Day 455: Ethnic Bitch-Slapping 101

originally published March 30, 2013

A warning to my more sensitive readers: today’s piece will be filled with some of the most vile, hateful, antagonistic writing my tap-dancing fingers have ever spewed. And none of it will be my fault.

As a sensitive and kind-hearted soul (or so I tell the ladies), I try not to offend anyone. There are certain words I won’t write. Words like that one that starts with ‘n’. Or the anti-Semitic one that starts with ‘k’. Or the one that puts down Bulgarians – you know, the one that starts with ‘v’. Ethnic slurs are lazy, hurtful, and indicative of a flatlined sense of creativity and/or empathy. They can also be downright weird.

Here’s a heap of them I’ve never heard of until now.

A coconut is white on the outside, and brown and thatchy on the outside. As an ethnic slur, a coconut refers to someone who is not white on the outside, but behaves in a traditionally Caucasian fashion, perhaps by watching a Blue Collar Comedy special, or by voting Republican. In most of the western world, this gets directed at black or Hispanic people, but in New Zealand a coconut is a Pacific Islander. In Canada, the slur is aimed specifically at Dravidian peoples from the southern slab of India. I live in Canada, and I’ve never heard of anyone called a coconut. I also had to look up where ‘Dravidian’ people come from, so I guess I’m way out of the loop.

Over in the snooty part of England, southerners mock those up north with the term ‘Northern Monkey’, suggesting a lack of sophistication and possibly a fondness for bananas. Up in Leeds where they have a sense of humor about themselves, a local pub took the name ‘The Northern Monkey’. I respect that – take the slur and own it. Hell, if I – a confidently self-deprecating Jew – ever marketed a line of corn snacks, I’d happily sell them as Heebie-Cheezies. Why not?

Apparently I’m not hanging around the more inventive slurrers in English Canada. A ‘Pepsi’ or a ‘Pepper’ is apparently a derogatory term for Quebecois residents or any French Canadian. It refers to the notoriously poor dental hygiene they allegedly possess, suggesting that they consume Pepsi or Dr Pepper for breakfast. I didn’t even know French Canadians were known for having bad teeth. I guess I need to pay more attention to my home-grown local racism.

If you live in the southern Oregon area, perhaps you can tell me if you’ve ever used the term ‘sucker fish’ to insult someone from Native American Klamath descent. The Klamath hold the sucker fish that lives in the Klamath River to be a sacred creature. This became a controversy when the Natives faced off against farmers who relied on the fish for their livelihood (presumably producing quality sucker-fish-skin wallets). The farmers’ response was to label the tribe by the fish they respect. A little weird, but that’s bigotry for you.

I guess it’s a thing in England to make fun of Welsh people. Not sure why that is – I’ve met a few Welsh people, and they never gave me any reason to mock them more than I’d mock any stranger. I’d certainly never call them a ‘taffy’. Why would you call someone you don’t think highly of a term that refers to a delicious chewy snack? I’m told it’s because of the River Taff which runs through Wales, but still… everyone loves taffy! That’d be like calling a group of people you don’t like ‘bacon’. “Can you please seat me in another section? I don’t want that bacon over there to be my waiter.” Makes no sense.

A Plastic Paddy is someone you probably encountered a couple weeks ago, stumbling out of a bar with green-beer drool caking their chin. This is someone who is not at all of Irish descent, but who claims some sort of Irish identity. It can also refer to someone who is not Irish by birth but has an Irish passport or citizenship. The Irish are known for their strong sense of nationalism – I wouldn’t mess with this.

Back in the 19th century when England was all about colonizing the world in order to ensure numerous safe vacation spots for their citizens, they came in contact with the Hadendoa warriors, a nomadic subset of the Beja people around Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea. They were known for poofing up their hair in elaborate ways, earning them the derogatory term ‘Fuzzy Wuzzies’ by English troops. Not to be confused with the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, which referred to a group of natives from Papua New Guinea who were known for assisting injured Australian troops during WWII. That one was meant to be complimentary, though I’m not sure if the natives dug the term.

If anyone has slurred my Jewishness, it has been behind my back. If a racial slur is ever spoken to my face, I hope it’s one of the more obscure ones, like an Ikey-mo. I don’t know who uses that term, but it’s a contraction of ‘Isaac’ and ‘Moses’, two players on the roster of the Jewish History All-Star Team. For something so potentially hateful, the word is kind of cute.

If you’re looking to insult black people, this list is full of ways to do so. One of the stranger terms you could employ is ‘bluegum’ which evidently refers to a black person who is lazy and refusing to work. I don’t understand the origin of this one; the bluegum tree, native to southern Australia and Tasmania, is one of the most productive trees on the continent, being used for honey, tea, pulp, timber and essential oil. Unless ‘bluegum’ is being used ironically, I think some American bigot got this one wrong.

During the Vietnam War, Americans had numerous derogatory terms for the troops they were fighting. The only one worth mentioning here is ‘Dink’. I find it oddly disappointing that ‘dink’ has been a racist term – it’s one of my favorite traffic words. I try to keep any and all ethnic slurs away from my road rage. I believe every person is entitled to the same shouted expletive, regardless of race, gender or age.

I guess I’m just a tolerant person that way. We can all be dinks.

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