did it get resolved/is there anything about how you handled it that would potentially help LW?

      1. ThisIshRightHere*

        I didn’t share my method because it wasn’t the most mature, lol. But I started acting like I didn’t understand “his hip hop for dummies” euphemisms. When he said to me “where you man at?” to inquire about my husband’s whereabouts I just looked confused and said “my man? you mean like a butler or a valet or something?” Then he said, no I mean [name]. “Why would you refer to him as my man? I don’t own him or employ him or anything.” Oh, it’s just slang. “I’m not familiar with that slang, but if you knew his name why use slang at all? What kind of slang even is that? Is that how you all communicate back in Minnesota?” And the questioning got progressively more weird until he finally let it go. He didn’t do it again after that.

        1. Asenath*

          I think that’s actually brilliant! And it worked – I bet he never did that again to anyone, not just to you, and to this day cringes at the memory of his behaviour.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          That’s an excellent approach! I find confusion is a great approach to things like this because it makes people have to try to justify their totally unjustifiable behavior. For anyone with half a brain, it should embarrass them into knocking that shit off.

        3. WindmillArms*

          That sounds like textbook “return awkward to sender” that we should all aspire to!

        4. I take tea*

          Maybe it would have been more mature to say something like “I don’t think you want to sound like a wannabe rapper”, but I think this was brilliant. And apparently very effective :-) It’s the equivalent to making people explain sexist or dirty jokes (as with the jerk circle that was mentioned some time back).

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          I don’t think that’s immature at all! In fact I believe Alison has often recommended pretty much that exact thing, pretending not to understand someone’s offensive behavior and making them explain it until they feel weird and hopefully realize they should stop. It honestly sounds like you handled it really well.

        6. No Thanks in Advance*

          This really sounds like a former coworker of mine! I didn’t hear him use your examples, but he did things like use “dawg” only with Black coworkers. I’m white, so he didn’t do this to me, but did it in front of me, and it was so weird! And he’s from Minnesota! My former coworker had also made a couple of racist (but not according to him, of course) jokes too, which I thought made it even weirder and more awkward.

        7. FashionablyEvil*

          Hahaha, I am so glad I asked because I LOVE your response! Way to gracefully put the awkwardness back on him. It’s perfect.

        8. Allison*

          I absolutely love this response, and don’t think it was immature in the slightest. Bravo!!

    3. Ope!*

      Even if this weren’t a racial mess, my soul still just briefly left my body at how cringe this is. If I were a third party witnessing it I might have an actual physical reaction, lol.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        My reaction too. And honestly my immediate reaction (as a Jew) to question 1 was “how mortifying.”

      2. pope suburban*

        A part of me died just reading about this. What on earth went through his mind that he thought this was a good idea to do, much less sustain?!

    4. Mika*

      I managed a person that did this to one of his direct reports. Thankfully not to this level, but obvious enough that I spoke to him about it and asked that he stop. Pointed out that this was an issue and why. He said he didn’t realize he did it, but to his credit he stopped.

  21. Scaredy Cat*

    #3 I work in a large IT corporation, where the average age of people is fairly young. A whole lot of them are in their mid-20s to early-30s. There’s this guy who just loves bemoaning his age. As in “you’d be shocked to learn just how old I am”. Since I’m a nosey little busy-body, I totally looked him up on LinkedIn and realized he’s very slightly over the average, and also 3 years younger than I am. So now I just get so amused whenever he starts up this thread of conversation. No, I didn’t tell him I was older.

    Like with you, people generally think I’m much younger, and are always so shocked when they learn my actual age. So I just let them, and decide that I’m flattered they think I’m still in my 20s. ;-

    1. anonymous73*

      This. Unless the person is treating OP differently because they think OP is younger, I don’t understand the issue here. A few jobs ago most of the people were 10ish years younger than me (20s vs 30s) and were shocked when I told them how old I was. I was flattered.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, if it bothers OP then I think it would certainly be very reasonable of them to speak up if they want to. But it sounds like their main concern is that their coworker will one day realize how old OP is and feel weird about all the jokes they’ve been making, but I really don’t think it will be as awkward as OP is thinking. Some people can be weird about it–I have apparently always looked younger than my age and often have people not believing me and they can be kind of weirdly pushy about it… but then they get over it and move on.

        I had thought from the headline it was going to be like “she complains about being old but I’m older so it makes me feel bad!” But it doesn’t sound like OP has that kind of issue, so if she wants to just drop it there is nothing wrong with doing so. It’s not like you are deceiving your coworker in any way. You’re just existing.

    2. WindmillArms*

      One of my favourite Past Workplace Tales is when I was at work the day after a horrible breakup. I let some colleagues know what was going on (it was very obvious something was wrong). One coworker pulled me aside and assured me she understood, and not to worry. After all, she hadn’t gotten married until she was… (brace yourself)… 27–ancient! I told her I was 30, and her eyes widened.

      I don’t think it was as reassuring as she intended! Luckily I found it pretty hilarious.

  22. frida*

    Letter #1 is what it was like being the one local in an NYC office full of transplants. I’m not even Jewish, but having grown up in NJ, I was the only one who could explain why our closest pizzeria (kosher) didn’t have pepperoni and sausage as toppings. I said “mazel tov” to a client (who I knew was Jewish) when they announced some good personal news and it was like everyone’s brain touched the void for a minute.

  23. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    LW5 – You’re fine, I don’t think you need to worry. It was an easy error to make in a high stress environment and I highly doubt it’ll be brought up again.

    In all my hiring, other than requested feedback, I’ve only consulted my notes twice post ‘hire’. Both times it was because individuals stated a skill in interview, but their work didn’t seem to evidence that. We used the notes a) to clarify we hadn’t misunderstood, and b) have conversations with the individuals to understand the gap. One had just full out misled us, and one it had been an honest misunderstanding, we asked for program A which has a few ‘names’ and they interpreted it as program B.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Absolutely. Given how bad my memory is in non-stressful situations, messing up a little is considered pretty normal in my experience.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Agree. Unless somehow conflating the two stories would lead to the impression that the LW has a critical skill that they do not have, this is no issue at all.

  24. nnn*

    Weird idea for #1: What if you pretended you didn’t know what the Yiddish-isms mean?

    This would probably put a stop to them, but I’m not sure if it’s actually a good idea. I also can’t tell what your boss would think of you if you didn’t know what they meant.

    1. ecnaseener*

      It worked for ThisIshRightHere, see above. Not sure it would be believable to pretend you don’t know what schlep means, though.

  25. Teapot Wrangler*

    My advice would vary depending on whether it is just those words or if there are other less common ones thrown in too. If it is just common words that people don’t even necessarily realise are Yiddish (although your boss clearly does or she wouldn’t have ramped them up) then I’d leave it longer to address. If she’s using more niche words, I’d try looking confused or asking her to repeat herself as a starting point, maybe that will just trigger a realisation that she’s doing this. Why should you understand Yiddish just because of your faith? This may not work but certainly over here (UK) most Jews don’t speak Yiddish or only speak a tiny bit so this would be very plausible.
    Second step would be Alison’s script but just in case this is subconscious, I’d give her the opportunity to be embarrassed and stop on her own before you raise it!

    1. Metadata minion*

      “This may not work but certainly over here (UK) most Jews don’t speak Yiddish or only speak a tiny bit so this would be very plausible.”

      It’s true in the US as well. There’s some awesome reclamation of the language by younger people these days, but it’s still pretty rare to find someone who actually speaks Yiddish, as opposed to having a vocabulary of Yiddish loanwords in their English.

      1. Jacqueline*

        Several Hadisic communities still use Yiddish as their first/primary language. Those groups tend to be extremely insular, but they exist.

  26. Forrest*

    “everyone in the company is paid the same hourly wage” — LW2, this is so unusual that I am dying to know more about the company! Is it still in start-up mode? How flexible are those job titles and descriptions? How secure are the finances? How do they see those job roles (and salaries) panning out if things go according to plan? So many more questions than “why didn’t I get the better job offer”!

    Remember that EA is a very flexible job title — what’s an EA in one place might well be an Office Manager or even close to a Director of Operations elsewhere. In a small company, being “the person who handles things back at base” can mean an opportunity to develop an interest in finance, HR, IT infrastructure, ops etc. In a large company, it can mean being intimately involved in high-level and highly confidential discussions. You need so much more information than just the job title before you decide whether it’s a match for you or not.

    So I would really encourage you to dig into this and ask questions and do some critical thinking! You’ve framed this very much as “they’ve got a better job”, but you haven’t said anything about what makes it better other than the perception that this is a “better” job title, but if there is really a flat hierachy in terms of salary, you need to ask a lot more questions about what those particular roles mean, and why they’ve offered you the EA role. Have they seen particularly qualities in you that make you suited to this role? How do they see the role developing? Is the company fairly static or do they have significant growth planned, and if so, what might happen to your role in that situation? What are your goals, what are your aptitudes, what kind of company do you want to work for and what kind of career do you want to have? Do your goals match up with theirs? Sure, it’s possible that they’ve just offered you the job as a consolation prize because they don’t think you’re as strong as the other candidates, which would be a very legitimate reason to turn it down. But it’s also possible that they have evaluated your strengths and decided that this would be the best fit for you, and that they see it as equal to and as valuable as the PM roles (after all, they’re paid the same.) Try and evaluate the job on its own merits rather than comparing yourself with others.

    TBH, it sounds like this company is either complete chaos, with people making random (and potentially quite unrealistic?) job offers based on someone’s gut feeling, or they’re trying to do something fairly clever in terms of matching people and skillsets and there’s probably a lot of opportunity to develop the role as something that really suits you. But I would do quite a lot of digging and thinking to work out which is which, LW, and to decide whether that suits you or not.

    1. WellRed*

      Same salary for everyone! I know it’s not the point of the letter but I am surprised Alison didn’t touch on it.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      I also am bewildered by the “same wage for everyone”, but it certainly tramples down any concerns about pay equality, I suppose.

  27. Sharpie*

    LW4 – jogging bottoms or sweatpants and a comfy t-shirt and you’re golden! Just make sure they’re not too tight anywhere!

  28. GrumpyZena*

    I’m not Jewish but I listen to so much My Favourite Murder that I’ve started using “Oy vey” as a reaction to upsetting things…

    That’s a complete tangent though, I believe OP#1 when she says that this is a new thing that happened after her boss found out she was Jewish. I’m sorry that happened to you!

    Many many moons ago when I was working a temp job stuffing envelopes with a bunch of other (similarly aged) temps, I mentioned that I was gay (in the context of normal weekend plans, “my girlfriend and I are going to the pub”, for example), and after that one of the other temps just started acting like I was a ghost. Wouldn’t address me directly, would act like I hadn’t said anything when I had been speaking. I wasn’t sure if I imagined it, so I asked one of the other temps to give me her opinion after we came back from break.

    Within 30 minutes, she’d picked up on it, and loudly called the guy out in front of everyone. I don’t remember her name, but I do remember how grateful I was. Is there anyone you trust to give their opinion (even if calling out a manager in the same way is perhaps not going to be possible)? Just hearing that “yes, I see it too, you’re not crazy” can be enormously empowering.

    1. Onomatopoetic*

      That is such a weird reaction. I’ve come across pointed references to some friend or relatives who are gay shoehorned into the conversation, which I have always taken as a clumsy attempt to reassure me that the speaker is OK with teh gayness, (and honestly I don’t mind a but of clumsiness, as long as it’s not nosy) but never that kind of ghosting. I wonder what the thought process was. Were you just unimportant because not available to a man? Or was he afraid that you would make him gay?

  29. Anon for This*

    LW3 – Recommend you not out yourself as older than this person. Having seen age discrimination in practice, I’m very happy to be taken for younger than my actual age. (And as someone else suggested, call out one of the references to an old TV show with a comment like “everyone’s seen that – it’s on YouTube!” )

    1. Sharkey*

      Totally agree! My husband is early 50s, but a lot of his coworkers think he’s 10 years younger (or even late 30s!). It doesn’t affect his credibility because he’s experienced and capable, so he’s happy to let everyone think that. Age discrimination is a thing!

  30. Other Alice*

    #4, comfy workout clothes will be fine! If it’s not something you usually wear to bed, I do strongly suggest a test run (test sleep?) to make sure nothing rides up/down and exposes parts that shouldn’t be exposed, just in case. Even if the clothes fit you well while you work out they might end up out of place if you toss and turn (speaking from experience here).

  31. Littorally*

    #4 – that is exactly what I do, because I’m in a very similar situation to yours. While my job doesn’t ask me to share hotel rooms, a volunteer event I take part in on a regular basis does. I’ve been volunteering there since before my transition, but the hotel rooms haven’t been too much of an issue since we choose who we room with, and I can choose to stay with a good enough friend that we aren’t awkward over stuff like that.

    Loose athletic shorts and a tank or tee are perfectly fine sleeping clothes. No one really cares so long as they don’t have to get an eyeful. And the one time the hotel caught fire in the middle of the night, I was glad to be a bit more clothed as we all trooped down to the parking lot.

  32. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    LW #1, I think the question of whether or not your manager used more Yiddish after you requested your time off is something of a red herring. I think the more relevant question is going to be does she only/primarily use Yiddish with you, or more broadly within the team – which might not be something you can answer until you’ve been in person a few weeks.

    If she’s using Yiddish with most folks that she has a friendly/casual relationship with, I’d just leave it. Maybe it’s a weird affectation, maybe she’s Jewish or Jewish-adjacent, maybe she grew up somewhere with more Yiddish speakers… you’re probably not going to figure out which it is until you know her much better than I’ve known most of my managers!

    If she’s using Yiddish just with you, then you can absolutely address that! It might be worth considering to what extent the reason *why* matters – if she’s Jewish, would you still want her to stop? Then address it as neutrally and matter-of-factly as you can – “Hey, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but you use a lot of Yiddish phrases with me but not with the rest of the team. It’s uncomfortable to be singled out like that; do you think you could stop?”

    If the reason does matter, you might need to feel out the situation a little more. Maybe ask her what her plans for Passover are? If she acts confused, you can apologize and say you just assumed based on all the Yiddish she uses – and then ask her why she uses it with you, if she’s not Jewish?

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I think given that OP mentioned being in a place where Jews are very much a minority, she wouldn’t want her boss “outing her” as a Jew in front of other workers too…

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        That’s definitely a possibility, and a good example of when the why wouldn’t really matter. But I’ve also seen instances where work was a comparatively safe zone and several not-from-around-here secular Jewish coworkers formed a micro-community. I can’t tell if that’s happening here, or if OP would be interested even if it were; just a thing to consider.

  33. SJ (they/them)*

    LW #4, I hope you have a good time on the trip! All the advice about sleepwear here is great. I have nothing to add, just sending all my good vibes your way. :)

  34. I should really pick a name*

    Do you actually want the project manager role, or just want it because it’s “better”?

    If you want it, ask them what you would need to do to move to that position eventually, preferably without mentioning the other intern.

  35. Stay at home dog mom*

    I had a similar experience, except the manager used “kosher” all the time. Being Jewish came up in my interviews since I observe Shabbat. He probably said it before I got to the team, but every – little – thing was “kosher” As I type this my teeth clenched just remembering how often he would drop that word. ARGH

    1. ecnaseener*

      Ugh, that always feels slimy to me. The general borrowing of secular Yiddish terms is just how cross-linguistic contact works (overusing them to show off to your Jewish reports, less so) but when people use our religious concepts for random crap it’s like, what are you trying to convey here that “allowed” etc can’t convey? Knowing what goyim often think and say about Jewish law, they’re probably trying to convey that the requirements are overly rigid, archaic, and/or nonsensical.

      1. Anon all day*

        From my experience, people use “kosher” to mean something is good to go or acceptable. So, less explicitly negative, but it still bugs me inside that non-Jews have co-opted that word to such a degree.

      2. Ali + Nino*

        @stay at home dog mom That would really grind my gears but @encaseener I wouldn’t assume it was intended negatively. Just used thoughtlessly. And fwiw non-Jews are not the only ones to criticize Halacha as archaic etc.

      3. Threeve*

        Using “is that kosher?” to ask if something is within the rules is pretty common in my circles, both Jewish and not. One of the literal translations of the word is “lawful.”

        Also, speaking as a Jewish person, using derogatory terms for someone’s culture/religion–even if they’re the privileged majority, even if they don’t necessarily understand–is not okay.

        “Is it kosher to refer to non-Jews as goyim in 2022?”
        “It is not; the jury is out on whether it’s a straight-up slur, but it’s definitely unnecessarily insulting.”

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Thank you for pointing that out. It is NOT ok to refer to “goyim” that way.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            The word is neutral in its meaning but not in its usage. It’s pretty widely used as a pejorative. Ever had someone refer to you as “one of those Jews”? It’s like that– a word that is not offensive on its face but is certainly used with derogatory implications.

            1. ecnaseener*

              Yes, I have heard “Jews” used pejoratively. That doesn’t mean it’s an insult. It’s a neutral word that people can use with insulting tone if they don’t like Jews. As is “goyim.”

              Do you see the double standard? Can you do the power analysis here, and see how it’s messed up to tell Jews we can’t use the Yiddish/Hebrew word for non-Jews because you don’t like that it’s not always used positively?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Perhaps this is regional or otherwise cultural. I also grew up being taught “goyim” was rude. In any case, let’s leave this here as it’s derailing us.

        2. Raboot*

          It just means “not jewish”. If the jury is “out” on whether it’s a slur then we need a new jury. Sure you can use it in an insult but you can also use “girl” in an insult and we’re not banning that one.

      4. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        Kosher is very common to use as a metaphor for something being up to a specific and well-defined set of standards. It has no negative connotation any more than “on par” has a negative connotation against golf. It’s just a metaphor.

      5. ecnaseener*

        @all of the responses saying “kosher” doesn’t have a negative connotation because it means acceptable, I think you’re missing the point that it means acceptable under Jewish dietary law. I get that it’s not denigrating whatever you’re referring to AS kosher, I’m saying it’s denigrating the concept of Jewish law.

        1. Ali + Nino*

          I understand what you’re saying, I just disagree. Language evolves, and the English usage of the word “kosher” is context-dependent. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people using this expression don’t know its origins. I don’t immediately take it as an offensive interpretation of kashrus as a concept.

          Re: goyim – sure, in Yiddish and Hebrew the term is neutral, but I think most people would agree the term generally comes with negative connotations. That’s why I personally choose not to use it.

          1. ecnaseener*

            You’re welcome to not find it slimy, but you don’t really get to disagree with how it feels to me.

        2. curly sue*

          It’s one of those terms that’s broken containment, though. At the very Jewish summer camp I worked at in the late 1990s, “Is everyone kosher?” was the standard question before you opened the cabin door, to make sure everyone had clothes on.

      6. Batgirl*

        It was really popularised in the UK, by Only Fools and Horses because in cockney English “kosher” is as common as saying “schlep”. It was always used pretty much as a synonym for “good” or “sound” so I’d be extremely surprised to see it used to mean “too rigid”. The same show used the Hindi “pukka” in the same way…

      7. C*

        I’ve actually recently realized I use this incorrectly as I’ve started paying attention more to my language. I’m trying to come up with an (actually appropriate) replacement phrase. Any ideas?

        1. ecnaseener*

          Depending on the context: Acceptable, appropriate, allowable, permissible, okay, in line with the rules, fine, legit, proper, by the book, sound, apropos, within bounds

          Thank you for making the effort :)

    2. Making up names is hard*

      I hate this too! I know people don’t mean anything by it, and honestly I’ve only encountered it where I currently live in a very Jewish city, but it honestly confused me everytime. My brain is like “what do they mean by that? Is there food?” Lol

  36. chewingle*

    LW1 — While I’m not a huge fan of a manipulative tactic, this is a delicate enough issue that it may require some subterfuge to find out what’s really happening without alienating her. I’d play it safe and assume until proven otherwise that she is Jewish…and ask her things like, “What are your plans for Passover?” or something. Just behave as if you’re happy to meet another Jew at work and, at some point, the truth will reveal itself. There’s only so long you can pretend something like that. Very curious about an update on this one!

  37. Zahav*

    LW1: Speaking as a fellow Jew who has lived in places where I was one of very few Jews, since no one seems to have mentioned it, she may be trying to bagel you!

    Here’s the definition from an urbandictionary of sorts:
    Bagelling is the act by which one Jew attempts to either find out if someone else is Jewish, or to signal to them that they themselves are Jewish, by dropping Jewish concepts or terminology (generally Yiddish, but also Hebrew, Ladino, JudeoArabic) into conversation and waiting for a reaction. This is in stark contrast to dogwhistling, used by neonazis to signal that someone is Jewish by very similar means but for more sinister purposes.

    So like Alison said: She may be a fellow Jew! But I would still use her script to see what’s up cause the timing is very convenient and you need to find out what her intentions are.

    1. squirreltooth*

      I too thought this might be a clumsy way of signaling that she’s also Jewish, but I also kind of wonder if she might just say “Hey, me too!” when knowing the OP asked for those days off.

    2. Raboot*

      That makes no sense when OP clearly identified themself as a Jew. Maybe the boss is Jewish and feels no need to mention it because they think OP knows already, but there’s no need to resort to shibboleths when the other person already identified themselves.

  38. Katie*

    Also possible for 2 is that they didn’t have open positions for the other role. I have an intern that I could keep in the not so great intern role but couldn’t keep her on permanently.
    I eventually found her another permanent role but on a different project and it took several months.
    So the question may be not that this other person got a better job but is that role also available and what will need to be done to work towards that.

    1. Avril Ludgateau*

      I came with the same thought! It is possible they just don’t need any more project managers at this time, but they want to take LW2 on board, regardless. Still, if Executive Assistant is not a destination on their career track, it is okay and probably preferable to decline.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. LW says small company, maybe there was only one PM opening.

      If there’s only one PM opening, your internship was the job interview. Just because you worked very hard in this internship, doesn’t mean that you performed better than the other intern or appeared more suited to a PM role than them. It could be sexism if you’re a woman and the other intern was a man, but it could be you excelled at the grunt work whereas not as much at the higher level PM work or at least as much the other guy.

      It could just be what you put in the letter, but you didn’t compare performance outcomes with the other potential candidate you just said that you worked hard. That strikes me as student thinking. Hard work and good intentions don’t guarantee success. And If there’s only one job, only one person can get it. The hiring committee aims to hire the best person, but does not mean that no other candidates could succeed in the role or even that the hiring committee was right with their “best” selection.

      I think it’s a good sign that they appreciated your work enough that they hired you. If you want the job or need the job, take it. But ask about moving up. And if you can’t move up there, it is worth it to keep an eye out for PM jobs. It’s not necessarily good form to keep job hunting, but if your goal is a PM job best to try to land one ASAP after graduating rather than being an EA for a few years and then job hunting.

  39. urguncle*

    LW #4: Totally over the top, but I’m imagining you wearing some Night Before Christmas-style full dressing gown and little cap to bed.

    1. Popinki*

      Either that or those starched cotton pajamas that dads in 1950s sitcoms wear, complete with tasteful monogram on the pocket. Plus matching dressing gown and slippers.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Worst idea: matching pajamas for you and the roommate! Surprise them with this delightful present on the first night of the hotel stay, and you will be sure to make an impression.

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Hey, those little night caps can keep your head warm and were very practical before central heating! When I was living someplace with poor insulation and electric ceiling heat while also trying to save money, I started wearing a flannel cap to bed that had originally come with a very twee nightgown from my childhood, and it made for a warmer and more pleasant sleep experience in a cold bedroom. (I did not bother to dig out the doll and her matching nightgown for my grown-up “wearing a night cap to bed” experiment, however. I have my limits.)

  40. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    “If her response indicates that she is indeed breaking out the Yiddish specifically for you”
    As a Brit living in France for forty years (but still with an accent to give me away), I’ve encountered this kind of thing enough that I can almost guarantee that she won’t admit it. To be fair, she may not even realise she’s doing it. I’d recommend just saying “please could you not use Yiddish terms all the time? I don’t particularly want to be identified as ‘the Jewish woman’ round here and it feels like your using Yiddish points to that”.
    There was a woman who used to systematically start speaking my language whenever I was around and it really bugged me. She said it was just for fun, but I hated hearing her mistakes. I’d only just stopped teaching English after burning out quite spectacularly, so it really grated on my nerves. People often want to practise their English on me and I have to tell them that no, I used to be paid for that, so I’m not doing it for free now and I also can’t guarantee that I won’t start haranguing them the way I caught myself haranguing a poor woman who dared to complain that “English verbs are difficult”*

    * In my defence, French verbs are notoriously more difficult, they have a whole book of irregular verbs whereas English irregular verbs can fit on one sheet of paper

    1. I take tea*

      “English irregular verbs can fit on one sheet of paper”
      Literally. I remember having a copied, handwritten page with irregular English verbs to learn by heart when I was in school. (This fits in well with the “feeling old” discussion – how much haven’t the world changed since then!)

  41. AthenaC*

    #5 – I have intentionally used composite characters and stories during interviews. I view it as a way of being truthful on a larger scale (i.e. all the components are true separately even though they may not have occurred together) while being succinct and telling the interviewer what they want to know.

    So I think you’re fine.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah. I fail to see how anyone could prove it wasn’t exactly true or whether OP was being misleading. And what it would prove, apart from that OP doesn’t remember the details of something that is no longer of any importance.

    2. Xaraja*

      That’s what I was thinking. If nothing else, i might have to alter certain details because of confidentiality, be it formal or good judgement. And sometimes with interview questions your story might be too long if you don’t cut it down.

  42. kittybutton*

    LW3: Is it possible she is just joking about getting older, not specifically older than the rest of the group? When with friends who I know are around the same age, I might joke about shows or TV with a tone of “wow! that was a long time ago!”

    But I realize that is very different from the “you’ve probably never even heard of this!” comments, which I absolutely loathe! As a former young person, I can recall so clearly how embarrassing those comments were. I never knew how to reply: if you know the reference, it seems ironically childish to say “yes, I have heard of that! (I’m a big girl!!)” and if I don’t then that’s awkward too!

    1. Internist*

      I’m also mistaken for someone much younger, and a coworker said “You probably don’t know what I’m talking about” when referring to his birth year. Well, it was only one year before I was born, and even if it wasn’t, I’m old enough to have heard of years before…

      I think this is mostly likely the result of people feeling awkward about a perceived age difference and wanting to be the one to call it out before someone else does. But yeah, it really does just make it more awkward even if the age difference is real.

  43. ShortT*

    I’ve had similar interactions with people when they learn that I’m Jewish. I respond with, “What’s your problem?” in Hebrew. The presumption that Ashkenazi is the only kind of Jewish is ignorant and intellectually lazy. IMO, that deserves to be called out.

    1. Loulou*

      The presumption that only Ashkenazi Americans understand basic Yinglish is possibly even more ignorant, LOL.

  44. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

    #1 I can’t help picture Ed Begley Jr. in “A Mighty Wind.”

        1. Ali + Nino*

          GAHHHHH Thank you for introducing this to me – but AGKJHSDFL the second-hand (third-hand?) cringe!!!

  45. Popinki*

    I hope #1 can resolve the situation before Christmas, lest her boss decide to bust out the Hannukah balls.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        because non-Jews only know about Hannukah and have no idea what you’re talking about LOL

      2. Popinki*

        I hope she gets it straightened out ASAP, holiday or not.

        The Hannukah balls joke comes from a “worst office holiday stories” column where a Jewish person’ s non-Jewish boss decided to educate them all about Christmas. The boss brought in a box of blue Christmas ornaments and called them Hannukah balls, I guess because they’re one of those who thinks that Hannukah=Jewish Christmas, and basically made themself look like a clueless, condescending goober.

        The readership here has been having fun at that boss’ expense ever since.

      3. HannahS*

        Popinki is referring to a previous letter, where someone’s boss decided that the Jewish employee really needed to experience Christmas and gave them the bizarre gift of Christmas ornaments, but called them “Hannukah Balls.”

        1. quill*

          Leading to me, having never read the original, assuming they were edible, like some kind of meatball, for years.

            1. quill*

              I think you basically have to make them tater tot sized to fry all the way through, if you make a ball of potato dough.

            2. Nameless in Customer Service*

              Doughnuts would probably work better as a globular fried foodstuff (and then you could dust them with blue edible glitter).

  46. antiqueight*

    #5 I did this recently in an interview – except it basically meant I gave the wrong answer. Nothing I could later go back and fix so I left it. I didn’t get the job but I’m sure that while it MIGHT have had an impact, it was only very very slight and they claimed to be happy with me but have a better candidate. So I decided to just ignore it and try not to do that again.

  47. kristinyc*

    Follow-up question re: #1

    I’m not Jewish, but lived in NYC for 11 years and have picked up some Yiddish/Hebrew words/phrases. Is it inappropriate for me, a non-Jewish person to say “mazel tov” to a Jewish person to congratulate them on something, or to say “shana tova” at Rosh Hashana? I thought I was showing understanding/making an effort, but now I’m second guessing that.

    1. MsM*

      Apart from the fact you’ve presumably built up enough rapport with these folks for them to be talking to you about their celebrations directly as opposed to just going off a request for time off, I think there’s a clear difference between using an expression that’s appropriate to the occasion in a way that shows you at least have some sense of why it applies in that context, and just suddenly peppering your everyday conversation with phrases in a way that does not come across as natural or sincere even if you’re technically using them correctly. (Also, I do think being from/living in an area where there’s a relatively large Jewish community means the people you’re interacting with are more likely to assume you’re genuinely being nice than worry about whether there’s some hidden implication there.)

    2. Just Me*

      Not Jewish but I think there’s a difference between recognizing someone’s known cultural/religious identity versus throwing out random words you know in a different language when you perceive someone is part of a minority group. Ex. If I know a Muslim person is observing Eid I will tell them Eid Mubarak and generally they have been happy with that. By contrast, if you went up to a person who you perceived to be Latine and started trying to speak Spanish, it could be seen as you saying that you perceive they don’t speak English or that you have set prejudices about who they are and what languages they speak without knowing them. My guess is that if you know for sure that someone is Jewish and observing Rosh Hashana and that they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable about being “outed,” telling them shanah tovah is a nice thing to do.

    3. Loosey Goosey*

      Can’t speak for all Jews, obviously, but I wouldn’t mind that. Making the effort to learn holiday-specific greetings like “shana tova” for Rosh Hashana is nice! “Mazel tov” is also fine for personal celebrations (wedding, new baby, etc.). I would be weirded out if a non-Jewish colleague said mazel tov at work for a promotion or something – that feels othering.

    4. Ali + Nino*

      I think it depends on the context – as others have said, if you have that friendly rapport with someone that should be fine. L’shanah tova is a nice thing to hear around our holiday season! Re: mazel tov, I would just say this applies more to personal milestones rather than professional achievements – so “mazel tov on the new baby” versus “congrats on that awesome project you just wrapped up!”

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s very different, in line with the above responses. A friend of mine screamed a holiday greeting to me for Purim (TOTALLY bungled the pronunciation, it was cute) and I appreciated that immensely. I also like it when people ask me what to say on a holiday. That’s nice. Adding certain words to your conversation simply because you find out they’re Jewish… that’s not nice.

    6. Making up names is hard*

      I’ve also appreciated coworkers just telling me “happy new year!” on Rosh Hashanah. Actually feels very affirming and like I’m accepted for who I am. I always have a lot of anxiety around asking for time off for the holidays. Bizarrely the one boss who made a big deal about it was Jewish and felt ashamed that she didn’t take time off!

    7. Liz T*

      I would honestly skip the “mazel tov” unless it’s at a specifically Jewish ceremony like a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or a non-secular wedding. If my non-Jewish friends had said “mazel tov” when I’d told them I was engaged, that would’ve been very strange.

      I like holiday-appropriate greetings…but I’d advise waiting for the person to mention the holiday first. Some Jews don’t observe. We’re an eclectic bunch. A lot of vehement atheists, a lot of people who wonder if they’re being judged for not fasting, a lot of people who’re sick of being told they’re Jewish when they don’t relate to that (or that they’re not Jewish enough because of this or that). A lot of us will just feel weird having our Jewishness brought attention to if we don’t know exactly what it means to YOU. So, if you don’t know an individual Jew already, follow their lead.

    8. Cheshire Cat*

      #1 I’m not Jewish either, but many of my friends & classmates growing up spoke Yiddish at home and I picked up a lot of words. I’ve forgotten a lot but there are some phrases that I think of before the English equivalents. Such as, I always have to stop and think about the English for tschotchke and shlep.

      Currently I live in an area where almost no one is Jewish or understands much Yiddish beyond “oy”. I don’t use many Yiddish phrases here because hardly anyone understands me when I say them. When I do meet someone who speaks Yiddish I’m always happy that I don’t have to filter the phrases out of my speech. (I have family members who are Jewish but don’t speak Yiddish, so I’m aware the two are not equivalent.)

      So this is a longshot, but it’s possible that your boss isn’t necessarily being intentionally obnoxious or condescending.

  48. anonymous73*

    #2 – just because you were in the same program and have the same educational background does not automatically make both of you suited for the same job. And you’re not doing yourself any favors by getting salty because they landed what you consider to be a better job offer than you. If you want the job offered to you take it, but only if you can adjust your attitude about it and not focus on the other person. If you’re interested in Project Management, ask questions. Getting your foot in the door could potentially lead to other opportunities.

    1. moonstone*

      This is completely ignoring the historical context of minorities being pigeonholed into admin/assistant type roles and the total lack of respect that EA roles get. If OP is a minority and accepts an admin role she doesn’t want, there is NO guarantee it will open up other opportunities for her. Most likely it will be used to pigeonhole her. Comments like yours have manipulated women into this conundrum for years. Also, admin positions shouldn’t be treated as “foot in the door position” – they are professions in their own right.

  49. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    OP3, in a similar boat as you, re: looking younger, which is a blessing and a curse for a woman at work. I have been at my current organization for almost a decade and most people here know me and my skills well at this point, so it’s far less of an issue than it used to be, but I’ve definitely gotten similar comments. (At my first job out of grad school – and I had been there over a year at that point – I got a snide remark from someone in the elevator that I looked like a teenager. That was fun.)

    A couple of years ago, in a meeting with a bureau head – who, like in this case, I knew was YOUNGER than me – asked me if I “had even been born yet” when someone had been appointed to an item. My boss at the time was in the room and saw my face darken and everyone got very quiet. “Yes, I was,” I said with a pointed look. She backpedaled nervously and just that reaction seemed to work. I think there’s definitely a way to convey professionally that those kinds of comments aren’t appropriate.

  50. Whose Driving The Bus*

    LW 2: I specifically remember a letter to this blog about a “Project Manager” who took their job too seriously, and that the title of Project Manager wasn’t exactly what most people think of. That person in the PM title was effectively an executive assistant, and not the leader of the project. Could it be that your roles in the company are similarly titled, and that Project Manager is a different team’s way of distributing those duties?

  51. Gquaker*

    The Yiddish question is really interesting. I’m not Jewish but I grew up in area with a large Ashkenazi Jewish population. Most of my friends from school were Jewish, and many of my teachers assumed that I was Jewish. I use a lot of Yiddish vocabulary, especially when I’m speaking informally with a colleague or friend. In my case, it’s unintentional but absolutely could be ‘called out’ in a work context.

  52. lilsheba*

    #4 wear whatever you want, sleepwear doesn’t have to be “professional” it’s for sleep!!

  53. Mandy*

    #1) I had a similar, but opposite situation as I am not Jewish myself. I had a boss who for some reason assumed I was Jewish. He was always speaking with me about traditions and holidays, asking me what I thought about Jewish related current events, asking me if I were taking certain days off , or liked certain foods etc… (it was extremely excessive) At first I assumed he was Jewish himself and simply sharing his culture, but once I realized this was not the case, I was really baffled. One day I asked if I could leave early to attend a memorial church service for a family member with my mom (my mom is Catholic but I am really not practicing anything) and he looked taken aback and said “Oh I assumed you were Jewish”. I told him that I was not and really do not practice any religion and then he said he assumed I was Jewish because I “look” Jewish. Ok I get if someone comes in the office wearing some ultra traditional Jewish attire, but I mean obviously I was not doing that… it was super weird! Another girl in the office said he did something similar to her, but with exercise. She said he was constantly saying bizarre things like “are we hitting the gym today?” and “sore from working those abs hunh (when she winced picking up a box). One day she asked him why he kept saying those things and he said that it was because he assumed the large bag she carried was a gym bag… it was just a large purse no different from what most women carry and definitely nothing that looks like a gym bag.

    2) Yes, you can indeed get pigeonholed as an admin very easily! I see this especially happen with women. If you do decide to take the job I’d suggest being really up front with your boss that your end goal is a project manager role and make sure that you are working towards that goal, managing small projects, bein assigned a senior project manager as a mentor, etc…

  54. CatMom*

    #1, others have said some version of this but I think it’s worth establishing if she herself is Jewish. I am Jewish (and my name is the equivalent of something like Mary McGregor, so this surprises people) and I will absolutely ramp up with Yiddish with other Jewish people. Part of this is out of a desire to feel culturally connected to other Jews in a non-Jewish environment, and part of this is to signal that I am Jewish without directly saying so. Granted, I can actually speak Yiddish, and you would probably know that from my choice of Yiddish vocabulary, but still. It might not change your desire to have her stop using Yiddish terms with you — and she should still stop if you ask her — but it’s certainly relevant information.

  55. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Hi LW 4,
    When I was a grad student, I also traveled to conferences and shared hotel rooms with other grad students. (And we did share beds to save money – though it was only with my labmates and it was our choice to do so). I (a cis woman) wore shorts/men’s boxers and t-shirts/tank tops. Nobody really cared what anyone wore as long as there was acceptable coverage. Though this was all with people I shared an office with and saw all the time, so there was a level of comfort there that you might not have with your roommates.
    Regardless, I think you’re fine with what you have. Anyone who would judge you based on the sleepwear you describe is a weirdo. I hope you enjoy the event!

  56. HannahS*

    Gotta say, I’m phenomenally frustrated by the number of people responding to OP1 who has noticed that since learning that she’s Jewish her boss has CHANGED the way she speaks to using Yiddish words by saying, “But I didn’t know those words were Yiddish!” “Oh, but actually they’re German!” or in one strange case, “Maybe it’s Scottish! Maybe it’s from an SNL skit!”


    If the boss was suddenly integrating Hebrew into her speech, would you say, “But I didn’t know that ‘selah’ was Hebrew. That other one word is the same in Arabic! Maybe the boss is speaking Arabic for that one word. Maybe she’s speaking Akkadian, or Aramaic, or Italian? Maybe she does that to everyone!”

    Jews know when something fishy is happening. Her boss is treating her differently now that she knows OP is Jewish. The boss might be antisemitic, she might be philosemitic in that weird creepy fetishizing way that some people are. She might be *fascinated* by the OP because she’s never met any Jews before. This is, I promise you, a real thing that happens to Jews all the damn time. It doesn’t actually matter that you didn’t know which words are Yiddish or not, because if you didn’t know that, you probably wouldn’t increase your use of them around someone who was Jewish.

    1. Morning reader*

      Have to say, I was not disagreeing in any way that something fishy is going on for LW1. Nor would I dispute her read of the situation.
      I apologize if my small point of etymology made it appear so.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yuuuuup. “Oh, you’re Jewish? I might as well be too, I have a neurotic mother. Oy vey!”

      We know the difference between “these are words I know” and “I am doing this TO CONNECT WITH YOU LOOK HOW JEW-Y I AM.” Happens way more than people realize.

    3. quill*

      Yeah, no matter how well known the word in question is, and where it actually comes from, the sudden increase in usage is weird. (And if boss is Being Weird about OP’s jewishness, it matters less where a word actually comes from than if boss associates it with Jewish people.)

    4. Loosey Goosey*

      Co-signed. It’s REALLY frustrating that the knee-jerk response is to deny the experience of the LW. It’s a scary time to be a practicing/visible Jew in America, and this type of thing just emphasizes how little regard or understanding there is from the dominant culture.

    5. Lila*

      Yes, thank you! People really seem to want to ignore the actual details on this one. It’s pretty disappointing.

    6. Mooses*

      The Scottish/SNL skit is specific… It’s a reference to Mike Myers’ Coffee Talk skit from the early 90s. He was imitating his Jewish mother-in-law. That commenter seems deliberately dense about it. Doing an SNL routine towards your Jewish employee is fucked up.

  57. Internist*

    I’m in a very similar situation as LW3: I’m make a career change and because I’m an intern a lot of people seem to assume I’m a college student–I’m actually in my mid-30s. I asked one senior contributor if she had any advice for me, intending career advice, and she said “Do a lot of hiking during your brief time living X city for your internship.” I told her I’ve lived here for 8 years and own a house. She ignored me and didn’t react at all to that, I think it clashed too much with her pre-concieved notions.

  58. HR Ninja*

    Ugh, LW1 – I feel ya. I was born in South Korea but was adopted and raised by a white family. Long story short: When I was a youth leader at a local church one of the moms would always say things like, “I bet you’re a big fan of bulgogi.” I wanted to say, “Lady, I grew up eating mac-n-cheese with cut up hot dogs in it.”

  59. not neurotypical*

    I’m fascinated by the prospect that the increase in Yiddish is both real and unconscious:
    If there are few Jewish people in the area, the boss may not know many Jewish people, and thus OP’s Jewishness will be a cognitively salient thing about them.
    Yiddish words will also be coded as Jewish in the brain of the boss.
    So, when the boss sees OP, neural networks (which are all about making connections) will make it more likely that Yiddish words will spring to mind.
    If that’s the case, if neural salience rather than a conscious effort to use Yiddish is the cause, then a different, more subtle, type of cultural competence would be needed for the boss — she would need to hear and notice that Yiddish phrases are popping out of her mouth more often when OP is around.
    Not arguing for this explanation, just fascinated by it.
    Either way, Allison’s solution of just wondering why the boss is using Yiddish phrases should do the trick.

    1. PSA*

      This is ish-related/ish-tangential, but there’s an episode of Frasier where a woman he’s dating assumes he’s Jewish and to appease her mother (who she thinks will be very unsettled by the revelation he’s not), he enlists the family to pretend they are Jewish. How they do that: speech patterns and tossing around a whole bunch of Yiddish words. Sure, television, going for laughs, but ever since I saw that episode, I’ve wondered if non-Jews overestimate how much non-Orthodox Jews incorporate Yiddish into everyday speech.

  60. Bryce with a Y*

    I have some Jewish ancestry, and I once used a Yiddish word when trying to tell one of my ex bosses about a “cluster f—-k” without using the F-word. So I used the word “mishegoss.” My ex boss then used mishegoss to describe that situation in a staff meeting and thanked me for sharing that word as a more, well, kosher alternative!

  61. Sporty Yoda*

    LW 4: I know MeUndies stocks a lot of comfortable, gender-neutral sleep and loungewear (what’s the difference, you may be asking. I have no idea, but that might just be because my Southern mother raised me to have distinct “house” and “outside” clothing; could wear “outside” clothing in the house but not “house” clothing out, even if it’s just to get the mail). Obviously, you don’t need to get a whole new set of clothing just to sleep in when sharing a room, but I personally find athletic shorts in particular to be uncomfortable to sleep in and wanted to provide an extra option.

  62. KC*

    Re: LW 2 – I’m a former EA and I would venture to say that EA and project manager are actually really similar roles, at least in my personal experience. I was often leading internal initiatives by coordinating multiple key players’ work and planning major conferences and events, so I found that I had a lot of transferable skills to the project management field.

    The biggest issue with being an EA, though, is that your work will ALWAYS be undervalued. (IMO this is largely because it’s a role that has historically been occupied by women.) People just do not take EAs seriously. You’ll work harder than half the people you work with and get paid less and have fewer job options/professional development opportunities in the future, unless you’re somehow highly specialized in a particular field. So…that’s something to consider if you don’t want to be an EA for a long time. Fortunately I managed to find a non-EA role that I LOVE, but I kind of think of it as sort of a miracle that I got this job – an exception to the rule.

  63. Liz T*

    As a Jew, can I ask that people stop BRAGGING about how many words they didn’t know were Yiddish? While that could possibly be relevant to OP’s situation, it’s not gonna make Jews feel better *as a group* to be reminded how our contributions to the culture have been erased.

        1. Liz T*

          Seriously, no clue why “I say chootspa all the time, and I’ve never even heard of Jews!” is supposed to be comforting.

    1. Hey Pal*

      This. Also, the history and present state of Yiddish is very tied up with the Holocaust and the struggles of Jewish immigrants/refugees who came to America post-WWII, so it’s not an uncomplicated legacy.

      1. Liz T*

        Actually I wouldn’t associate it so strongly with the Holocaust–the big wave of immigration that brought Yiddish to the US was before that, in the 1800s and early 1900s. Remember, our history is more than that one particular horror!

  64. e271828*

    LW2, if the person offered a project manager position is a white man and you are not, do not take the EA position offered, because this company may have a problem.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Considering that there is no information on the relative performance of the interns, the kind of work they did, or the number of positions available, that seems extreme.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        This entire comment section has been a festival of people denying the bare possibility of bigotry, and at least in the US after the last several years, doing so can’t really be taken in good faith anymore.

    2. Artemesia*

      Sandra Day O’Connor was third in her law class and the only job offer she could get on graduation at first was ‘office manager.’ Ruth Bader Ginsberg had similar problems finding positions in spite of her accomplishments and ended up in Academia as a result. So yeah, sexism is always a real possibility.

  65. HelloAvocado*

    LW#3 – It is always uncomfortable when age is brought up in the workplace. I am 28 and have faced age discrimination in every job I’ve had. It’s very possible that your coworker’s comments are making the younger people feel just as uncomfortable, maybe even more so! I would ask what you are looking to accomplish. I don’t think “outing” yourself as older will make the awkward comments stop. It could even encourage her to comment more – “me and OP#3 are the only ones that will get this reference! ha, ha.”

    Just something to keep in mind. May be better to ignore or discourage her comments instead – something like “let’s get back on track with our agenda” is great for off-topic convo during a meeting!

  66. Gnome*

    People can be very weird about Jewishness. A client learned that I’m Jewish and then started asking me questions regularly. And this is shockingly common. It was genuine interest, but some days I just want to work. If it was a coworker, I’d tell them it’s enough, but since it’s a client I tolerate it.

    1. pancakes*

      Commenters here are a little weird about it! It’s almost as if some people see that word and think they’re being asked to free-associate on their own personal history about the first time they met a Jewish person or encountered Jewish culture.

      1. TransmascJourno*

        Agreed—it’s been very uncomfortable to read, especially the “my first Jew!” stories. We’re not rare collectibles—we’re, you know, individual people.

        (And yes, I was tempted to use the word “tchotchkes” here.)

        1. pancakes*

          Haha! Yes, exactly. I look Jewish enough to have experienced people being weird in person too, and that’s well-put.

      2. Eyes Kiwami*

        I think this happens on so many letters–people just want to contribute something from their personal experience, which is an OK impulse! But people don’t know when to sit back and reflect on whether their contribution is actually relevant or important or helpful. Like all those nickname letters where everyone has to share their nicknames and how they deal with nicknames and what nicknames they prefer, none of it really about the LW or their issue… “free associate” is a great term for it, and this letter shows how it can actually be harmful.

  67. Sam Von Schmamm*

    I wonder if Alison and/or the AAM community could walk me through why it wouldn’t be ok for this manager to try to use words that she thinks connects her to this employee? Please don’t be mean and attack me. I’m genuinely curious.

    1. quill*

      Historically, communities who suddenly find out that someone is jewish are not always safe for that person. So the manager deciding to drop every yiddish phrase they learned from Seinfeld specifically at OP is a lot more stressful than if someone, say, in the US were to discover that a coworker was from france and insist on using the fifteen french words they know in conversation with them, which would be more “obnoxious and clueless” than anything else.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      It’s basically signaling that they are treating you differently than everyone else for a reason that has nothing to do with your ability to do your job. They’re now viewing you as “the Jew”, not “the accountant”.
      Additionally, they can’t know how this person relates to their Jewish identity, and they shouldn’t make assumptions about it.

    3. HannahS*

      It reduces people to their identity and what someone assumes that identity means in a reductive and simplistic way. It also calls attention to someone’s minority status. It involves making stereotyped assumptions, too. When stuff like that happens, usually the manager is considering how this one employee is DIFFERENT from the other employees so they must have DIFFERENT needs and interests. It’s very “othering” to have that happen. Before the boss considered her “just another employee” or even, “Ariella, our project manager,” but now the boss is fixated on, “Ariella, the Jew.”

      The other thing is, people who do this are generally ignorant and are, in my experience, more likely to later behave in antisemitic ways because they lump all Jews together in their heads.

    4. Canadian Librarian #72*

      It reduces the person to one aspect of their identity (Jews are not only Jews, we all have other aspects to our lives and personalities, and assumes stereotypes about Jews (not all Jews speak Yiddish, and not all Jews are even descended from communities where Yiddish was the language), and most of us don’t want to be someone’s teachable moment or be on tap to educate them or let them show off how cultured and worldly they are. It’s basically the same as why you wouldn’t want to suddenly start showing off your Spanish when a Mexican-American employee joins the team, or act as though having curly hair as a white person means you can relate to Black employees’ experiences with regards to their natural hair.

      1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

        It’s the equivalent of a white anime nerd squealing “Ohaiyoooo! Kawaiiiii!” at every vaguely Asian-looking woman they see. Plus added generational trauma; sometimes being publically identified as a Jew is scary.

          1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

            Canadian Librarian, one of my best friends as a teen was a very beautiful Chinese girl, and…hooboy, yeah.

    5. MeepMeep02*

      1. Flagging someone as Jewish in casual conversation will also identify them as Jewish to any potential antisemites who are around. Believe me, there are plenty. (I’m Jewish and I’ve experienced plenty of antisemitism on my own skin, as have generations of my ancestors)

      2. It’s pointing out and attracting attention to a person’s race/ethnicity. For the same reason you wouldn’t want to shift into Black vernacular whenever you have any interactions with your Black coworker, or start throwing in random Spanish words for a Latino coworker, you kinda do not want to be doing this.

      3. Someone who has experienced antisemitism (and most Jews have) will take this in a way other than it was intended. Where I grew up, people frequently used Yiddish words and Jewish names as insults. If you do, you risk coming off as someone like that.

      4. It’s just plain unprofessional and bad manners. Work is not a place to “connect” – it’s a place to be professional.

      1. pancakes*

        I mostly agree with this but want to add something about point 4: I think work can be a place to connect, but intentionally trying to force or speed up a connection this way is going to come off as stilted. Or insecure. Having a genuine interest in getting to know one another better doesn’t need to be signaled by pretending to already know one another’s background.

    6. Liz T*

      In addition to what others have said:

      -The fact that the manager doesn’t use these words in other contexts reflects a condescending and ghettoizing attitude towards the language, and thus the heritage it represents. Why not say “schlep” to everyone if you appreciate the word?

      -The manager found out OP is Jewish only recently, from a single reference to a religious observance, not through any use of Yiddish. It’s a very wrong-headed assumption to think this set of behaviors would forge a connection to this particular employee, who hasn’t displayed those behaviors themselves. (Especially since Yiddish is related to the ethnic aspect of Jewishness rather than the religious aspect.)

      -The manager is engaging in stereotype, and that’s the truth. American Jews are VERY culturally diverse, and have wildly different relationships to their Jewishness; the idea that every Jew you meet slings Yiddish around is troublesome and alienating. I’m from NYC, where anyone might use those words, and my family culture is moderately influenced by 19th and early 20th century immigration from Eastern Europe; this is not true of all Jews in 2022.

      It’s literally 100 years since the end of the swell of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe to the US, and we have commenters here using my grandparents’ vocabulary with no awareness of the unique blend of cultures that created it. Yet this manager hears “Rosh Hashanah” and immediately trots out her best Jackie Mason impression. (And I doubt her best is very good.) It’s embarrassing and, again, alienating.

      That is, unless she’s also Jewish, in which case strike all of that.

      1. MsM*

        Although even if she *is* Jewish, you’d think at some point she’d realize, “Hey, OP’s not throwing Yiddishisms back at me; either they don’t want to talk about it, or maybe I need to find some other way of working this into conversation.”

        1. Liz T*

          And for the record, I suspect the manager is not Jewish; I trust OP’s vibe check. Just pointing out that an actual Jew might think “oh thank goodness, someone I can actually say ‘kvell’ to and they’ll at least know what I’m talking about.”

      2. Observer*

        It’s literally 100 years since the end of the swell of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe to the US, and we have commenters here using my grandparents’ vocabulary with no awareness of the unique blend of cultures that created it.

        It’s actually more complicated than that. For one thing even though the “swell” subsided, immigration continued to some extent. And then, after the war another huge wave showed up.

        But you are still right about the rest of your comment. This boss probably does mean well, but it’s a problem.

        1. Liz T*

          This is a pretty pedantic comment. Obviously *the entire history of Jewish immigration* is more complicated than this comment thread. But I in no way said that immigration stopped, so please don’t frame it as a correction to say it “continued to some extent.” Obviously it did.

          But another “huge wave showed up” after WWII? Huge? No. Not remotely. We turned away most of the refugees, implemented strict immigration quotas, and basically throttled immigration from eastern Europe. Look up the Immigration Act of 1924, the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, and the Last Million. 90% of Jewish Survivors who’d been displaced into the Soviet Union were denied entry because of the Red Scare. (You’re also conveniently leaving out that during WWII most Yiddish speakers in Europe were, yknow, murdered, so there were fewer to immigrate in the first place.)

          We’re talking about *millions* of European immigrants in just the 15 years before WWI, when the US government placed no limits on how many people could enter the country. Almost a million a year! With the Immigration Act of 1924, the US capped immigration at 165,000 people a year–and specifically limited how many Eastern Europeans they’d take, compared to Western and Northern. In 1921, 95,000 Polish people came to America; the Act capped Poland at 5,982.

          The Displaced Persons Act literally said that you couldn’t get a US visa if you’d entered a refugee camp after December 22, 1945. Truman fought Congress over that cutoff date for two years and eventually won–which let in another 200,000 people. 200,000 in two years is still a drop in the bucket compared to the years before 1924.

          That’s leaving out whether those Jews were casual Yiddish speakers anyway; many European Jews at the time were fully assimilated into secular culture.

          Hope that’s complicated enough for you.

    7. Observer*

      You’ve gotten a lot of good responses.

      A couple of points that I want to highlight.

      Firstly, you know what they say about what happens when you “assume”. Well that applies here. There are so many things wrong with this particular assumption. For one thing, LOTS of Jews don’t speak Yiddish. For another, lots of Jews who do speak Yiddish fluently actually find the typical use of some of these words in typical English usage not especially positive. Personally I still wince a little internally when I hear someone mis-use the word “meshugeneh”, which is very common. And there was a time where I found typical inability to pronounce Chutzpah correctly distracting. I’ve gotten over it now. But there is no way a person just using those words to essentially show off is going to forge a connection. And in general, people don’t feel more connected to people just because they show that they can use a few words in their (supposed) language. From what I’ve seen, that’s not just a Jewish thing. It seems to be a pretty common thing.

      For another thing, there is a really good chance that hearing someone jump from “Oh, OP celebrates the High Holy Days? OP MUST be dying for some Yiddish words!” would make the OP wonder “What ELSE does Boss think they know about Jews?” That’s a concern anywhere. But it’s exponentially more worrisome in an environment where they are repeatedly told that they are the first Jew that someone has met. For an example of just how bizarre it can get, I have a friend who went to visit a school mare during spring break. When he was introduced to the Grandmother, she ran her hands through his hair. When the scandalized asked what she was doing she said that she wanted to feel his horns! Nice lady, according to him, but obviously a bit boundary challenged, and well “everyone knows” that Jews have horns, in her world at least. (And yes this happened in the deep south.) Now, I’m betting that the boss knows better than that particular myth, but who knows what else she has in her head.

  68. WantonSeedStitch*

    Glad I’m not the only one who thought “danger: Hanukkah balls ahead!” when I read the first letter.

  69. Canadian Librarian #72*

    I’m Jewish, and have experienced that exact same sudden peppering of speech with Yiddish. It’s cringey and it feels juuuust on the side of plausible deniability, so you don’t want to make a fuss over something “well-meaning” (though it can still feel mocking – and intent =/= impact), or be seen through the lens of Jewish stereotypes as “whiny”, or have (usually white non-Jewish) people go off at you about “real minorities having real problems”. It’s exhausting honestly.

  70. Coco*

    LW3: I’m in my early 30s but many people have told me they assume I’m a lot older but just look younger, based on my mannerisms and interests. I was raised by my grandfather, and the majority of my childhood was made up of things like I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, and Frank Sinatra. I’ve more or less always been behind a generation or two when it comes to pop culture. Even as a kid, I had no idea what “the kids are into these days”. People assume I’m very young looking for 40 lol

  71. Mooses*

    I would be really skeptical that LW1’s boss is also Jewish and trying to connect. She could just say so- that’s a normal thing to do, especially if you meet someone else who is a member of your really small group. And she’s the boss, who would control the repercussions. It’s never been a secret anywhere I’ve worked. It would be weird to try and telegraph Jewishness with increasing Yiddish-isms.

    If it’s the more likely attempt to connect as a non-Jew with a Jewish employee, it is extremely inappropriate. Alison suggested that she might be trying to show that she likes Jews…but why does she need to go out of her way to show that? Was there a question?

    What she is actually doing pushes a stereotype on someone. It sends a signal to other employees that LW1 is Jewish, without regard for if she wished to share that widely. (It sounds from the letter that it was something the supervisor deduced from a leave request, not by LW1’s statement.) As much as I love the Coffee Talk with Linda Richman sketch, it’s a caricature that can get anti-semitic really fast.

    I’ve never hidden being Jewish at work, but it has not always been okay. In Washington DC(!), I was reprimanded for taking time off for Jewish holidays, and our HR refused to put up Hanukkah decorations after our social committee decided to add them.

    The seriousness of what’s happening in this letter is not clear. I think the script Alison laid out is fine, but it could totally backfire. I could see this supervisor being miffed that she was not well received. If I was the LW, I honestly would not say anything and hope the supervisor got bored of it.

    1. Observer*

      but why does she need to go out of her way to show that? Was there a question?

      Yes. There was. And the same thing would hold true of someone who is Black, Muslim or from most of East Asia.

      But no one likes to be constantly reminded of that by someone who has a need to constantly telegraph “But *I’m* one of the good ones…”

  72. Nay*

    LW#3 UGH this would be annoying even if you WEREN’T OLDER! It’s so annoying when people say things like that, it’s really passive aggressive because the implication is always “you’re naive and doesn’t understand or know as much as me.” Like, younger people can’t know about TV or music from previous generations? Why not? Especially when so many generations have and still are growing up on things like Sesame Street. Our society puts such odd weight on young people too for not knowing certain “classic” TV shows or music that probably don’t age as well as some fans hope either. I think this is just outright annoying regardless of age…

  73. No Longer Landlocked*

    LW1, I’ve experienced that kind of response too. When I moved to a conservative city full of Evangelical Christians, some folks started greeting me with “Shalom” when they spotted my star necklace. And then they’d get annoyed when I proceeded with their transaction without acknowledging that they’d just Othered me, as if they had expected a cookie or something.

    It seems likely the boss would have said “me too” before code switching. I hope LW1 feels safe and empowered enough to Alison’s script, but if you don’t, if you think there’s a chance that she’ll get offended that you didn’t “appreciate” her efforts, then yeah see if you can just grit your teeth and bear it. Maybe one of your coworkers will one day ask why she suddenly started using Yiddish even though you don’t?

    1. No Longer Landlocked*

      *Seems likely they would have said “me too” before code switching if indeed she was Jewish. Sorry, too many rewrites.

    2. Liz T*

      Oh god, the Shalom would’ve absolutely broken my brain. I’d have been tempted to say “Salve” to anyone wearing a cross.

  74. Workerbee*

    #3 I find I can’t stand the ageist “I’m outing my age here, but I remember seeing This Band in concert” and “You wouldn’t have heard of This Show, it aired before you were born!” crap that the age-bearers themselves spout. Why do people do this??

    I wasn’t born when Casablanca came out, but I grew up watching old movies. I have deep interests in music “before my time.” Hell, classical music was before everybody’s time, but somehow that gets a pass.

    In any case, reruns are a thing. So is YouTube. These days, you have to work hard to remain ignorant that life and things existed before you.

  75. Burger Bob*

    To be fair, if you have never seen it spelled out, there are a variety of spellings you could imagine, and some of them would more resemble other languages.

  76. moonstone*

    #2: Projecting my own experiences, but this does reek of discrimination to me. If OP wasn’t trained to do admin work, then it is out of line to offer her an admin job. To be clear, I respect administrative work, but it’s also been a common micro aggression to pigeonhole women and nonwhite people into admin roles when they clearly are aiming for other non-admin roles. It’s clear from this letter that the OP took the internship for project management experience and not for admin experience.

    OP, if your internship and previous training has nothing to do with admin, this is definitely discrimination and I highly recommend against accepting the job, because it will put you on a track you don’t want. It will be harder to rebrand yourself once you’ve been pigeonholed.

    The annoying thing is, this kind of mentality harms administrative personnel as well. It treats those jobs like entry level jobs when being an executive assistant is a profession it itself, just one with different skill sets. I hate all this.

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