Top 5 Myths About How The “Jewfish” Got Its Name
By: Joe Simonds on May 9, 2019
Why do some people call them “jewfish,” while others call them “goliath grouper”?
Well, jewfish isn’t just a nickname for this massive fish, it used to be its official name.
In the spring of 2001, a group of scientists successfully petitioned to have the official name of the fish changed from “jewfish” to “Goliath grouper.”
But how did it get the name “jewfish” in the first place?
Well, like many things in life (including why they say bananas are bad luck), there are several myths and no “real” answers.
The other day I had a conversation with Sid Dobrin about these gargantuan fish, and he threw a few of the myths at me (one being it was a jewfish that swallowed Jonah (a Jew) from the Bible).
This got me thinking, what other myths are out there about the origin of the name “jewfish” (aka Goliath Grouper)?
After some serious research, interviewing seasoned anglers and diving through the depths of Google, I uncovered these five myths…
Myth #1: It Was A Goliath Grouper That Swallowed Jonah From The Bible (Who Was A Jew)
According to the Bible, Jonah was a Jewish prophet from 8th century Israel who was swallowed by a big fish.
The bible doesn’t specify what kind of fish swallowed Jonah, but since goliath grouper are so big, some people say they’re the culprit.
Now, the world record goliath grouper was a 680-pound behemoth caught off of Fernandina Beach, FL.
This bad boy is pictured above, and if any fish is swallowing a man whole, I’m putting my money on a goliath grouper.
Myth #2: Goliath Grouper Are Kosher
William Dampier, an English traveler and certified adventurer (this dude circumvented the world 3 times!) wrote about goliath grouper in his book from 1697 titled, A New Voyage Round The World.
He said, “The Jew-fish is a very good Fish, and I judge so called by the English, because it hath Scales and Fins, therefore a clean Fish, according to the Levitical Law.”
He was talking about his time spent with Jewish Jamaicans, and this is one of the earliest known references to these fish as “Jew-fish”.
So the fact that goliath grouper are kosher is another potential source for the name.
However, one argument against this is that nearly all fish are kosher.
Myth #3: It’s Derived From The Italian Word “Giupesce”
In Italian, giupesce, means “bottom fish“.
So when you sound it out, it sounds like “jew-pesce”, and “pesce” means fish in Italian.
So, after some mixing and matching of languages, you could see how the name “jewfish” might have come about…
Myth #4: They Were Originally Called “Jawfish”
Goliath grouper have massive jaws.
Some may say they’re even big enough to swallow a man alive and let him live inside their stomachs for three days… (see myth #1)
So it’s possible that they were once called jawfish, and one day some yahoo mixed up their a’s and e’s and the name jewfish stuck.
Maybe if the old English alphabet didn’t have their confusing “æ” character this wouldn’t have happened…
Myth #5: Go Forth And Multiply
When early European settlers first came to the Caribbean there were tons of goliath grouper.
They were clearly thriving and multiplying, which reminded them of where it says in the Bible, “Go forth and multiply!”
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have been able to wet a line back then!
While we may never know the true origin of the name jewfish, we do know that they chose the name Goliath grouper because of how big they are.
They’re so big, in fact, that they’re known to snap a heavy-duty rod right in half!
Which myth do you think is most likely the true origin of the name jewfish?
Let us know in the comments below!
P.S. TAG or SHARE this article with someone who needs to know about these myths!
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