'Yehudi Menuhin' -- a bad word?

March 23, 2009 at 01:55 AM ·

Laurie Taylor of the BBC writes about his childhood trevails with physical education, and his teacher who would deride his athletic abilities by saying, " 'Oo do you think you are? Bleeding Yehudi Menyudi?""

Replies (24)

March 23, 2009 at 06:49 AM ·

I would guess that has more to do with antisemitism than with the violinist specifically....

March 23, 2009 at 07:31 AM ·

this also goes back to a time when verbal criticism and sarcasm were an accepted part of the education process (I have my own personal memories also). Today, we have swung to the opposite end, where everything is excellent and "awesome" and even the sour-note school performers get a standing O...perhaps a more centrist policy is best

March 23, 2009 at 01:30 PM ·

I tend to agree with Joseph since Laurie Taylor appears from the story to be Jewish.  Otherwise, I am puzzled.

March 23, 2009 at 01:56 PM ·

Unfortunately, sadly, and tragically, irrational hatred against an almost endless series of human beings with various backgrounds only because of their background is almost continuous and universal throughout history. Or, as Albert Einstein put it, "Two things are infinite - the universe and human stupidity (and I'm not so sure about the universe)."

March 23, 2009 at 02:07 PM ·

If this happened 50 years ago...and boys who didn't engage in rough and tough athletics were considered 'sissies'...and playing the violin was the stereotypical 'sissy' activity...and Menuhin was 'the' household name as far as violinists go...

It could be as simple as that - without necessarily having more sinister undertones...

Doesn't make it right of course.



March 23, 2009 at 04:41 PM ·

What's ironic is that Yehudi Menuhin cultivated a love for yoga throughout his life.  He was known to do very acrobatic things in his yoga quest.

March 23, 2009 at 07:30 PM ·

Come on; lighten up.

First, Menuhin was probably the only musician, or artist of any kind, that the gym teacher had heard of. Menuhin was, and still is, a household name in Britain, and not only among the chattering classes.

Second, he was using the most primitive form of a standard British expression of ironic derision. "Who do you think you are, xxxxx?", where xxxxx is any apposite name. Traffic police have been known to substitute the names of  car racing champions when stopping people for speeding. A more sophisticated version is to address the victim directly as xxxxx. "Get a move on, Yehudi."

Laurie Taylor is a distinguished sociologist with a very well-developed sense of humour. He started life as an actor in avant-garde theatre. The only thing I've ever seen or heard him attack is stupidity.



March 23, 2009 at 09:10 PM ·

This physical education teacher was defenitivly wrong! Menuhin was by far the most athletic jew musician (and I would say amongst non jews too) I saw in the violinists of these days. Many were a little chubby but he was very slim and I saw videos of him doing ground exercises, yoga, jogging, stand on his head!  He was way more flexible and strong than the average people.  If you would have forced some other musicians of that era to do the same exercises as Menuhin, they would have almost past away... So really, he was a modal of an excellent violinist and sportsman!   Never listen to those who say violin is for the weaks or not healthy... Russel Crow had many shoulder pains when playing violin. Yes, this tough guy...

Anne-Marie (the idea of Russel Crow came from someone here that said this once! How true!)

March 24, 2009 at 12:13 AM ·

Actually my post was baised on the logic

Yehuda -> Yehudi <==> some anitisimetic undertones on the part of the gym teacher. 

March 24, 2009 at 12:36 PM ·

Joseph you said: "Actually my post was baised on the logic

Yehuda -> Yehudi <==> some anitisimetic undertones on the part of the gym teacher. "

Actually the article used the name "Yehudi Menyudi" note the wrong last name and the rhyminess.  I wouldn't think it's so much antisemitism.... sounds more like an ignorant gimp mispronouncing the name of someone he knows nothing about.  The article gives no indication of whether or not the author is Jewish, in fact it points out that the student attended a perochial school.

March 24, 2009 at 01:00 PM ·


Marina - you are correct that Taylor attended a Catholic school, but if you read the article carefully, I think it is reasonably clear that he is Jewish.  I know Jews who have attended Catholic school.

March 24, 2009 at 01:38 PM ·

That's true, Tom, But I've never know a christian attending a jewish school.

March 24, 2009 at 03:38 PM ·

Carlos - Actor Marlon Brando's children attended Jewish schools even though they were Christians.

March 25, 2009 at 12:51 AM ·

There's a certain amount of irony in the fire here, given that Lord Menuhin's first name, Yehudi, basically means "Jew", and was given him by his mother in protest against prevalent anti-Semitism she experienced.

There's also been an undercurrent of this sentiment in the British upper classes. One might be wealthy, of course, or even perhaps PM, but a Jew would never be considered a "gentleman".

March 25, 2009 at 11:21 PM ·

Rex is spot on: "Who do you think you are? Stirling Moss?" was subsequently updated to "Who do you think you are? Nigel Mansell?" Yes, the teacher was decidedly not being anti-semitic: just racially insensitive, and would probably be either amused or shocked to think an offhand cliche comment like that could be taken as a coded insult.

Being of Dutch descent, I was often teased in school in England for being (somehow) German... Which I didn't take as insulting, because Germans are nice people too. Don't attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance.

March 26, 2009 at 01:20 AM ·


very true, althohgh neither comes from a position of lovewhich is where humans are at their best.



March 26, 2009 at 01:11 PM ·

Richie - excuse me, but I am having trouble understanding the difference between being "anti-semitic" and "racially insensitive."  Menuhin was caucasian; the teacher's remarks do not suggest he was negroid or oriental, at least as far as I can see.  You also should understand that as a Jewish contemporary of Taylor's, at least chronologically, if a teacher made a similar comment, I would understand it as anti-semitic.

March 26, 2009 at 01:29 PM ·

Richie said "Don't attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance."  I like this statement very much, it is so true.

Tom I think you're taking this too personally.  The statement was made long ago and history shows us that far worse things have happened.  Statements like these were made casually and often, and about anyone who was different. 

March 26, 2009 at 02:28 PM ·

Marina - you are correct that the statement was made long ago and probably correct that statements like that were made often.  That is, perhaps, the point.  In that era, they were not meaningless or harmless and were not perceived as such by those of us who are Jewish. The sort of "ignorance" that produced such statements led to awful results in a number of European countries during a significant part of the 20th century.  Sorry to rant, but I perhaps attach more importance to this statement because of my age and background.

March 27, 2009 at 11:43 PM ·

Tom, I think you need to understand British humour and culture. I am the same age as Laurie Taylor and experienced a similar schooling in the UK. Although one cannot exclude it entirely, it is highly  likely that his games master didnt even know that Yehudi Menhuin was Jewish back in the 60s/70s. He probably just represented to him an effeminate "artistic" type of poofta. Which is an entirely different sort of prejudice!

March 28, 2009 at 08:39 PM ·

Besides, what Gentile gym teacher actually knows that "Yehuda" means "Jew" anyway? Sounds like it was a jab at violinists, not at Jews. And forgive me one and all, but I snickered rather heartily at the original post.


March 31, 2009 at 05:34 PM ·

Carlos- This is as true as the sky is blue.  I come from a Christian background.  I went to Kindergarten at a school called J.C.C.  I came home telling my mother what I learned speaking a language she did not recognize.  I told her that it is called, "Hebrew".  She inquired the following morning why I was learning Hebrew?  She had nothing against it, thought it was neat.  The teacher told her that J.C.C. stood for Jewish Community Center.  so now you know a Christian who attended a Jewish school. :^)

ps: I also came to appreciate why snacks never included Ham & Cheese!

This is a true story don't let them tell you different!

March 31, 2009 at 06:23 PM ·

Royce - your story reminds me of one.  My son had a friend whose family (the Kellihers) were Christian.  One day, my wife and I went to the house to pick him up.  We were in the kitchen and noticed some obviously kid-made Israeli flags attached with magnets to the refrigerator door.  We inquired about them, and it turned out that the friend's younger sibs were in a synagogue day care center/nursery school.  I don't think it is all that unusual for kids that age to be in a Jewish establishment.  It is the older kids where it is rarer.

Just out of curiousity, where did you live when you went to the JCC school?


April 1, 2009 at 03:05 PM ·

I was living in Corpus Christi, Texas When I went too J.C.C.  It's still there as far as I know.  My teacher was wonderful. Miss Pennlin. Beautiful humanbeing, realy great with children.

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