Are you sure you know when you’re saying something racist? Even the most PC of persons has thought of an inappropriate stereotype from time to time. Negativity can be hard to shake even when you’re trying to be a good person. But we don’t all know when we’re being racist.
Some of these commonly used phrases sound completely harmless, but they weren’t always so. Once upon a time they were racial slurs for African-Americans, Irish and even ancient people. But the real question is, when do you get far enough from the past to not feel offended any more?
It’s probably not necessary to stop saying a word that was used as an insult shortly after Christ was born. But what about the rest of these phrases? Read on to at least know the history of the words we use and decide for yourself which ones are insulting and which ones are not (and share them with us in the comments section).
“The Peanut Gallery”
When you politely decline any more rabble from “The Peanut Gallery,” you’re actually referring to the cheap seats in theaters where many African-Americans had to sit during Jim Crow.
“I Got Gypped”
The word “Gyp” has been a racial slur for the Romani people for centuries. And “getting gypped” is a racist phrase that nods to the stereotype that Gypsies cheat you out of your money…
“No Can Do”
Ever wonder why we repeat a phrase that’s not quite grammatically correct? It’s because “no can do” is a phrase originally used to make fun of the pidgin English of Chinese immigrants…
“Sold Down the River”
Today, a friend sells you down the river by betraying you. Back in the day, plantation owners sold slaves down the (Mississippi) river to the deeper south when they misbehaved.
“Hip Hip Hooray”
The phrase was originally “hep hep hoorah” and it was shouted by Nazis raiding Jewish communities as during the Hep Hep Riot of 1890 that destroyed Jewish homes and buildings. “Hep” is likely an acronym for Hierosolyma est perdita,” which means “Jerusalem has fallen” in Latin.
Do you get upset when your non-black friends use this term? It means a “food coma” but it is a shortened version of ni**eritis.
Today its slang for a police car. In the 1700s (and today) Paddy is a slur for Irishmen. And cop cars were called Paddy Wagons because Irish people were stereotyped as drunk and rowdy enough to frequently be inside of them (and also because there were large numbers of Irish policeman).
If something was offensive in the Middle Ages, is it still offensive now? “Bugger” is a word meaning Bulgarian sodomite. Back then, the religious sect called “Bulgarus” was stereotyped as having sex in an “inverse way.”
Today in Hungary, however, a related word is still used as a slur for gay men.
The word Hooligan has never been very nice, but in the late 19th century it originated as another Irish slur.
Most people say it all the time. But “Eskimo” was a name given by the Dutch which means “eaters of raw meat” which isn’t that far from “spear chucker.” Inuit is a much more accurate and less offensive term.
Eenie Meenie Miney Moe
This phrase comes from a nursery rhyme that was originally written, “Eenie, meenie, miney, moe / Catch a n**ger by the toe”
The Vandals of the first century CE will probably forgive you for using the word vandalism, even if it is a slur based on this Germanic tribe associated with destroying property. Especially since they disappeared a couple thousand years ago.
This one is insultingly racist. Not only does it come right out and say that Indians are liars who give stuff and ask for it back, it wasn’t the Native American treaties that deserved that reputations.