Vice President Joe Biden invoked a character from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” earlier this week and wound up apologizing.
In a speech to the Legal Services Corp., Mr. Biden spoke of the way soldiers serving overseas endured home foreclosures and “bad loans.”
“I mean, these shylocks who took advantage of these women and men while overseas,” Mr. Biden said.
“Shylock” was the Jewish character in the play who in return for a loan demanded a pound of a man’s flesh.
Douglas Lanier, a University of New Hampshire English professor who is writing a book about “The Merchant of Venice,” describes Shylock as “the villain of The Merchant of Venice – and explicitly Jewish.
“He’s identified that way,” Mr. Lanier continued. “And so this plays into a very longstanding anti-Semitic strain in English culture for the period that stretches from the Middle Ages onward.”
Shylock, he said, “is still a deeply derogatory remark,” freighted with “the connotation of the evil Jew.”
Jewish leaders took notice.
Even as a kid growing up in the deep woods of North Idaho, I knew better than to call anyone a “Shylock.” I didn’t know the background of the word, but I knew from the context of articles I read, and things my parents said, that this was a no-no.
The lesson to be learnt here, if you’re going to speak for a living, look up all the unfamiliar words. Don’t assume your “gut feeling,” that you know the definition, is correct. The meanings of words change over time. Always choose looking intelligent rather than looking clever. Instead of clever, now Mr. Biden just looks foolish. Again.
Quote from the Wall Street Journal.