Random annoyance for the day.

The above is a link to a Huffington Post piece about racist phrases. Some of what is said here is valid, some is not. The problem is that it is sloppy, and makes things which have no racial connotation, or do not have an origin in or about racism, racist. Some of the phrases here are just plain wrong. Before I continue, I want to make clear that yes, I am aware that racism exists. No, I do not look for it under every rock or phrase. None of us should. Here we go on some of the inaccuracies in the piece.

  1. “For example, did you know that Hip hip hooray! used to be a Nazi war cry used to invade the Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust?” This is blatantly false. The phrase hip hip hooray was used as an expression of praise and admiration for someone. Thomas Moore used this phrase in the 18th century far predating Nazi attacks on those who are Jewish. I can only assume that the author seriously confused this phrase for the Germans who did indeed used to chant ‘hep hep’ in reference to the Bavarian riots against ethnically German Jews in 1819. While many claims have been made linking the two phrases, there is no credible evidence or documentation that there is a link. A phrase for admiration and praise is now sullied in nonexistent racist origins irresponsibly.

  2. “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.” Again, an accusation of a word with no credible evidence. There is no known link between these words at all. Is it possible, yes it is possible that this began as a slur regarding the gypsies, but it is somewhat unlikely actually. The first known usage of gyp was in 1750 and it was used to refer to a British college student. Hardly a derogatory term. The current usage of the word as in to cheat or to swindle has it’s origins distinctly in America, seemingly odd for a racial slur about a group not known for having a significant presence in America.  The origin of the word the word gypsy or gipsy itself was given to itinerants in Britain when they arrived from continental Europe in the sixteenth century; the word is a contracted form of Egyptian by a process called aphesis. It was thought that those itenerants were from Egypt, which was not true. Nothing in the word origins of gypsy actually refers to the Roma, as they call themselves. More likely the word stems from the obsolete gippo, a menial kitchen servant. If anything it is disparaging of fast workers, not a racial group. Further more it is unlikely at best that anyone using the word gyp in this day and age has any intention of connecting it as disparaging to the Romani people.

  3. 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.” Maybe, or maybe it is a descriptive word. I am a Caucasian Anglo Saxon protestant male. I live in the ghetto. This is not offensive, it is a descriptive term that is understood to mean a poorer section of town. Yes, there is a connotation of this being forced by economic pressure, but this does not at all imply that a minority is somehow inferior, it does however state fairly bluntly that there is a poor section in town. If you want to be outraged about the ghetto, be outraged that it exists at all and that there is poverty in the world, don’t obsess over how it is somehow offensive to give a name to the neighborhood. ghetto is no more racist that suburbia. Just so you know, that is not offensive either, just descriptive.

  4. “Peanut galleries” (which now means “a source for hecklers,” usually used in a joking manner) were the upper balconies that African-American people sat in in segregated theaters.” The peanut gallery originated in the days of vaudeville and was a nickname for the cheapest (and ostensibly rowdiest) seats in the theater. Nothing more. The peanut gallery now is used as a term for those who would heckle. Neither the origin of the word, or the common usage of the word, has anything to do with racism…just the cheap seats and I hope that all of us have sat there before.

5.”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.” This is quite frankly bull excrement. The word uppity originated, according to Merriam Webster (the dictionary used for other definitions in this piece) in or around 1880 and had nothing at all to do with race. It had everything to do with those interested in social climbing and not knowing your proper station in society. It was used most often in reference to Caucasians incidentally.

So what is the point you ask? Whomever put together the article for the Huffington Post did not do a lot of research, but did make a lot of accusations about common phrases that can not be substantiated. It is my belief…notice the belief…that they were looking for racism. We have allowed a culture to form where  the possibility of offence is treated more seriously than evidence of actual offence. Here is what I learned in Sunday school a long time ago. God has promised that if we seek Him we will find Him. Maybe we all should stop looking for offense and start looking for Him. I do believe that we will find that which we seek, so let’s seek something that is worthy of the time instead of trying to seek offense at every opportunity.

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