12.15.2005

Chew On This

In conversation today, someone was talking about their experience in retail. It had to do with selling calendars, and a customer trying to "chew him down" on the price.

I had to stop him. Chew you down? Don't you mean Jew you down? And, by the way, where's your time machine, because you're comin' straight outta 1950.

He hadn't meant to be even vaguely anti-Semitic. In, fact, he was horrified to think that that he could be construed as such. Unaware of the connection, he had always thought his phrase was more literal: to chew away at (badger) someone until they gave you a better price.

I'd never heard "chew him down". I haven't heard "Jew down" in years.
Enter Google. "Chew him down" gives 250 hits. Quite small, and some of those actually refer to chewing (the dog had to chew him down to a manageable size). So, it's definitely not common usage. It may fit the category of malapropism... though a malapropism, I believe, is the use of the wrong word for your intended meaning. I doubt that most people saying "chew" really mean "Jew".

Here are a few uses:

"...the salesman will try talking to you in terms of monthly payments, but you need to switch him back to total price of the car in order to chew him down."

"I'm hoping to chew him down to $200."

..."trying to chew him down to almost slave wages."

"I decided that I was going to just give him his asking price rather than try to chew him down."

"...I didn't try to chew him down any, I got what I wanted for the price.."

Of course, "Jew him down" gets nearly as many hits, and most of those are talking about the phrase itself, not using it conversationally. This either means that the blogosphere is self-censoring, or that it's going away as a figure of speech.

Either way works for me.

6 comments:

eric j. sherman said...

"If you blog us, will we not read?"

Eric "Babe" Morse said...

Shylock, yes. He chewed a few guys down in his day.

zelskid said...

We must travel in different circles or my hearing is bad or I'm a thinskinned Jew.I hear, "jew him down" weekly.

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Jessica said...

Chewing, by definition, has nothing to do with money. I believe that "chewing someone down" developed out of "jewing someone down", and is now an acceptable phrase. Kind of like when you were younger and told to use "darn" instead of "d-mn", or "gosh", instead of G-d. Just our society's way of pushing an ethnic slur under the rug.