I’m lucky enough to live in a multicultural city where I can walk a block to a restaurant advertising “poke sushi burrito,” so a lot of food-based ethnic slurs seem almost quaint to me—though that’s not to diminish the hurt they’ve caused. I thought I’d dig into the origin of some of these slurs and look at how their power has shifted.
By food-based slurs, I’m not referring to words like banana, used to describe people of Asian descent in Western countries who are “yellow on the outside, white on the inside.” I’m focusing on expressions attacking foods that people choose to include in their diets.
Food is an integral part of culture, yet it seems to be one of the easiest, most accessible ways to cross cultural boundaries. Othering cultures based on what they will and won’t eat certainly still goes on, as we see from perennial jabs at Asian cultures as dog eaters and White nationalists’ bizarre obsession with milk, but with our access to a greater variety of ingredients than ever before, insulting someone based on what they use to nourish themselves comes off as especially lazy. It’s the ill intent and the othering that causes the harm, but food-based slurs feel particularly flaccid because their primary effect is to shine a light on the unworldliness of the speaker.
What food-based ethnic slurs do you have in your culture? Share them in the comments! Continue reading →
English-usage authority Bryan A. Garner shook Language Twitter by suggesting that only philistines pronounced pubes as a single syllable.
More than a few of us responded with tweets of bewilderment and skepticism, likely confusing everyone around us as we muttered “PYOO-beez. PYOOBZ. PYOO-beez??” at our screens. Continue reading →
It’s a bit surprising that the eminently productive -y suffix wasn’t tacked onto fuck—a very old word—until relatively recently. In its short lifetime, fucky has managed to play several different roles. Here’s a rough timeline: Continue reading →
A little over a year ago, the Health Quality Council of Alberta launched a campaign to eliminate abbreviations in health care, arguing that their inherent ambiguity could lead to devastating consequences in life-or-death situations. Does DOA mean “date of admission” or “dead on arrival”? And in fast-paced health care settings especially, using these abbreviations increases the risk of misinterpretation.
Fortunately, most of us sweary language lovers live and work in more relaxed environments, and we can exploit the ambiguity of abbreviations for entertainment. Here are some favourite examples, in alphabetical order, taken from real sources. Leave yours in the comments! (Mouse over the headings if you’re not familiar with what they euphemize.) Continue reading →
We’ve had yet another month of record-breaking temperatures—and a corresponding spike in Google searches for hot as balls,
a phrase that’s gotten popular as balls (mostly in the U.S.) in the last ten years or so. Although Urban Dictionary has an entry for the phrase from 2001, it became undeniably mainstream five years later during the heatwave of 2006. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Chris “Shockwave” Sullivan created this video in response to the scorching weather that year: Continue reading →