Is it considered offensive to call a Jewish person a Semite? I've heard the phrase anti-semite or anti-semitism, but I've never heard someone call someone a Semite.
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
It is not offensive to call someone who is ethnically Jewish a Semite, or rather, offensive is not the best word; it would be better to say it is strange usage:
In short, it's not offensive exactly, just kind of weird. Sort of analogous to calling an American (yes, someone from the US) a North American. It would be logically correct, but why would you do that, when you can just say American, Canadian, Mexican or Central American. They are all so different that you wouldn't lump any together or if you knew, you'd specify which country.
The word "semite" is not itself offensive, but it has an awkward, clinical quality that implies some contempt for Jews. Using "semite" suggests that "Jew" is a bad word that needs to be hidden with a more sanitized, formal word. If you don't have any problem with Jews, why not just say "Jew?"
I've heard people object to "African American" (instead of "black") on similar grounds, though obviously there's a broad spectrum of opinion on that one.