The Recipe of Racism

The Recipe of Racism

For every word and every expression today considered unacceptable or even simply frowned upon, once upon a time such were quite innocent. Indeed many of the terms were unlikely to have had the same meaning and/or use originally. Perhaps the most controversial is the terminology used when it comes to race. Yet note it is the use of the word which is unacceptable, not the word itself. As we shall see from the following examples, the original use of the word was quite innocent and only becomes unacceptable by its subsequent usage.

Frogs (French) – colloquially known as 'Frogs' and everyone believes this is because of that 'delicacy' frog's legs. But it is nothing like it, in fact originally 'Frogs' were only ever those from Paris, again this wasn't really right as they were referring to the creature featured on the Parisian coat of arms, which was actually supposed to be a toad. Furthermore it was the French who referred to the Parisians as 'Frogs' first of all, later this was adopted by the Belgians who mistakenly used it to describe all French and thereafter it spread.

Kraut (German) – a more recent term seemingly originating during the First World War when British soldiers suggested all Germans ate sauerkraut – a fermented white cabbage. However, the traditional dish is common to central and Eastern Europe (and not just Germany). And Germans don’t just eat cabbage, fermented or otherwise, any more than the French eat frogs legs all the time or indeed do the British eat nothing but roast beef – although the French do refer to the British as ‘roast beefs’.

Bosch (German) – originated as a French term for their neighbours, here from the French caboche meaning ‘hard head’ or ‘stubborn’, but did come to be used by other races.

Canuck (Canadian and particularly a French Canadian) – the origins are unclear but may well share the Algonquian origin of ‘Canada’ which literally means ‘village’ and thus Canuck would be ‘villager’.

Eskimo – as we know the correct term should be Inuit – or should it? The term ‘eskimo’ was used to refer to any group eking out a meagre living in or around the Arctic Circle, mainly Inuits, but derogatory as it was coined by non-Inuits and said to mean ‘eater of raw meat’.

Fuzzy-Wuzzy – today likely only heard on re-runs of Dad’s Army and by Corporal Jones. The reference is to Hadendoa warriors fought by the British in and around Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea. The name Hadendoa is most often defined as ‘lion clan’, while the term Fuzzy Wuzzy referred to their elaborate hairstyle. Now considered derogatory, the term was used by Rudyard Kipling in his poem Fuzzy Wuzzy which served to popularise the term more than anything else.

Golliwog – the first use of the term in print is thought to have been in the 1895 publication for children entitled The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg. There seems little to suggest the authors, two sisters, ever considered this a racial comment – indeed they describe the character as ‘the blackest gnome’ (who eventually turns out good). In early works of fiction all gnomes, goblins, and the like were the epitome of evil. It was not until the characterization proved so popular as to be turned into a toy for children (along with the teddy bear) that the racial slur was ever linked to the figure.

Jock (Scotsman) – not often seen as derogatory today, it began as the Scots version of ‘John’, still used by some as the generic term for an Englishman.

Paddy (Irishman) – as with ‘Jock’ (above) again not always seen in a derogatory light but simply a shortened form of Patrick or Padraig. That many Irishman are named such is likely less relevant than the Irish patron saint being St Patrick. Note the other common male name of Michael is similarly the source of ‘Mick’, a term certainly seen as a derogatory term despite the identical origins.

Yank or Yankee – said to be from the Dutch janke or ‘Johnny’ (see Jock). In America generally reserved for use by southerners to refer to northerners, elsewhere in the English-speaking world it refers to Americans in general.

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