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"Lime tainted with the sour taste of racism"
July 2, 2014 6:07 AM   Subscribe

“We pride ourselves on our multiculturalism and inclusiveness, but what kind of message are we sending to visitors and new Canadians from that region (South Africa) when they see this racial slur being used for a trendy ingredient with no thought as to how hurtful it might be to a segment of our own population?”
The Vancouver Sun reports on the increasingly popular southeast Asian lime with the shockingly racist but obscure in Canada name.

In an article for Straight.com Veronica Vinje, who has started a Twitter campaign against the name, explains why the word kaffir is equal to the N-word in South Africa and elsewhere:
An Encyclopedia of Swearing by Geoffrey Hughes notes the original meaning of the K-word is derived from the Arabic kafir, which means an unbeliever of Islam, also known as an infidel. It was used by Arab traders to refer to the indigenous peoples of Africa, then taken up by Portuguese sailors and subsequently picked up by Dutch and British colonists, especially in South Africa. By the 1800s, it was viewed as a racial slur and became increasingly taboo, and by 1976 the K-word was actionable in court in South Africa as crimen injuria. Some readers may recall that apartheid only ended in 1994, so the fact that this term was considered an affront to a person’s dignity prior to the abolition of apartheid should give cause for pause. Food writer Mick Vann has explained that the K-word was linked to the lime because the non-white workers used this lime in their cooking.
posted by MartinWisse (109 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Really? I learned of the word from Mark Mathabane's book and subsequently in a few movies. I would've thought that would've spread the word that it was a slur.
posted by jonmc at 6:10 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Whoa. I seriously had no idea that was a slur. I'll be calling them makrut from here on out.
posted by headspace at 6:10 AM on July 2 [10 favorites]


Always wondered why it was called that. Kaffir always seemed to be a nasty word that Muslims used to refer to anyone who refused to accept their religion, it's got intolerance baked into it even outside of South Africa.

This is why in my house we've started calling this plant the "goyim lemon" instead.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:15 AM on July 2 [27 favorites]


Whoa, count me among folks who had no idea that was a slur. Will not be calling them that anymore.
posted by Kitteh at 6:21 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I cannot over-emphasise how offensive this word is to most South Africans.
posted by psolo at 6:26 AM on July 2 [10 favorites]


Sometime around 2005, I was given a little potted lime tree that was labeled with that term. Had no idea at the time it was a slur, called it that for several years, have seen the leaves labeled as such in many recipes. Sometime around the time the tree died (didn't like wintering indoors here in Pennsylvania), I learned about the term quite by accident, after I'd told plenty of people all about my little tree and the yummy things I cooked with it.

I hope I didn't inadvertently hurt anyone or perpetuate use of the term during those conversations. I try to do better now. I still see the tree labeled as such on lots of plant nursery sites.
posted by Stacey at 6:26 AM on July 2


I predict that Vinje's campagne will be pretty effective. I think this is a more of a case of ignorance that something stemming from the real racism that is embedded in our culture. I hope that I'm not proven wrong.
posted by beau jackson at 6:30 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I've seen this term in World Markets and such, but am among those who didn't know it was a slur at all. Very glad to learn of this before I perpetuated it.

Was it just my own ignorance, or is this slur not well know in the USA? I live in the south, so maybe its just because the locals have more colorful terms to use that I've never heard it?
posted by Twain Device at 6:33 AM on July 2


I always associated Kaffir with Kafir, but figured it was just a false cognate (not the right word, but I think you get the gist)... Never thought it actually had roots with the Arabic term, and I certainly had no clue it was seen as offensive, but it certainly makes a lot of sense. It really is like the N-word given the history and origins of slavery and it's use in that regards.
posted by symbioid at 6:35 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Yeah I totally didn't know this either. Word gone.

Incidentally, anyone know the etymology of makrut? Not trying to play a gotcha or anything, just curious.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:36 AM on July 2


Do these limes have another name we could use?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:37 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I had no idea. Thanks for this and yes, makrut is what I will use from now on.
posted by pointystick at 6:38 AM on July 2


I knew this because it is part of the name of one of my favourite plants - Haworthia reinwardtii forma kaffirdriftensis. Kaffirdriftensis is a form and locality descriptor in this latinized botantical name for Kaffir Drift, South Africa and charitably translates to Afrikaans for 'place where the blacks cross the river'. So it encompasses both the slur and a sense of segregation. The place name still shows up in Google Maps. The only reference I can find to it is in Google Books historical accounts of what they called "Kaffir Wars" and are now called Xhosa Wars.

I'm always amazed at how taking a bit deeper look at things, like a plant name, can take you to all kinds of weird, crazy and uncomfortable places and times.
posted by srboisvert at 6:38 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Has no one seen Leathal Weapon II?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:39 AM on July 2 [19 favorites]


The term is used freely enough in the UK on TV cooking shows, & the like, where I would have thought many people would have been at least vaguely aware (as I was) of it being a slur. A search at the BBC Food website, for example, brings up 71 results
posted by misteraitch at 6:40 AM on July 2


I'll be calling it citrus hystrix until the other names whose etymologies are unclear are given a clean bill of health.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:42 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


While we're on the subject, am I mis-processing a dim half-memory from my youth, did my family have some horrifying eccentricity, or was there really at one time an astonishingly offensive name for what we now know as the Brazil Nut?
posted by Naberius at 6:43 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


I cannot over-emphasise how offensive this word is to most South Africans.

And this is why it spread, because to my American ears, it's literally just a string of syllables that was used to distinguish that lime from the American default lime. I'm sure somebody knowing nothing of it once asked someone who did use that word as an offensive word "What is that lime?", got the answer "It's a kaffir lime" and said "Oh. Those leaves are really tasty. Maybe I'll use that more."

This is why the context of the word *and* the user are important. If you had said that to me yesterday, and you yourself didn't know what it meant in South Africa, then there was no possibility of intended insult. Now that we both know, we might want to think about that. But really, it's a string of syllables. It's our context that makes it offensive or not.

was there really at one time an astonishingly offensive name for what we now know as the Brazil Nut?

Oh, my, yes. Two words, the second word is "toes", the first word starts with an N.
posted by eriko at 6:46 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, anyone know the etymology of makrut? Not trying to play a gotcha or anything, just curious.

Wiki says that the name for this particular fruit is, in regions where one might find it natively, “Laos: mak khi hut (ໝາກຂີ້ຫູດ; pronounced [ma᷆ːk.kʰi᷆ː.hu᷆ːt]) ; Thai: ma krut (มะกรูด; pronounced [ma.krùːt])”. So I guess it's just a Romanization of that region's name? A little more poking makes it seem to be a root word, so no weird etymologies to worry about.
posted by Maecenas at 6:46 AM on July 2


Was it just my own ignorance, or is this slur not well know in the USA?
I don't think it's ever been widely used in the US, so it's only well-known by people who are paying attention to South African stuff. There is a fairly widely-read memoir from the '80s called Kaffir Boy. But I don't think you should use slurs even if they're not widely known in your particular geographic area, so we should come up with a different name.
did my family have some horrifying eccentricity, or was there really at one time an astonishingly offensive name for what we now know as the Brazil Nut?
Nope, you're not misremembering.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:47 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


...or was there really at one time an astonishingly offensive name for what we now know as the Brazil Nut?

Oh, yes. All through my childhood, that's how my family referred to them...N-word Toes.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:47 AM on July 2


Holy hell, thanks for this. Makrut leaf is one of my absolute favorite ingredients ever and I had absolutely no idea that its more commonly-known name was a racial slur. I wonder how folks can go about editing the Wikipedia article title?

Much appreciated, MartinWisse!
posted by divined by radio at 6:50 AM on July 2


Oh, my, yes. Two words, the second word is "toes", the first word starts with an N.

I have heard a couple of old men use that term in the last few years. One I think was just out of unconscious habit, the other thought he was getting away with something prohibited by the PC police.

I saw the limes labeled that as "kaffir limes" in a grocery store not all that long ago and wondered about it, since I'd picked up on the word's meaning many years ago from books.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:50 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Also -- there isn't nearly as much influence in North America from South Africa as there is from England. In fact, I'll bet that's exactly how the word migrated to Canada, and the sense of offensiveness was worn down in the trip. If Canadian #1 called Canadian #2 that, they'd wonder what it mean, why are you calling me a lime? If Canadian #2 had their South African significant other with them, it would probably end badly, and Canadian #1 would wonder how it went so wrong.

Context and intent are important. If a Japanese person calls a person from the state of Georgia a Yankee, they probably mean it as a compliment, even though it would be rather offensive to the Georgian. To the world, Everybody is a Yank. To the US, Northerners are Yanks.*

So, if someone uses that world, just be polite and let them know. In general, it's very obvious by tone if someone is using a word as an insult. Unless there's evidence already in play to assume bad faith, don't. Just realize that what is to you a horribly offensive word is to someone in Europe a mildly offensive word and someone in Japan just a string of syllables. Like "mike" -- which, for all I know, is horribly offensive in Central Africa.

*To the northerners, New Englanders are Yanks. To New Englanders, well, I don't know. Connecticut?
posted by eriko at 6:55 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's ever been widely used in the US, so it's only well-known by people who are paying attention to South African stuff. There is a fairly widely-read memoir from the '80s called Kaffir Boy. But I don't think you should use slurs even if they're not widely known in your particular geographic area, so we should come up with a different name.

Much appreciated. No, I would NEVER want to use the term even if its not well known here. I just wanted to check for cultural blind spots.
posted by Twain Device at 6:57 AM on July 2


This also comes up sometimes in reference to Clivia miniata, a commonly cultivated indoor and outdoor plant for which the common name used to be "k----- lily," which one still sees in books and on-line.

As far as I know, nobody's come up with an alternate common name, so I just call them clivias.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 7:01 AM on July 2


To New Englanders, well, I don't know. Connecticut?

Classically, to New Englanders, Vermonters are Yankees, and in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast. I don't know who people that eat pie for breakfast in Vermont think are Yankees - probably a people that eat a very specific kind of pie for breakfast.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:03 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


Ok, then what do you call a Yankee Doodle Dandy?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:05 AM on July 2


A South African housemate of mine used toregularly use the term as a racial slur (he was an arsehole) and I know the term from ccooking with the leaves. I'd honestly not connected the two as the same term until now, they are said so differently.
posted by deadwax at 7:06 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Wow. Another person who had no idea. I will not be using that term anymore.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:06 AM on July 2


Kaffir always seemed to be a nasty word that Muslims used to refer to anyone who refused to accept their religion, it's got intolerance baked into it even outside of South Africa.

I have to correct you here. Kafir is a Arabic noun that means "irreligious, unbeliever, infidel, atheist". Its not an intrinsically nasty word that has 'intolerance baked into it'.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:08 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


While we're on the subject, am I mis-processing a dim half-memory from my youth, did my family have some horrifying eccentricity, or was there really at one time an astonishingly offensive name for what we now know as the Brazil Nut?

You are not misremembering.

I have a very clear memory from when I was a young child of my mother and my grandmother arguing furiously about it.

The gist of the argument was this:

Grandma - "****** toes"

Mom (furious) - "Brazil nuts"

Grandma - "****** toes."

Mom (furiouser)- "BRAZIL NUTS."

Grandma (clearly now amused by my mother's wrath) - "..... ****** toes!"

Mom (socially aware, coming of age in during the thick of the Civil Rights movement, trying to set an example so her children will not grow up to be assholes) -"BRAZIL. NUTS."
posted by louche mustachio at 7:16 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I've seen the term used in the context of cooking and food, and had a vague notion maybe it wasn't a great word to use, but didn't know the real history. So, I'm all for getting the word out (and getting the word out of our cookbooks).

That said, this quote from the article seems somewhat ridiculous:

I’m baffled by how this word is accepted as a common culinary term and at the same time, not baffled at all, knowing how racism is such a deeply rooted part of North American culture.

I guarantee you, the reason it's a common culinary term is because North American culture has almost no real exposure to South African culture, and even people who are familiar with the term have no idea where it came from. For all the problems with race we have, please, let's not start making wild assumptions that people across a geographic region are knowingly and intentionally using a racial slur from a completely other culture separated by thousands of miles, as opposed to the much more likely explanation, which is that they don't even know what the word means.

If you want to make the argument that ignorance of other cultures is a deeply rooted part of North American culture, OK, you can make that argument. But, I don't think you can seriously argue that the widespread use of this word in the US and Canada is being done with full knowledge of the word's etymology.
posted by tocts at 7:22 AM on July 2 [23 favorites]


Some Googling turns up this article at TheScientist, which lists lots more plants with racist names.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 7:23 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I have to correct you here. Kafir is a Arabic noun that means "irreligious, unbeliever, infidel, atheist". Its not an intrinsically nasty word that has 'intolerance baked into it'.

I have to correct you here. It most certainly has intolerance baked into it.

The usage of kafir, and related words with root k-f-r for infidel and unbelievers is very common in Qur'an and Hadith. Under Islam, an infidel (kafir) is considered unclean and ritually impure (najasat). Many scholars claim Islam's original sources (Qur'an and Hadith) and derived sources (Ijma, Qiyas and Qitabs) speak of violence against infidel unbelievers living in Dar al-Harb - countries where Islamic law is not in force, as a matter of religious duty of the Muslim community (fard ala'l kifāya). Other scholars disagree. Yet other scholars refer to the historical sequence of the verses, suggesting verses from early Meccan period recommend waiting and living apart from unbelievers. Later recited verses, such as Surah 2:191 recommend violence against unbelievers.
posted by Behemoth at 7:23 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I ran into the term in a cookbook for the first time. I was vaguely aware of there being some slur from South Africa that was similar to it, but I did not know it was from the same word. I now understand why I've seen them labeled just as "lemon leaves" or "lime leaves" in some stores. Of course this then meant I had to tell my mom that no, we could not use the leaves from her lemon tree as a substitute. I'm going to work on memorizing makrut (or makrut limes) from here on out.

Given the local name is makrut, how did they pick up this name anyway?
posted by Hactar at 7:24 AM on July 2


Has no one seen Leathal Weapon II?

That's the only time I've ever heard or read the word. Watching the movie post-childhood (during which I could barely understand what the villains were even saying through their thick accents) I of course recognized it as a pretty bad slur, as the movie lays it on pretty thick...I guess to make sure that the US audience gets that it's a bad word, even if they've never heard it elsewhere.

I've never seen those limes as far as I can remember, but I can imagine my eyebrows rising if I saw them labeled that way in a Whole Foods or someplace..."Isn't that that South African slur??"
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:26 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Never heard of the alternative name for Brazil nuts.

I was just reminded of the alternative name for Mallomars that you find in the Low Countries.
posted by BWA at 7:30 AM on July 2


I thought it was a Thai word that just happened to sound like another one that is considered offensive, like Phuket (OK the pronunciation is different in that case, but you get the idea).
posted by asok at 7:33 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I am only recently starting to see/hear people in American cooking culture correcting this usage. I heard it corrected not long ago on a podcast, probably Cooks Illustrated or Alton Browncast. Bourdain used it on a recent episode of Parts Unknown, and surely he should know better by now.

I certainly thought nothing of it until being specifically told what it meant. It sounds like a place or maybe someone's name, or for all I knew meant 'lime' in another language. And while I'm certain I have been exposed to the word as a slur, I'm talking maybe 5 times in my life and I think only spoken, never written.

And in my experience North Americans - of the Gen X variety, anyway - deliberately avoided white South African culture in our formative years, and didn't have much access to non-white SA culture (or, what little we did have access to was sanitized). I am absolutely certain that high-end grocery stores, cookbook publishers, and cooks are not using the word out of some kind of naughty delight but because they had no idea it was any more offensive than a Meyer lemon or clingstone peach.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:33 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Was it just my own ignorance, or is this slur not well know in the USA? I live in the south, so maybe its just because the locals have more colorful terms to use that I've never heard it?

I have spent more of my life in the US south than any other one place, and I also lived in West Africa for several years, and the only place I can even remember hearing the word to refer to the LIME is when I took a cooking class in Cambodia. So if it is your own ignorance, I share(d) it.
posted by solotoro at 7:34 AM on July 2


"I don't know who people that eat pie for breakfast in Vermont think are Yankees - probably a people that eat a very specific kind of pie for breakfast."
The next order of Yankee eats that pie for breakfast with a knife while wearing suspenders, a plaid shirt, and a large beard while mumbling to himself in a thick accent.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:34 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I have to correct you here. It most certainly has intolerance baked into it.

I wasn't clear, but my quotations were from Hans Wehr, which is the most respected and authoritative Arabic-English dictionary in existence. The article you pulled from wikipedia cites... an encyclopedia of Islam published nearly 100 years ago. Unfortunately, European depictions of Islam during that time are, shall we say, less than favorable.

Moreover, asserting that the true meaning of a word can be uncovered by exploring how it was used a millennium and a half ago, and then deducing that that meaning is 'baked into it' is Orientalist to the core.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:38 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Oh man, I was so thrilled to have learned about this ingredient and found a source that I'm bummed the name I learned is complicated. The leaves are so fragrant, along with lemongrass and galangal they're essential ingredients for making Thai food delicious and not just a simulacrum. I see the leaves show up from time to time in California grocery stores, or you can order them online for a ridiculous price but from a very good Thai produce service. The leaves freeze very well and you only need a little, so a worthwhile investment.
posted by Nelson at 7:41 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I've known that word is offensive since 80's and anti-apartheid education. I never heard of the fruit leaves until a few years ago when I started getting very interested in cooking Southeast Asian. The very first time I saw the name written, I was shocked, but immediately assumed that it was a completely unrelated coincidence of spelling - I figured SE Asia and S. Africa don't share languages, so this must be an unfortunate case where an innocent word in one language means something horrible in another. That notion was reinforced when I heard it pronounced: the slur I had always heard pronounced with an emphasis on the first syllable; the leaves with the accent on the second syllable. Are we sure it isn't the case that these are just homographs? The article seems a little imprecise on how this SAME word came to be used for the fruit. If its the same though, of course it should be dropped.
posted by jon574 at 7:43 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Do these limes have another name we could use?

In Malay, they are called limau purut, or Purut Limes. Don't know what purut means, I think it's just a name.
posted by BinGregory at 7:43 AM on July 2


I'm UK English, and I'd never made the connection because of the pronunciation. I'd been well are of the derogatory South African expression from movies - pronounced "kaffer" - but not moving in circles where they talk about these lime leaves, I'd assumed they were pronounced "kaff-eer" and that the words had only coincidental similarity.
posted by raygirvan at 7:47 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Moreover, asserting that the true meaning of a word can be uncovered by exploring how it was used a millennium and a half ago, and then deducing that that meaning is 'baked into it' is Orientalist to the core.

I didn't realize that 2004 was a millenium and a half ago. I must now away to cope with the realization that I must have been cryogenically frozen for 1490 years... and that Metafilter still has the same design here in the year 3504.

I leave the challenge of finding the numerous other contemporary examples up to the reader.
posted by Behemoth at 7:47 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Wow, I had never heard of that kind of lime before. I grew up in an all-white rural community in the U.S., and even *I* knew not to use that word from childhood.

And, OMFSM yes, the family arguments over Brazil nuts. I thought the use of the slang name would just die out with the older generations, but cousins younger than me are still using it. louche mustachio's dialog could have been recorded at Grandma's kitchen table.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:52 AM on July 2


You're methodology is flawed. Asserting that 'kafir' has intolerance 'baked into it' because jihadis use it is and thus everywhere and anywhere you see that word the necessary connotation is intolerance is really wrongheaded.

Its not a methodology you would use on your own language and culture, so why use it on others?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:56 AM on July 2


Regardless of the word's origin and use in Arabic, the use of the word "kafir" in English is highly intolerant and derogatory. There is nothing positive or even neutral about describing somebody as "kafir", as opposed to "non-believer". In English, calling somebody a "kafir" is hate speech.
posted by Thing at 8:01 AM on July 2


I'm an American who has lived in South Africa for a few years - second the thought that the word's barely known at all in the US, but is considered super offensive here.

Similarly, I've met a lot of (mostly black) South Africans who toss around the n-word casually, especially when meeting an African-American. ("Wow! You're a black American? So you're a n******!") Most of them had no idea it was a slur, it's just a word that's omnipresent in pop culture.

Anyway, we had a long cultural convo at my organization one day about how the n-word is American's equivalent of the k-word and people should be careful about throwing it around. Some people were totally shocked, but others were really resistent to the idea of changing their speech. ("No, the k-word is so much worse, I don't think it's a big deal to use the word n***** because that doesn't offend me.")

It's really interesting to consider all the cultural baggage some words have, the weight and history they gain even when they've been reclaimed, and what it feels like when those words are used by someone in another cultural context - non-maliciously or innocently, maybe, and sometimes even by a similarly marginalized group, but without any knowledge of the word's context. Interesting consequences of globalization. As an American I have to wonder, can you call "appropriation" when you're the one exporting your culture to the world?

Anyway, glad we can come up with another name for the lime.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:01 AM on July 2 [8 favorites]


To New Englanders, people from Connecticut are New Yorkers.
posted by maryr at 8:02 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


I was just reminded of the alternative name for Mallomars that you find in the Low Countries.

The negerzoen has fortunately been renamed.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:15 AM on July 2


From the TheScientist link that Spathe Cadet links to above,
Surprisingly, there is a great reticence among botanical scientists to challenge the existence of these racist relics in the garden. Before The Scientist agreed to publish this article, the idea had been rejected by a half-dozen regional and national horticultural and garden magazines. The editor of one scholarly West Coast journal, which represents a number of influential horticulture societies, rejected the idea by responding, "I feel it would stress the sociological implications at the expense of the botanical. Into an article [on plants] the origin and implication of the vernacular name might fit with a sentence or two." A prominent California horticultural society also shied away from a discussion of racially derogatory common plant names. The editor of the society's journal commented: "The subject is inappropriate and appears to create a quarrel where there isn't one at present . . . your charge of racism is a little dramatic, I feel."
That's not suprising at all, but it is fucking disgusting. Who would of guessed that 'botanincal scientists', which must be one of the whitest demographics ever, feel that asking someone not to say 'niggerfinger' cactus is 'a little dramatic' or 'creating a quarrel'. Urgh.
posted by Ned G at 8:17 AM on July 2 [5 favorites]


To the world, Everybody is a Yank. To the US, Northerners are Yanks. To the northerners, New Englanders are Yanks. To New Englanders, well, I don't know. Connecticut?

Classically, to New Englanders, Vermonters are Yankees, and in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast. I don't know who people that eat pie for breakfast in Vermont think are Yankees - probably a people that eat a very specific kind of pie for breakfast.
Apple pie with cheddar on the side. But to this Connecticutter (pronounced "Kuh-nedd-ih-kidder"), Yankees are from Maine, and talk like the Pepperidge Farm guy.
posted by editorgrrl at 8:18 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


It is good that the term 'Kaffir Lime' goes on the botanical ash heap, but also not surprising that Canadians or any North Americans are unaware of the origins. Kind of like Welch on a bet.

*To the northerners, New Englanders are Yanks. To New Englanders, well, I don't know. Connecticut?

To New Yorkers of long ago, Yankee was some rich person of Dutch extraction (Think Roosevelt or Vanderbilt). A supposed folk etymology has Yankee being a slightly derogatory term for Dutch settlers that the English used when Nieuw Amsterdam became New York. Supposedly from Janke (kind of like Dutch Johnnie). That at least explains why a New York sports team is called the Yankees.
posted by xetere at 8:31 AM on July 2


Ned G: in fairness, that article is dated 1991, so I would hope that botanical science is a little more aware of the issue now.

Horticulture, of course, lags quite a bit. I've seen "coontie palm" on wholesaler availability lists as recently as 2008. On the other hand, the racist names for Clivia miniata, Pedilanthus tithymaloides, and Tacca chantrieri were either never very widespread to begin with or have been pretty thoroughly removed from the trade. I'd never even heard of the last two.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 8:39 AM on July 2


I don't know who people that eat pie for breakfast in Vermont think are Yankees - probably a people that eat a very specific kind of pie for breakfast.

I will eat the hell out of some pie for breakfast and I give nary a fuck what anyone calls me.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:47 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


The usage of kafir, and related words with root k-f-r for infidel and unbelievers is very common in Qur'an and Hadith. Under Islam, an infidel (kafir) is considered unclean and ritually impure (najasat). Many scholars claim Islam's original sources (Qur'an and Hadith) and derived sources (Ijma, Qiyas and Qitabs) speak of violence against infidel unbelievers living in Dar al-Harb - countries where Islamic law is not in force, as a matter of religious duty of the Muslim community (fard ala'l kifāya). Other scholars disagree. Yet other scholars refer to the historical sequence of the verses, suggesting verses from early Meccan period recommend waiting and living apart from unbelievers. Later recited verses, such as Surah 2:191 recommend violence against unbelievers.

This tells us what Muslims felt about infidels, but it doesn't really tells us much about the particular character of the word "kafir" in Arabic. This is something people often get confused. A term is not derogatory simply by virtue of the prevailing social feelings towards the people the term designates. A typical white southerner from 1920 would have exactly the same unpleasant and prejudiced beliefs about people s/he called "niggers" as people s/he called "negros" or "colored folk"--but one of those terms was inherently derogatory in a way that the others weren't.

This is something that keeps confusing people in the debate about the term "gypsy." People point to deeply prejudiced passages from C18th or C19th texts in which people are discussing their beliefs about the inherent character of "gypsies" and say "see! it's a derogatory term!"--but that's just not the way language works (as the numerous unmarked usages of the term that they pass over in silence would attest). The Bible and the Quran are full of pretty ghastly passages about "women"--but that doesn't make "woman" a derogatory term.

The question of whether "kafir" in its Arabic usage is inherently derogatory (a question to which I don't know the answer) does not depend on what Muslims generally think about unbelievers, it depends on the usage of the word across a range of contexts. If you're a contrarian Muslim writing in 800AD, for example, and saying that "unbelievers" deserve our respect, do you choose some alternative word because "kafir" implies inherent disrespect, or do you say "you know, it's perfectly possible to be a kafir and be a decent person"?
posted by yoink at 9:01 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Huh. I was vaguely aware of the SA term (though I didn't realize that it was as hard a slur as it apparently is), but I had always assumed that the lime name was from a SE Asian language. I am curious about the path -- I am guessing the lime came to SA through SE Asian immigrants, and then to England and the US from there, carrying the racist rename with it?
posted by tavella at 9:04 AM on July 2


Never heard the term or of the lime but I do recall that the BBC show Spooks, when broadcast in North America, changed the name to MI-5 because spooks means something different in the States. The name was not changed in England because it doesn't mean the same thing it does in the States.
posted by juiceCake at 9:11 AM on July 2


I think Spooks would be a perfectly acceptable title for a TV show about government spies; I'm American, and I've often heard CIA agents referred to as "spooks." It may create a bit of confusion, since "spook" is also a word for ghost or a verb meaning to scare someone, but I thought that was why people call spies spooks - because they're creepy and scary, like ghosts. It's not a slur against anyone, as far as I know.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 9:19 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Southerner here. I regret to tell you it is yet another offensive slang term for black people.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:22 AM on July 2


In one of her stories ( set in KY) Bobbie Ann Mason has a character's father calling chocolate creams " toes". Before the civil rights era he had called them n*toes.
posted by brujita at 9:24 AM on July 2


St. Alia: Are you shitting me? This culture is so freaking ridiculous. How many slurs do we even need?
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 9:27 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


It is in fact a slur. I don't think it sees as much use these days (not that this is an excuse mind you). But it was very much in use in the 50s at least as evidenced by this Back to the Future clip.

Incidentally, that clip is probably the main reason I'm familiar with that term as a slur.
posted by Twain Device at 9:30 AM on July 2


Wow. I saw Back to the Future so many times, and I don't even remember that. We can be so wildly creative when it comes to dehumanizing people who are different from us.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 9:34 AM on July 2


I learned about "spook" as an offensive term when my childhood friend wanted to name his black kitten "Spook" (completely innocently; he meant it in the "ghost" or "spectre" way) and his parents had to gently tell him that "Spooky" would be a more acceptable name.
posted by chowflap at 9:52 AM on July 2


Spook is pretty obscure these days, but it was definitely used as a slur at one time. I don't think "Spooks" would have caused an issue given the subject, but if you nicknamed a black character Spook some older people would probably give you the side-eye.
posted by tavella at 10:02 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I have one of the lime trees in question as a houseplant (and ingredient source, once it's large enough), and I'd read that the name may have originated from the German "käfer" for bug, after the shape of the leaves. Still, false etymology or not, especially given the uncertainty over the origin of the name, It's a makrut lime tree that I'm growing from now on.
posted by JiBB at 10:16 AM on July 2


In Malay, they are called limau purut, or Purut Limes. Don't know what purut means, I think it's just a name.
posted by BinGregory at 10:43 AM on July 2 [+] [!]

Purut means rough skinned.


Huh. I was vaguely aware of the SA term (though I didn't realize that it was as hard a slur as it apparently is), but I had always assumed that the lime name was from a SE Asian language. I am curious about the path -- I am guessing the lime came to SA through SE Asian immigrants, and then to England and the US from there, carrying the racist rename with it?

posted by tavella at 12:04 PM on July 2 [+] [!]

THIS.

Vinge gives a reasonable enough explanation of how the word Kaffir came to be applied to indigenous South Africans but at no point does she make even a tenuous link to its etymology in relation to the lime.

Which is odd, because a quick glance at a dictionary will tell you that the word lime is derived from medieval Arabic or Farsi. Limon. Limah.

An even briefer glance at the shortest of histories of the fruit lets you know that the first large scale cultivation of limes occurred in Persia (Iran/southern Iraq) shortly before Islam expanded to the northern shores of the Mediterranean and across to south and east Asia.

Presumably, before that cultivation took place, smooth skinned Persian limes were compared to rough skinned citrons (an ancient local fruit). Later, as Islam spread, smooth skinned limes would have been compared again to the rough skinned citrons grown by southern European Christians (better suited to the climate, they'd spread earlier), and the rough skinned limes of Hindus and Buddhists in south and east Asia. At that point, the rough skinned fruits would quite literally have been the lemons or limes of the unbelievers.

So yeah, I do think it's important that we're a society which cares how we appropriate and use cultural terms and objects. But if that's important, bothering to do our research is also important. Just so, eg, we don't preference one south east Asian name over another. In a region loaded with long standing ethnic, linguistic and cross border tensions and hatred, why pick the Thai name? Why insist on it in the article? Why leap to change the title of the Wikipedia article to that specific term?

And finally, for what it's worth, K-Lime is no better than Kaffir Lime. I've actually had this very discussion in SA and Zim. You don't get any brownie points for using the terms K-lime, K-corn, K-bread, K-beer, K-dog. It's code, it's white code, and it's just as offensive as saying what you mean.
posted by Ahab at 10:20 AM on July 2 [10 favorites]


I feel like I had learned the k-word from The Power of One. Hm. Well, it was weird and bad that people attached the word to a lime.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:20 AM on July 2


Well, it was weird and bad that people attached the word to a lime.

Let me put it another way. What's more likely? That people took the name of a fruit that didn't arrive in English as a word until the mid 1600s and promptly attached a racist slur to it that didn't come into English until the late 1700s..

..or that the people who were using both words nearly 1000 years before, and travelling widely, came across both unbelievers and their limes.. then invented a phrase that described the limes of the unbelievers?
posted by Ahab at 10:38 AM on July 2


In Malay, they are called limau purut, or Purut Limes. Don't know what purut means, I think it's just a name.

Purut means rough skinned.

My ear doesn't like "makrut", but "purut" seems like a brilliant substitute name.
posted by maryr at 10:39 AM on July 2


I have no idea when I first connected the slur with the name of the fruit, but the word hasn't been used in my house for years.
I had to ctrl-f for magrood and was surprised when no one else seems to have used the term in this discussion. I have no idea where I picked up the term and spelling, but the woman who owns the little Thai market in my area knows the term. She never stocks magrood leaf in the cooler so you have to ask for it, thus . . . no label. Not much info on the word out there, but it seems to be another transliteration of makrut.
The best part about my pronunciation is that it sounds like you are talking with some kind of a brogue when you use it. (Oddly magrood is also a Libyan pastry.)
posted by Seamus at 10:41 AM on July 2


I'm American, and I've often heard CIA agents referred to as "spooks."

Same. AFAIK the two usages aren't directly related, but I've definitely stopped making idle cracks about government agents because I don't want to hurt anyone whose primary experience is the racist one. (When I was considering going into intelligence work, my ex-Army mom called me a spook in the same affectionately pejorative way she called Air Force folks "zoomies.")
posted by dorque at 10:45 AM on July 2


Apple pie with cheddar on the side.

noooo the cheese goes on top
posted by elizardbits at 10:47 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


And yes, I first heard this term from Lethal Weapon 2, and then promptly forgot all about it until I read the Temeraire book partially set in South Africa.
posted by elizardbits at 10:48 AM on July 2


..or that the people who were using both words nearly 1000 years before, and travelling widely, came across both unbelievers and their limes.. then invented a phrase that described the limes of the unbelievers?

You're probably right, but it doesn't change very much with regard to English-speakers dropping the name.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:56 AM on July 2


We're a Malaysian family on my wife's side, so we'll call it purut from now on. I was aware of the SA definition of kaffir, but thought that the lime was a name that had a totally different origin. No more, consider me informed.
posted by arcticseal at 11:09 AM on July 2


I didn't have the vaguest idea that it was offensive. I am happy to learn that since the last time I bought the leaves the spice shop I frequent has updated the name to "makrut." So, perhaps awareness is spreading.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:42 AM on July 2


"Which is odd, because a quick glance at a dictionary will tell you that the word lime is derived from medieval Arabic or Farsi. Limon. Limah.

An even briefer glance at the shortest of histories of the fruit lets you know that the first large scale cultivation of limes occurred in Persia (Iran/southern Iraq) shortly before Islam expanded to the northern shores of the Mediterranean and across to south and east Asia.
"

Yeah, that was the hunch that I had about them — that "limes" were limes, and that these makrut were "foreigner limes."

Still, as far as I can tell, no one knows how "kaffir" actually got attached to the limes, and there's not really a great reason to keep calling them that…

I'll also say that I don't know if I missed it or what, but I just reviewed a couple of collections of South African photography about apartheid and I didn't pick up on "kaffir" at all; I knew it was an Arabic term for infidel, but not a slur in SA.

Through the Wikipedia hole, I did find out that it's the same as Giaour, which is a slur in Turkish for Christians, and also the name of a Byron poem.
posted by klangklangston at 11:54 AM on July 2


I'd always wondered about the name of the fruit, since I'd known for a long time that the term was offensive--in fact, I learned it from an X-Men comic with Storm and the Black Panther that was published a few decades ago.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:54 AM on July 2


To make it complicated, in Dutch, but not Afrikaans, Kaffer with a capital is the same as kaffir roughly, though also used by Moroccan youth in street slang, while kaffer without the capital stems from the bargoens, the old Amsterdam street language which has it from a Hebrew word for peasant. (see.)
posted by MartinWisse at 12:04 PM on July 2


Well, I guess that's sort of my end point, Martin and Sticherbeast. The word (or derivations thereof) are used neutrally in languages stretching from England through Spain through the middle east to Sri Lanka to south east Asia. The Hebrew word has the same root as kafir, there's all the European variants (cafre, caffar), the Sri Lankan kāpiriyō are downright proud of their heritage and their name..

In short here's more balance and neutrality there than Vinge appears to know. Her work really is plain sloppy.

And the neutral use pre-dates the offensive connotation by hundreds and hundreds of years (just from the OED, the word as an insult appears to be less than 100 years old in South African English); the number of people who use it neutrally vastly outnumbers those who offend or are offended by it (this thread is an example); and the alternatives are potentially offensive (though less severely so) to many more people than the original term.

So, in the face of all that, do we accept a semi-hysterical, poorly researched rant from a Canadian who only recently found out that her lime leaves share half a name with a South African insult.. Or do we just get on with cooking our stuff in the knowledge that the two meanings might (just maybe) be tangentially and distantly related, but aren't worth magazine articles and twitter campaigns?

(In other words, no my lime leaves aren't perpetuating your South African racism).

I'm all in favour of just getting on with shit. Sticking some torn lime leaves in my soup, grinding them into my curry paste, sprinkling some threads over as a dressing for my curry, mixing those same threads into my prawn and fresh herb salad..

Anyway it's only really when I need to explain "no, not the leaves off your Tahitian lime tree" to a friend who doesn't cook that I call them anything other than lime leaves. They're the only sort that go in the recipes we cook.
posted by Ahab at 12:22 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


I find myself strangely touched by this whole story. Due to my utter ignorance of South African culture and language, I would never have imagined that the name of this South-East Asian delicacy could be a South African slur. Had I been asked, and knowing the original Arabic meaning of the word, I would have guessed that Malay Muslims used it as it was a Thai, i.e. a Buddhist ingredient. Live and learn...

Globalization is far from a new thing, and Arabic was one of the first global languages. But until recently, words carried across the globe by migrants and conquerors would slowly change meaning as they changed places, and only the traveler and the scholar would know that a single language can hide many smaller ones, where offense can be taken and given by words that elsewhere are innocuous. Indeed, the words that designate the Other, be it the unbeliever, the weird-looking or the weird-speaking Other, lend themselves well to offense, and turn easily into slurs. But only now, especially on the Internet, where anyone in the conversation could be a victim of such slurs, do we understand our duty to avoid them, to enrich our language by losing our naive use of what could deeply hurt, and designing or searching for new words in other languages — purut and makrut both sound great, I'll have fun using them for that small can on the kitchen shelf — and I guess I'll think more of using it in cooking, which can only have yummy consequences.

Anyway, the first thing that popped in my mind as I read was The Man Who Would be King. And let that tale remind us that lime leaves as well as mythical kingdoms can have tragic consequences, and lead to pain, offense and severed heads.

“You behold now,” said Carnehan, “the Emperor in his habit as he lived — the King of Kafiristan with his crown upon his head. Poor old Daniel that was a monarch once!”
posted by susuman at 12:34 PM on July 2


I have no attachment to the term "kaffir lime", and I'll be happy to call it whatever works for people.

That said, though: do we know exactly when and where the word "kaffir" became attached to the lime? I haven't seen a clear etymology in the links or the thread. (Apologies if I missed it.)

As near as I can piece together, though:

—ancient Muslims encounter a new variety of lime; need to distinguish them from the limes they're already familiar with; start calling them "kaffir limes" ("limes of the non-Muslims")

—in a separate thread of linguistic evolution, the word "kaffir" gets adopted into European languages, but with a different meaning ("black African"), from whence it eventually spreads to South Africa and becomes a hate word

So it's not analogous to calling the fruit "n— limes" because the limes were associated with black people. Rather, the word was associated with the limes first. Later and independently, a separate culture, far removed from the original one, started using it with a different and uglier meaning.

It's a little bit like "niggardly". Not quite like that, since the South African slur and the term for the fruit do share common etymology (unlike "niggardly" and "n—"). But similar.

So, yeah. Gimme a name that won't give inadvertent offense ("makrut" works for me), and I'll use it. But this isn't "lime has racist name"; it's "lime has pretty innocuous name, part of which eventually (and unfortunately) becomes a hate word elsewhere in the world, because semantic drift".
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:36 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


And, yeah—whatever you call them, the leaves are culinary magic. An international supermarket in my town offers big trays full of them for a couple of bucks. Add lemongrass, chilies, and galangal, and you're well on your way to a fragrant, addictive tom yum soup.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:47 PM on July 2


Per this New York Times article, the 'kaffir lime' name predates the use in South Africa, as Ahab suggested. So it's not a case of it being a derogatory word applied to a fruit used by non-whites in SA, it was Indian Muslims using one of their own words to describe a different kind of limes.

That doesn't necessarily mean that using something else in English isn't better -- there are probably languages in the world where the n-word means something else entirely, but if product named that was imported to the US I'd be renaming it tout de suite.
posted by tavella at 3:19 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Wow, I have literally never heard of this. Makrut it is.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:49 PM on July 2


eriko: "If a Japanese person calls a person from the state of Georgia a Yankee, they probably mean it as a compliment, even though it would be rather offensive to the Georgian."

"Yankee" (or 'Yankii') is Japanese for "hoodlum", so, no, that would definitely be an insult. (Though the name "New York Yankees" is understood to have some other unknown meaning, not "hoodlum")

escape from the potato planet: "So, yeah. Gimme a name that won't give inadvertent offense ("makrut" works for me), and I'll use it. But this isn't "lime has racist name"; it's "lime has pretty innocuous name, part of which eventually (and unfortunately) becomes a hate word elsewhere in the world, because semantic drift"."

This, a million times. That whole article read to me like someone discovering that Erromango Island, which in Japanese is "エロマンガ島", means "Porno Comic Island" in Japanese, and then just running with it like that must be the etymology of the island's name. Which is weird, because it doesn't need that. It's sufficient to point out that "kaffir" is a word used in English to mean the equivalent of n-----, and we should probably find a new word for it. I mean, we all (well, mostly all) do just fine using two words for Coriandrum sativum, namely "cilantro" and "coriander", so it's not like switching up words for foods is that big a deal in the first place.

(Also, to complete the triumvirate of "random trivia about Japan in a thread that has nothing to do with Japan", people use three words for Coriandrum sativum: "Korianda", "Shantsai", and "Pakuchi"
posted by Bugbread at 5:37 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


It seems weird to argue whether the name is deliberately racist or only inadvertently racist when everyone agrees that the limes should be called something else. But since that never stops us I think the idea that the origin of the name "k--- lime" is completely neutral is questionable at best. "Kafir" the Arabic term is in no way neutral. I guess it could have been such one or two hundred years ago but, well, I am dubious. The word doesn't simply mean non-Muslim, it is a descriptor of that person as basically intrinsically evil.
posted by Justinian at 9:39 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Justinian: "It seems weird to argue whether the name is deliberately racist or only inadvertently racist when everyone agrees that the limes should be called something else."

It would be even weirder to argue about whether or not to name the limes something else if we all agreed that they should be called something else : )

But, yeah, that's how arguments work. We don't argue about the points we agree on, we argue about the points we disagree on. I'm just super impressed that we don't have a big contingent of people saying "they're only tenuously related, so fuck it, I'm going to keep calling them kaffir limes and PC people can fuck themselves". It's great seeing people who think "they're probably related" and people saying "they're probably not related" coming together on the point that "I'm going to start calling them something else anyway".
posted by Bugbread at 9:52 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


In short here's more balance and neutrality there than Vinge appears to know. Her work really is plain sloppy.

I disagree that it was sloppy or that the supposed neutrality in other languages matters for using it in English, when it seems clear this name did enter English with all its racist baggage attached. Fortunately the original slur has died out everywhere but South(ern) Africa in English, but that connection is still active for people from there living in other English language countries. It does therefore make sense to avoid the use of the word and it made sense for Vinje to focus on the racist history of the word in English, rather than muddying the waters with other languages.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:21 AM on July 3


But the Canadians can still have Homo milk?
http://www.metafilter.com/140376/Canadianisms

It seems the name of the fruit and the slur came from the same origin. The South Africans took that source word and made it into a slur.
The homo in homogenized and homosexual come from the same Latin root, and people have made homo a slur, but the milk is still widely advertised.
The word coloured in my coloured pencils comes from the same word used to discuss African heritage people, and while I can see it is offensive to describe somebody as coloured, it isn't (I don't think?) offensive to call pencils coloured.
And there have been examples in this thread of people self censoring the term spook for a spy, when I know of know connection to the racist slur.

So I guess I am wondering why the limes are offensive? It isn't the case that people are calling them their name with reference to the slur.

I think I am trying to draw a line that says n* toes for Brazil nuts appears a direct derivative of the the n-word, so clearly offensive, but coloured in coloured pencils isn't related to describing people as coloured, so it is not offensive.
Isn't the lime name a case of the latter? A word that used in an offensive context is offensive, but used in a non-offensive context isn't?
And for the anecdata, the lime leaves are routinely called k* lime leaves in Australia in stores and recipes, and I would suggest the slur is quite well known here, although never spoken.
posted by bystander at 5:00 AM on July 3


I'm not sure that the etymology always matters, though. What if the n-word in the old name for Brazil nuts had a completely harmless history, unrelated to the American racial slur? Let's just say that it came from some other source entirely. It's still a word that's very painful for a lot of people to hear, and frankly it's still a word that some other people would take really ugly pleasure in having permission to say. Using that word would do harm, no matter how innocent its history could be in this particular case. I don't think that colored pencils has the same effect in the US, in part because "colored" as a racial descriptor is offensively archaic but wasn't originally a slur. But if a lot of people said that hearing "colored pencil" felt like a punch in the gut, I would think we should consider coming up with a different term.

This gets more complicated when you take into account cross-cultural dynamics. But we live in a globalized world, and even in my dinky little hamlet I know at least one person whose parents are immigrants from South Africa, so I'm not sure it works anymore to say that we don't use that particular slur here. Who's we? Where's here?

FWIW, I think that changing the name of Spooks may have been overkill, although it's certainly not my call.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:21 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


To me the name of the fruit seems more like the word 'niggardly' than the Brazil nut thing- namely, it's an unfortunate coincidence rather than a deliberate slur.

But, you know, nowadays no one uses the word niggardly unless they are trying to get away with being a crypto-racist, so... makrut it is, I guess.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:36 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


But the Canadians can still have Homo milk?

You wouldn't believe what the English eat in a rich west country sauce.

I assume the problem with the limes is that unlike "homo milk", the shared etymology of the slur and the fruit is close enough to raise eyebrows. Also "homo milk" is sort of hilarious now. It's never once occurred to me, a homo, that I should be offended that some pleasant fellows north of the border use the same string of phonemes for their wholesome beverage.

The word controversy like this that's stuck with me recently is the name for the California foothill pine. Everyone calls them "digger pines", only it turns out that name derives from a slur against Native Americans. So now most folks call them "grey pines" but I prefer the more evocative "ghost pines", because at night when they blow in the wind they sway like ghosts. Lovely trees, and I think being forced to consider etymology from time to time provides a quick little history lesson.
posted by Nelson at 11:01 AM on July 3


This gets more complicated when you take into account cross-cultural dynamics. But we live in a globalized world,

I think this is the crux of it. Until pretty recent times, Australians by and large weren't aware that the n word was so radioactive to Americans, I have caused shock when I referred to the Pakistan cricket team as the 'Pakis', and untold numbers of local food writers will need to review their Thai recipes.
I do think there needs to be a level of understanding on both sides, though. The people ignorantly using an offensive term routinely bristle when they are actively condemned - I did it myself when I was talking about the cricket, and we see it on Mefi too.
A gentle, "you know that term is really offensive in 'x', so you might want to use this alternative" beats the the accusations of casual racism like:
"...not baffled at all, knowing how racism is such a deeply rooted part of North American culture" from the article.

There must be a vanishingly small number of people talking about the limes to demonstrate their racist views, so suggesting that cooks and chefs are doing so as an artifact of a racist culture just gets peoples back up.
posted by bystander at 2:18 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


"I have caused shock when I referred to the Pakistan cricket team as the 'Pakis',"

Heh. I remember my shock at hearing my (progressive) friends casually call a party store a "packie store," until finding out that it was short for "package." It was like, "Uh, isn't that hella racist, guys?"
posted by klangklangston at 2:22 PM on July 3


But... "package" is the same length as "packie"...
posted by Justinian at 2:26 PM on July 3


You can see why I'm the life of the party.
posted by Justinian at 2:31 PM on July 3


Party stores outside of MI sell supplies for parties: decorations, themed/colored paper plates and cups, invitations/thank you cards. ..
posted by brujita at 12:47 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


And there have been examples in this thread of people self censoring the term spook for a spy, when I know of know connection to the racist slur.

I'm guessing you're talking at least in part about me, so I'll clarify, since I think it's also germane to your other question (although I think ArbitraryAndCapricious covered it pretty well):

I know of no connection to the slur; you know of no connection to the slur; but if we're having a conversation in a public place and the term catches the ear of someone walking by, do they know there's an alternate use that's not a slur? If they don't (and possibly even if they do), they're probably going to get an unpleasant jolt -- I know I have on the occasion when I pass people talking slangily about their car transmissions, before I clued in to the actual conversational topic.
posted by dorque at 11:07 AM on July 4


But... the slur is the alternate use. The most common use of the term is the non-slur, as in "spooky". That's ubiquitous.
posted by Justinian at 1:04 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]


So what do polite South Africans call these limes now? They're either kaffir limes or limau purut here in Singapore at the market. Then again, my husband remembers singing "I ain't gonna grieve my lord" at Scouts here in the 80s with the n-word in the lyrics.
posted by viggorlijah at 1:58 AM on July 6


I haven't really heard "Paki" used as a derivative/racist term here in the states, mostly because we can't find Pakistan on a map and don't know the difference between recent immigrants from India or Pakistan.

(And "packie" is shorter than "package store". You go to the packie. Maybe they give you a package for your bottles. Maybe while you're there you check out somone's package.)
posted by maryr at 11:11 AM on July 6


The question of whether "spook" means spectre/ghost or is a racial slur is a major plot point in The Human Stain - I wouldn't have heard of it otherwise.
posted by naoko at 4:42 PM on July 10


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