Can't we all just be nice to each other ?
Obviously we can't be and we aren't. Let's be realistic - negative sentiments exist in all of us and sometimes we can't help but to
unleash them. It's good if it's only by words not deeds. Verbal aggression is one of my favourite interests. Not that I am
advocating it, but I find it fascinating how creative a man can be when it comes to denigrating, offending or hurting his fellows.
Slurs and insults can be divided into many groups. One of them form those which are cast on people of different ethnicity.
Below you can find the beginnings of my typology of ethnic slurs. I am eager to learn more and wait for
similar 'national nicknames' from your own language that I could put in here. Note, though that
the stuff related to "race" (as if such thing existed), doesn't interest me, nations do.
- Food-based - quite a lot of derogatory, contemptuos or simply jocular 'national nicknames' comes from a given nation's eating habits. Among them the following:
- Kraut - English nickname for 'German'. From the German word 'kraut' meaning 'cabbage'. Soured cabbage (called 'sauerkraut' in German)
is one of the typical dishes of German cuisine.
- Frog - English nickname for 'Frenchman'. From the French habit of eating frog legs (yuck !). In Polish we call the French 'Żabojady'
which means literally 'frog-eaters'
- Makaroniarz - Polish nickname for 'Italian'. Derived from 'makaron' - Polish generic word for 'pasta'
- Beaner - Usonian derogatory nickname for Mexicans. They eat beans, you know.
- Бульбаш [bulbash]- 'a potatoer' Russian nickname for 'Belorussian'. Derived from
бульба [bulba] - Belorussian word for 'potato'
- Crucco- Italian nickname for 'German'. Apparently from Slovene word 'kruh', meaning 'bread'. Italian-German (Austrian?) fighting usually took place amid
Slovene speaking lands. Caveat! I am not sure about this one, because in one of my frequent OE catastrophes I have lost both the original message in which the word was
submitted and contact data of the person who had send it to me. Help, anyone?
Pars-pro-toto - a very curious case, when name of a sub-ethnic or regional group of a nation becomes a derogatory name for the whole
nation in neighbouring language(s). So far I have found only one example of this.
- Szwab - Polish nickname for 'German'. Properly it means 'an inhabitant of Schwaben region in Germany' but much more often is
used as a derogatory name for any German person, no matter their region of origin. A similar usage exists in Croatia and Slovenia, I am told.
Appearance - obvious reason to riducule someone, right ?
- Kacap - Polish (and Ukrainian and Belorussian, too) nickname for 'Russian'. The source is a corrupted phrase
как цап [kak tsap],
meaning '[having beard] like he-goat' in Russian. The Russians, as opposed to their neighbours, wouldn't usually shave their beards.
Forename - Quite often, a 'nation nickname' is derived from a firstname, common to members of that nation. Interestingly,
the form used more often is the diminuitive and not the 'full version' of the name.
- Paddy - English nickname for 'Irishman'. From diminuitive form of an Irish firstname 'Padraig' [Patrick]
- Taig - another English nickname for Irishmen, especially Republicans. From Irish firstname usually spelled Tadhg
- Pepik - Polish nickname for 'Czech'. 'Pepik' is a Czech diminuitive form of a name 'Jozef'.
- Fritz - English nickname for 'German'. Diminuitive form of a German name 'Friedrich'.
The nickname exists in Polish as well. Its Polish form is 'Fryc'.
As they call themselves - sometimes, a form similar to a nation's own name is used as its derogatory nickname in some other language.
- Polack - derogatory American English for 'Pole'. Almost identical to how we call ourselves. 'Pole' in Polish is 'Polak'.
- Ruski - Polish derogatory for 'Russian'. Almost identical to 'русский' which means 'Russian' in Russian. Polish standard,
non-derogatory word is 'Rosjanin'.
- Ryssä - yes, you've guessed, it's another
derogatory word for 'Russian', Finnish this time. The regular Finnish word is 'venäläinen';
As the Russians call them - in case of some Eastern nationalities their Russian names, borrowed into Polish, serve as
derogatory words. I list them below in the order: Polish derog - Russian standard - Polish standard
- Kitajec from Russian Китаец usual Polish form - Chińczyk
- Wietnamiec from Russian Вьетнамец usual Polish form -Wietnamczyk
- Japoniec from Russian Японец, usual Polish form - Japończyk
Awaiting its category- some words are odd in both meanings, they are strange and without close matches anywhere.
- ЦIап [c'ap]- derogatory Lezgi for 'Azerbaijani'. Its literal meaning is... well, 'horse-shit', to put it simply.
Verbs - I am also interested in somewhat related cases, when a nation's name serves as a verb denoting activities of dubious moral value.
- to welsh - English verb, meaning 'to cheat, esp. for a bookie at the horse-races'
- cyganić - Polish verb, meaning 'to cheat, to deceive', derived from the word 'Cygan' - 'Gypsy'
- to jew - English verb, meaning 'to cheat'
- żydzić - Polish verb, derived from the word 'Żyd' - 'Jew', meaning 'to begrudge; to be stingy'
If you are willing to enhance my list with new examples, do so.
Many more slurs are to be found at the racial slurs database.
I invite you also to visit my short guide to Lezgi swears.
I owe this page, as I owe everything, to K.D. , whose smile makes the impossible happen