Jews, Interrupting

Author Deborah Tannen, best known for her book You just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, has plenty to say about how Jews talk . At a recent lecture at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where she is a professor of linguistics, Tannen spoke about what she calls a “high-involvement” style of conversation, in which the listener speaks along with-and often interrupts-the speaker. This is, says Tannen, characteristic of New York Jews, and, by osmosis, New Yorkers in general. Jews don’t think it’s rude to interrupt? On the contrary, says Tannen, interrupting shows that you’re paying attention. “You don’t want to feel that you have to keep checking your listener to make sure they’re awake.”

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