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There was the following sentence in a pretty old (October 7, 2013) article of New York Times titled, “A Jew not quite English enough,” which comments on the life and lifestyle of Ralph Miliband, the late father of David Miliband, Britain’s former foreign secretary and of Ed Milliband, the leader of the Labour Party.

In his book “Anglomania,” Ian Buruma wrote to Win: “This is indeed an old, old story . Keep quiet, use code, ignore the occasional comments about “pushiness” or “flashiness” or “stinginess” or Jewish behavior” or a comment about a Jewish woman’s “great conk of a nose." This afterall, is no more than genteel prejudice, harmless enough, unlike the Continental brand that Ralph Miliband fled**.”

I don’t understand what “a Jewish woman’s “great conk of a nose” means. What does it mean? Is it just a description of a physical feature, or special attitudes of “a” Jewish woman?

We have a popular Japanese idiom, “鼻っ柱が強い- hanappashira ga tsuyoi,” of which literal translation is “(have) a tough bridge of the nose, and it means a self-assertive, stubborn and sometimes quarrelsome person who would never concede.

I wonder if “hanappashira ga tsuyoi” is close to “great conk of a nose” in meaning. Furthermore, is “great conk of a nose” politically incorrect expression?

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2 Answers 2

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From Wikipedia:

Stereotypes of Jews are caricatured and generalized representations of Jews, often of a racist nature. Jews are commonly caricatured as having large noses or hook noses.

I don't think the meaning of the phrase goes anything beyond physical appearance.

Such stereotypes would be considered rude and insensitive and would be best avoided. There are better ways to elicit a laugh from your audience.

It seems like the passage you quote is lumping a lot of negative stereotypes together, and discussing how it's sometimes best to ignore such insults.

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Conk is a colloquial expression for nose, quite frequently implying a large size. See also definitions 3 and 4 here. It would refer, in your example, to the stereotypical size and shape of a Jewish nose, which according to the Jewish Encyclopedia is perhaps not as widespread (no pun intended) as caricaturists would lead us to believe.

I would suggest that it is very much a politically incorrect expression.

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If “conk” means 3.-4. nose as defined by Urban Dictionary, isn’t “a large conk of nose” redundant? I wonder why it isn’t simply “a Jewish woman’s great conk.” –  Yoichi Oishi Apr 14 at 6:57

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