There is nothing like being compared to a popular vegetable, so exactly why are Spurs fans called Spuds?
As far as nicknames go it isn’t particularly insulting.
And it is certainly nowhere near as controversial as another nickname Spurs fans have been given – Yids.
We take a look at both monikers here in a bit more detail.
So let’s jump in.
Why Are Spurs Fans Called Spuds?
For want of a better explanation spuds is just a simple play on words, and a quick and easy derivation of the word Spurs. Other teams earned nicknames in similar ways, ie Man Ure for Man Utd and Chelski for Chelsea. The historical and cultural undertones behind the other nickname for Spurs fans, the Yids, are much more controversial.
Are They Just Potatoes?
The usage of the term ‘Spud’ for Spurs fans doesn’t just come from Arsenal fans.
I’ve seen it used fairly extensively by fans of a number of clubs on various message boards and in phone-ins.
I’ve definitely seen it used on the Everton fans’ website that I frequent.
I’ve never really seen it used as a way of causing offense however.
In the English language ‘spud’ means a potato. So is it too straightforward to say when fans called Spurs supporters spuds they are simply calling them potatoes?
Useless fact alert.
As an aside, a spud is actually a “sharp, narrow spade used to dig up large-rooted plants”.
The first documented use of the word came in New Zealand in 1845.
It began to be used as slang for one of the most popular items it was used to unearth – the potato.
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It is Simply a Play on Words
If you search on any club’s fans messageboard (in particular Tottenham and Arsenal) you will find that actually no one really knows why Spurs fans are called Spuds.
It is almost certainly a simple derivation of the word Spurs. Change one letter and you have Spuds.
It is just a play on words, and whilst it isn’t offensive, it sounds worse than Spurs and it means Arsenal fans don’t have to utter the club’s actual name when referring to their rivals.
Why Are Spurs Fans Called Yids?
If you asked what do Arsenal fans call Spurs fans, then two words will crop up regularly.
We have already dealt with the first. The second is much more contentious.
Spurs fans are called Yids, and to be fair not just used by Arsenal fans but by fans from all around the country.
Buy why are they called Yids?
The word Yid is widely seen as an offensive way to refer to a Jewish person.
Yiddish is a language historically spoken by some Jewish people, with over 11 million people speaking it at its peak prior to World War Two.
It is believed it was in the 1930s that the term Yid began to be used en-masse. This was around the time British politician Osward Mosley, a pioneer in the emergence of the Holocaust denial movement, rose to prominence.
In 1936 Mosely and his supporters attempted to march through an area of London with a high proportion of Jewish residents, chanting “The Yids, the Yids, we gotta get rid of the Yids”.
The connection between the word Yid and the football club is so strong that in 2020, the Oxford English Dictionary extended the definition of “yid” to “a supporter of or player for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
But why is this?
Quite simply Tottenham has historically drawn support from the London Jewish community due to its location.
In fact, the last three chairmen of the club, going back to 1982, have all been Jewish businessmen.
The Jewish community in Tottenham began increasing following the anti-Jewish riots that swept Russia in the 1880s.
Fleeing persecution a large number of Jews settled in the East End of London, where there already was a burgeoning Jewish community.
But as the East End began getting overcrowded, many Jewish people moved north in London.
In and around Tottenham plenty of unskilled work was available and there were a number of large Jewish-owned businesses in residence.
Over the next three or four decades, the streets around Tottenham became home to thousands of Jewish families and for many men, an important part of life was the football club.
The Jewish Chronicle stated that “in the 1920s almost all Jews who followed the game were Spurs supporters”.
That strong tradition remains to this day.
Why is the Use of the Term Yid Controversial?
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At some point, believed to be around the 1960s, opposing fans began to chant abuse at Tottenham supporters using the word.
Chants ranged from mild banter to the downright shameless.
The hiss of escaping gas was often imitated, along with chants like “I’ve never felt more like gassing the Jews…”, and “Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz, Hitler’s gonna gas ’em again”.
But rather than shying away from it, Tottenham’s Jewish supporters embraced the abuse and turned it on its head.
Fans wore skullcaps to games and adapted the Star of David into banners.
It was a way of nullifying the chants and building comradeship between the club’s own supporters.
However, the term is not without controversy.
In 2011 the Jewish comedian David Baddiel started a campaign against the use of the word and in 2013 the FA said that supporters using the word could face criminal charges
And in 2022, Tottenham issued a statement asking fans to stop using the term.
“Among the reasons some fans choose to continue to chant the term now is to show unity and support for the team, as well as each other, as a defense mechanism against antisemitic abuse that still exists and also as a way to identify as a Spurs fan,” the statement read.
“It is clear the use of this term does not always make this possible, regardless of context and intention,” the statement said. “It is time to move on from associating this term with our club” it concluded.
The statement came after a consultation involving more than 20,000 fans over three years revealed that 94% of respondents acknowledge that the term Yid could be considered racist against a Jewish person.
So we have two different nicknames that are at either end of the spectrum when it comes to controversy.
Tottenham fans are called spuds as it is simply a quick and easy play on the word Spurs, it is as simple as that.
The reference to Spurs fans as Yids has a much deeper historical and cultural meaning and no matter which side of the argument you fall on, it cannot be argued the term is controversial.
Controversial enough for the Football Club to ask fans to stop using it.