Midget, Squaw, Kaffir, and Irish Car Bombs

Thought this was an interesting piece about language and how the words we use may be inadvertently hurtful to others, specifically related to food.

I know I was taken aback when, at a visit to a local bakery, they had an “Irish Car Bomb” cupcake to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and I knew from a Native American friend about the use of the word “squaw” in referring to squaw bread. The others were new to me.

From the article,"…What’s in it for me? What do I get out of this? Well, what you get out of it depends on who you are,” Yin says. “If you’re a writer, are you answering to your readers? Are your readers going to look at your publication and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe they just used this word that is known to be universally offensive?’”

Yin, to be clear, isn’t in favor of banning words outright (after all, she does understand some of the resistance to changes in vocabulary: “I get it,” she says. “I don’t like being told what to do, either”). She would instead prefer that we think critically about language and its effects.

“I think it’s important to know the conversations out there about different words,” she says, “and the theories about why they’re offensive and how they might impact you as a person or your business or your readership. And if you choose to use a word that’s likely to be offensive, you do it by choice. And I hope you have a good reason for doing it.”

As to whether this entire discussion is what some might dismiss as being overly “politically correct,” Yin strikes a pragmatic tone.

“I don’t know what ‘politically correct’ means,” she says. “Politically correct according to whose politics? I think if you have two options and one option has the potential to hurt people, to limit people, to stereotype people, and the other option does not do that, I don’t see anything wrong with choosing the option that does less harm.”


I remember first hearing of “Irish Car Bomb” on CH and was horrified that something that horrific was being trivialized. I started a bit of a kerfufle IIRC. But many saw no problem with it. I think ALL words matter. I also fussed over the book “White Trash Cooking.” Being from the South originally that term is the white equivalent of the n-word. But I got a “note from a moderator” over that one pretty much telling me I was full of shit :slight_smile:

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I’m Irish enough that I have a passport. In my observation Irish people aren’t offended by jokes or stereotypes the way many other ethnic groups are. Maybe it’s just Catholic fatalism. Ruining a perfectly good pint of Guinness by adding Bailey’s, now, that’s offensive.

From my research, nobody’s upset about “kaffir lime” except overly PC people looking for trouble.

My friends and I first started using the term PC in the 70s, to describe people who rudely corrected anyone who said something they deemed offensive. It’s not like our politics were very different, we were just more tolerant.

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There are currently three restaurants in the area I am uncomfortable patronizing based on their names; am I missing out on some great food as a result of this? Probably. But the names irk me in such a way that I don’t want to think about them.

The restaurants:
Fishing with Dynamite
Yellow Fever

I’m not saying other people shouldn’t patronize them, enjoy them, recommend them, etc.

I’m saying I find their names to be alienating rather than enticing. On the other hand, they are memorable, so the branding works.

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I have no idea how this restaurant stays in business.


And…Yellow Fever + Whole Foods makes the landing page of WaPo:

It’s the third branch of a local restaurant that was named by its female Asian chef.

How sad. I suppose she’s trying to be hip and ironic to gain entry to the bro club.


From what she said, not at all.

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