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| December 10, 2019

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Offensive and/or racist sayings !

Offensive and/or racist sayings !
Daisy Akhtar

Language is constantly changing and evolving, words and phrases fall in and out of favor, new terms are created, old phrases start to take on new meanings, etc. But this also means that some of the phrases people use today without thinking twice are actually pretty messed up, and some are horribly racist. They were originally offensive, but since we are a culture of jerks, they became so widespread and so commonplace that even your sweet old grandma uses them now. Does saying them make you a bad person? No, of course not.

However, I still thought you might like to know the history of these words and phrases.

Indian giver : Says that Indians are liars who will break their word, which is ironic since the last time I checked they weren’t the ones ignoring treaties and handing out smallpox blankets. And still, it has become so common a phrase thanks to the racism which existed against Indians as almost a given in society until very, very recently, that people still say it without thinking twice about it.

Gyp: The word “gyp” now means “to cheat or swindle.” It is essentially a condensing of the word “gypsies,” who throughout history have been stereotyped as a group that cheats and swindles people. Before the contemporary definition of “gypsy,” which is essentially just a “nomadic person,” “gypsy” was a slur used to refer to the Eastern European Romanies.

Ghetto: Using “ghetto” as an adjective to mean “low class” has obvious racist origins. The noun “ghetto” originated as an area in Venice, Italy: it was the place where Jewish people lived (this also has racial implications, but of a different sort than the adjective “ghetto”). Technically, the current definition of “ghetto” (noun) is “a part of a city in which members of a particular group or race live usually in poor conditions.” Whether intended or not, the user is essentially implying that minorities are low class.

Irish goodbye: An Irish goodbye is another way of saying “a hasty exit without stopping to formally say ‘goodbye’ to anyone.” It can also be known as a French exit. Or probably just “insert any country that your country has a problem with” exit. At any rate, you might want to think before you use a phrase that stereotypes an entire nationality of people as being rude.

“Sold down the river” : This phrase, meaning “betrayed” or “cheated” originated in the Mississippi River region during the American slave trade. “Troublesome” slaves would literally be sold down the river to southern Mississippi where the plantation conditions were much harsher.


”Peanut gallery”: This phrase intends to reference hecklers or critics, usually ill-informed ones. In reality, the“peanut gallery” names a section in theatres, usually the cheapest and worst, where black people sat during the era of Vaudeville.. They were also known by several even more derogatory names.

Uppity: The word “uppity,” a word beloved by conservative news pundits, originated as a word used by Southerners in reference to African-Americans that they deemed didn’t know their place in society.


Hip hip hooray: This comes from the German “hep hep,” which was originally a shepherds’ herding cry, so the origin itself was not racially charged. However, during the Holocaust, German citizens began using it as a rallying cry while hunting for Jewish people in the ghettoes. Its anti-Semitic usage even dates back to the 1819 riots (the “Hep-Hep Riots”).

“Call a spade a spade:” This is a particularly interesting example. The phrase, essentially meaning “to explicitly call something by its rightful name,” entered the English language in 1542, and initially had absolutely no racial connotation whatsoever. It referred to the gardening tool. It wasn’t until the late 1920s that “spade” changed from referring to the gardening tool to being a slur towards African-Americans .In the fourth edition of “The American Language,” Wolfgang Mieder notes that the word “spade” (among others) “will give deep offense if used by nonblacks.

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