What's in a Name? Why We Won't Use T. zebrina's Common Name

We’ve heard from many members of the HPH group who are uncomfortable with the use of the common name “Wandering Jew” forTradescantia zebrina and related plants. Many people dislike the use of a common name that has a history of racism and bigotry, and would like to see us encourage the use of the scientific name or other common names, and we’ve listened.

We’re no longer allowing the use of this common name, and we’d like to take a moment to tell you all why.

While some people interpret the name “Wandering Jew” as a harmless reference to the Jewish people wandering in the desert, the historical use of the term hasn’t been inoffensive or harmless. The origin of the name “Wandering Jew” comes from a medieval European folk story about a mythical Jew who mocked Jesus and was condemned to wander the earth until the apocalypse.

In the 20th century, the term resurfaced in Nazi propaganda in Germany. In German, the medieval concept of the “Wandering Jew” translated to Der ewige Jude (the Eternal Jew). The Nazi party presented an art show titled Der ewige Jude which portrayed Jews in an extremely negative and stereotypical manner meant to dehumanize them and equate them with the cursed “Wandering Jew” from medieval folklore.

Later, in 1940, the Nazis released a propaganda film also titled Der ewige Jude which portrayed Jews as parasitic and dangerous and justified their extermination. The medieval theme of the “Wandering Jew” was used as a backdrop for the film and as one of many justifications for the extermination of the Jewish people.

That’s a LOT of nasty historical baggage that shouldn’t be ignored. We strive to make HPH a fun and welcoming place, and to host a group where everyone can feel safe and accepted, and we’re happy to make a change that we feel contributes to the culture the admins, mods, and members have built.

There are many other common names to use if Tradescantia zebrina seems like a mouthful, such as inch plant, spiderwort, or even “wandering dude” as many people have taken to calling it.

Thank you for reading, and happy planting!