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'Offensive' words in song lyrics

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Steve Parkes 05 Oct 00 - 03:40 AM
Bernard 05 Oct 00 - 04:27 AM
Joe Offer 05 Oct 00 - 04:38 AM
Bugsy 05 Oct 00 - 04:49 AM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 05:32 AM
Steve Parkes 05 Oct 00 - 06:41 AM
MartinRyan 05 Oct 00 - 06:42 AM
Skipjack K8 05 Oct 00 - 06:47 AM
Bud Savoie 05 Oct 00 - 07:30 AM
Troll 05 Oct 00 - 07:55 AM
MartinRyan 05 Oct 00 - 08:00 AM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 08:02 AM
RichM 05 Oct 00 - 08:10 AM
MartinRyan 05 Oct 00 - 08:44 AM
MartinRyan 05 Oct 00 - 08:55 AM
Gary T 05 Oct 00 - 09:37 AM
Jeri 05 Oct 00 - 10:10 AM
Uncle_DaveO 05 Oct 00 - 11:37 AM
Jim Dixon 05 Oct 00 - 11:56 AM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 02:44 PM
MMario 05 Oct 00 - 02:57 PM
Lepus Rex 05 Oct 00 - 03:37 PM
Greyeyes 05 Oct 00 - 04:05 PM
Ely 05 Oct 00 - 04:12 PM
Bert 05 Oct 00 - 04:13 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 04:14 PM
Anglo 05 Oct 00 - 04:41 PM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 05 Oct 00 - 05:44 PM
GUEST,Liland 05 Oct 00 - 06:11 PM
catspaw49 05 Oct 00 - 06:13 PM
Metchosin 05 Oct 00 - 07:05 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 07:18 PM
Lepus Rex 05 Oct 00 - 07:21 PM
rabbitrunning 05 Oct 00 - 07:36 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 07:57 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 08:01 PM
Metchosin 05 Oct 00 - 09:07 PM
MarkS 05 Oct 00 - 10:57 PM
radriano 06 Oct 00 - 11:32 AM
Metchosin 06 Oct 00 - 01:08 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Oct 00 - 02:05 PM
GUEST,The lyrics to Formby songs 06 Oct 00 - 02:18 PM
Bert 06 Oct 00 - 02:20 PM
Lepus Rex 06 Oct 00 - 02:31 PM
Bert 06 Oct 00 - 03:08 PM
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Subject: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 03:40 AM

Some time ago a local (in the UK) amateur dramatic society put on a war-time show. They were going to include George Formby's "Mr Wu's an air-raid warden now", one of a series of comic songs from the 30s about a Chinese laundry operator. (For you Americans: an air-raid warden had to walk the streets after dark checking that no light showed through the blackout curtains at the windows of houses, which might have been visible to enemy aircraft.) It was banned by the church/village hall committee because the chorus included the line "So if you've got a Chink at your window you'll have another one at your door": this was considered to be offensive to Chinese people (none of whom were on the committee).

I can't see that it's any more offensive than "Gerry" or "Eyetie" or "Brit" myself, and if it is, we should ban "Yankee-doodle Dandy" as being offensive to Americans.

Any thoughts, folks?

Steve


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Bernard
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 04:27 AM

Attempting to be too 'PC' can actually have the opposite effect to the one intended - it draws more attention to it.

Provided the song in question is not being blatantly racist, there can be no problem. This song is a bit of fun, with nothing sinister implied. Do it as written!

Almost invariably the ones who make most noise are the ones who are not directly involved - they think people are going to be offended.

Irishmen tell the cruellest 'Kerry man' jokes, Jews are noted for their ability to poke fun at themselves, and so on.

I frequently play at old folks homes, and find that I can say quite risky things about their problems - 'Here's Alice - legless again!' (Alice literally has no legs) - and, because I am laughing with them, not at them, it goes down really well. Alice loves the attention, and hams it up by pretending to be drunk.

It's a fine line, though, and the fact that you have considered it is probably enough in this case.

I'd write more, but I'm supposed to be working!!


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 04:38 AM

Well Steve, I'd have to say that "Chink" is pretty offensive, certainly more than "Gerry" or "Eyetie" or "Brit" (Is "Brit" offensive?). Still, considering the historical context, I think you're almost bound to use the word "Chink" if that's the word that was originally used. I think it's horrible if we're forced to make historical accuracy subordinate to Political Correctness.
I don't use offensive terms in ordinary speaking and I will delete them from songs when they're not necessary, but I think you have a situation here where accuracy is important.
An example of where I will change a word is in "Shortnin' Bread" - I say "two little children," not "two little niggers" are lyin' in bed.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Bugsy
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 04:49 AM

Lord, protect us from Committees and Political Correctness.

How absurd.

Cheers

Bugsy


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 05:32 AM

"Chink" is of course a word which can be used offensively, depending on context. I'd see it is more potentially offensive than "Jerry", less than "Kraut", and about the same as "Frog". And it's right to be cautious about this kind of thing.

But in this context, where Mr Wu is seen as playing a valuable social role, I'd have thought the implication is in fact anti-racist, and would have been seen at the time of the Blitz as saying something about everyone pulling together against the Nazis.

And it is also unusual in recognising that not everyone in the Blitz was ethnic-English. I think the committee here scored an own goal and probably in fact contributed to racism rather than combatted it.

Here is a George Formby site


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 06:41 AM

I'd forgotten till now, but another committee banned a production of "Showboat" on the grounds that it was racist. I seem to recall that when it first came out it was criticised for being pro-miscegenation.

Joe, I believe "Brit" is a dirty word in certain parts of Ireland, but for obvious reasons that have nothing to do with political correctness.
I always thought that it was "babies" in "Shortnin' bread" - I must have lead a sheltered life! The "N" word (gosh, I can't even bring myself to type it out in full!) has acquired a lot of unpleasant connotations. "Darkie" ought not be any more offensive than "paleface" (did they really say that?), but has still become tainted by the attitude of those that use it as a term of abuse

"Mr Wu" was a product of the English "let's laugh at the funny foreigners" attitude, which applies to all the other UK countries as well, and even the North Country, the West Country, and the rest of the Sticks.

McG, I'm never quite sure whether "kraut" and "frog" are meant to be offensive, any more than the French "rosbif" (="roast beef") for the English; they all refer to supposed national eating habits, and could be interpreted as simply ironic rather than sarcastic.

Steve


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: MartinRyan
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 06:42 AM

Words are not in themselves offensive, of course, - their useage in a particular context makes them so. Recognising that context is what matters. "Brit", for example, Joe, is often used perfectly innocuously or at most slightly mockingly around the world. In Ireland, north and south, on the other hand, it if frequently intended vituperatively.

Regards


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Skipjack K8
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 06:47 AM

You have made me think about this specific wored, Steve.

The UK slang for a Chinese restaurant is a 'Chinky'. I have never considered the ethnic Chinese perception of that word, as all the dicourse on racism in the UK that I have heard has been primarily the black perspective, followed by the Asian.

Whilst I would flay my children for using the word 'Paki', it has made me think about 'Chink' being a pejorative term, which it most obviously is.

In the song context, I think history is the specific answer in that case.

Skipjack


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Bud Savoie
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 07:30 AM

For what it may be worth, as a French-Canadian-American, I am not offended by the term "Frog," unless it is obviously said pejoratively, which is about where "Brit" and "Yankee" and "Aussie" are. In fact, "Frog" has been taken up and used by the French in the same way that "Yankee" and "Brit" and "Aussie" are by those people. What makes a word offensive is its context and intent.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Troll
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 07:55 AM

I bristle inside when my friends on the Isle of Man refer to me as "Yank".I feel about that the way a Scot would feel about being called "Brit". My people have lived in the southern United States for over 200 years and "Yank" has perjorative connotations to me (I don't like "Reb" either) so how are they to refer to me? American seems stilted and, in fact, can logically be applied to anyone in this hemisphere.
So "Th' Yank" it is. It is said with affection and I take it that way.

troll


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: MartinRyan
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 08:00 AM

Years ago, I taught sailing with a French/Irish organisation. On arrival for a course, I would be handed a list of the Irish participants names - and a line which went "plus ten Frogs" or similar. The point is that my French co-instructor would arrive from Paris with a list of the French participants - and the line "plus ten Paddies"!

Regards


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 08:02 AM

I find Brit more offensive when it is used by English people to refer to themselves - it seems to sum up all the nastier aspects of the national self-stereotype.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: RichM
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 08:10 AM

It was always much easier to use stereotypes at a time when individuals did not have much contact with people of other races.
The world is a more intimate place now. There is more daily interaction between nationalities--and this will only increase.

Some of the old stereotypes-like this song- will have to give way, and be put to rest, for the simple reason that they are one-dimensional.

I won't sing any song that includes this kind of lyric. It's time for them to be put to rest.
By the way, if you really want an opinion on the correctness of this term, why not ask in one of the chinese newsgroups, ie, soc.culture.singapore, or soc.culture.hong-kong?


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: MartinRyan
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 08:44 AM

McGrath

More offensive than what? Than it's vituperative use by some Irish people? If those concerned shouldn't use it for fear of offending us and we shouldn't use it for fear of offending them, then....

Regards


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: MartinRyan
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 08:55 AM

Steve

I'm puzzled by your comment on "Brit":"I believe "Brit" is a dirty word in certain parts of Ireland, but for obvious reasons that have nothing to do with political correctness."

IMHO, PC has to do with the avoidance of usage which it is thought may offend. The fact that it WOULD offend should strengthen the case, not weaken it!

Regards


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Gary T
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 09:37 AM

I don't know how it is in the British Isles, but from my American perspective, "chink" (when referring to the Chinese), like "nigger", doesn't really have any harmless applications. If I were to sing this song, where the wordplay with "chink" meaning gap cannot be approximated with any other word, I would preface it with an explanation to the audience.

I have heard "Yankee" used somewhat (or very!) derisively by American Southerners in reference to American Northeners. I have "Yank" used rather universally overseas to refer to all Americans. Very seldom do I see the forms switched around.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 10:10 AM

Context is everything. Is the word used perjoritively? It's difficult to tell unless you know the person saying it, or have a pretty good idea what they meant. I think words have a different impact and meaning as used in different societies.

Case in point: "Yankee," as Bud Savoie, Troll and Gary T. mentioned. The term started life as a derisionary one. Instead of trying to make it go away, people took ownership and wore it proudly. Folks in other countries use the shortened version in varying ways, depending on their opinions of us. Folks around my neck of the woods use it proudly. Folks in the south usually precede it with the word "damned." The word itself is neither good nor bad, the emotion and meaning behind it is.

The English are sometimes called "limeys." Is it an epithet or a gentle poke at a friend? Depends on context.

The point is, if you're the one hearing, you may understand the meaning, misunderstand, or you may not understand at all - and you may not try to either. If you're the one using the word, you may be understood or you may not. The understanding may be wrong, and you may be faced with questions like "what did you mean by that" by those who don't understand. Depending on the people involved, the terms can be a barrier to understanding, or, by sparking discussion, a way to greater understanding.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 11:37 AM

WARNING: a little bit of thread creep.

I learned this bit of wisdom some years ago:

"All the world knows that a yankee is someone from the United States.

"Everybody in the Southern US knows that a yankee is someone from north of the Mason-Dixon line.

"Everybody north of the Mason-Dixon line knows that a yankee is somebody from New England."

"Everybody in New England knows that a yankee is somebody from Vermont."

"Everybody in Vermont knows that a yankee is someone who eats pie for breakfast."

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 11:56 AM

I expressed my opinion about a similar situation in this message. I still stand by it.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 02:44 PM

(Referring to Brit)"More offensive than what? Than it's vituperative use by some Irish people?" Yes, that's what I mean.

The interesting thing about the use of Brit in Ireland is that it's used by both parts of the divided Irish community, including the ones who want to preserve the link with England. Essentially it's just a term meaning the English in Ireland. The degree of antagonism it carries reflects whatever the views of the person using it holds about that presence. Or about the people who represent that presence. Nothing intrinsically offensive there.

But when the English use it of themselves, or especially when the tabloid press use it, for me it carries a yobbish football hooliganish quality - "we're hard bastards, eveyone hates us, isn't it great". And I think that is pretty nasty. And most English people aren't at all like that either. So in that context, I think it is intrinsically offensive.

As for Limey, I don't that's ever been felt as insulting, except maybe on occasions when it's been used directly with that intent. But if you're into insulting people, any word will do - "American" or "English" will do just as well, if you get the contempt into the voice right.

As for Yank and Yankee - Yank is the normal term in England, and I think most people are aware that Yankee has a special meaning - but of course in Latin American Yanqui means any old Yank doesn't it?


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: MMario
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 02:57 PM

oh - "limey" has been used as a derogative term, all right.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Lepus Rex
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 03:37 PM

I find the term 'chink' pretty damned offensive. Right up there with 'gook' and 'nigger.' I think it's silly to compare it to terms like 'frog,' 'limey,' 'gerry,' 'kraut,' etc. 'Frogs' and 'krauts' aren't singled out and persecuted by right-wing extremists and politicians, while 'chinks' and 'gooks' are.

I remember Ross Perot, last pres. election, giving a speech at some college. He pulled out a list of donors to the Democratic party, and read off a bunch of obviously east Asian names. He then said something like "Do those sound like the names of Americans to you? I don't think so." And there was hardly anybody who protested it, because Asians are 'safe' targets, apparently. If it had been Blacks or Jews he had mentioned, we all know what would have happened: protests, apologies, hour-long news specials...

Another example: You still occaisionally see white folks made up like Asians on tv and the movies, usually in the role of an Asian despot or crime lord that I'm guessing no Asian actors would touch. And anyone remember 'Kung-Fu?' But how often do you see someone in blackface on tv?

And if you don't find 'chink' offensive, if you live such a secluded, sheltered life that you don't meet any of 'those people,' maybe you should look out your goddamned window and see that even though you live some pampered, privelidged white-boy existence, not everyone has the same luxury in this world. No offense:)

---Lepus Rex


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Greyeyes
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 04:05 PM

It is the context that the word is used in that is offensive. When the Pakistani cricket team tour Australia they can be referred to as Pakis without offence because it is part of Australian vernacular to abreviate nationalities like that with no offence intended. When the same players tour England there is no question that Paki, if it is used, is used as a deliberate term of abuse.

Being called a bastard in Australia is practically a term of endearment. There is a famous story about Douglas Jardine, England cricket captain in the 1930's, taking offence at being called a bastard on the field of play and demanding an apology after the game from the Australian captain. The Aussie said "fair enough" and turning to his team-mates called out "which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard".

Chink is still a term of abuse in England, I certainly wouldn't sing a song containing the word.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Ely
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 04:12 PM

Maybe the usages vary from place to place, but I've never seen "Chink" used in a friendly context, and I would no more use it in a song than I would the "n" word or "darkie". I have Chinese-American friends whom I know would be offended to hear that (and these are not people who are especially sensitive about PC-ness). I agree with Lepus that it's on a par with "ni**er". I'm a blue-eyed, sandy-haired, third (at least) generation American, but I don't think I have the right to be cavalier about terms like that with the reasoning that am antiquated name like "paleface" is an acceptable parallel. Just because it's "historical" doesn't mean it isn't antagonism.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Bert
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 04:13 PM

Oh course there are cultural differences with the intent of offence.
I grew up in and around London and although there was bigotry and offensiveness around, there was also the use of many terms without any offense being intended.
It was customary to poke light hearted fun at people who came from somewhere else. It could be anywhere else. A foreign country, another town, country versus town, and if someone came from London it was which side of the river, and if it was the same side of the river, which borough, and if it was the same borough, which street. And so on, it was all good fun.

So when people called Chinese food 'Chinky Nosh' it was with a certain amount of affection.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 04:14 PM

As I said, any term can be used as an insult if you are intent on insulting someone. Similarly, pretty well any term can be used in a friendly fashion if you are intent on being friendly. But there are some terms where misunderstandings can arise, so you go carefully.

In the context of this song, I think the friendly intent is pretty clear.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Anglo
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 04:41 PM

I suppose a new production of Chu Chin Chow would be out of the question.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 05:44 PM

McGrath

Your argument amounts to saying that its alright to insult someone if you hate the bastard - but not alright for the bastard to use the same word to describe himself!

Regards


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: GUEST,Liland
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 06:11 PM

We have a new pastor, Jay Zaremba, and last Sunday he referred to himself during the service as a "Polack", just in passing, then he caught himself and asked, "Max and Olga [the two parishioners with whom he shares ethnicity], can I call myself a Polack here?"

Ethnic terms are often used innocuously by members of the group but perceived as pejorative when used by outsiders; also, the offensiveness of a particular term can very dramatically from one locale to another or one decade to another. Nowadays, I don't think any Scandinavian-Americans take serious umbrage at "Norsky" or "Svensky", but once upon a time (there was a time when no reputable landlord in Seattle would rent to a Scandinavian — no discrimination involved, just didn't want to have to put up with their language and their boozin' and the smell of their lutefisk — and when businesses hereabouts posted
HELP WANTED
NO NORSKIES NEED APPLY

notices in their windows.

I recall the gradual discovery (by everyone except the NAACP!) of the offensiveness of "colored" as opposed to "Negro >> Black >> Afro-American >> African-American", and the subsequent rehabilitation and reintroduction, with a broader semantic field and heightening modishness, of "[people] of color".

One can't rely on a group member's evaluation of the situation, either. Most of the Eskimos I know call themselves Eskimos; but a few make quite a thing of anglicizing their proper terms, Inuit etc. Likewise some Basques are big on making sure their ethnonym starts with E... People are funny, and so are peoples, sometimes...

Liland


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: catspaw49
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 06:13 PM

I have never minded anything in a historical setting being used......but it does need to be explained. That can be done verbally or in the program notes of through other means. It can be educational to many to understand the whats and whys of songs and stories.

Done as a "stand alone" there is much left open to question. Without a context almost any of the above words can be found to be offensive. Is it so hard to set up the song or story? Why would that detract from the whole? Seems to me it would only enhance it.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Metchosin
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 07:05 PM

Tough call....As a resident of B.C and due to the horrendous treatment of the ethnic Chinese in this Province and the attitude of disdain and contempt, reoccurring here again with present immigration, the word "Chink" just makes my skin crawl. It has always been used in this part of the world with utter contempt. To some extent the word "Chinaman" has less negative connotations, as the term is primarily archaic and possibly also because the word "Chinatown" is readily accepted as non-pejorative.

Historically, Chinese men were wanted as a form of slave labour here, in the construction of rail lines and in fish canning plants, but they were not wanted as human beings. Canada couldn't get away with something quite as blatant as slave labour, so they devised other more or less subtle means to "keep them in their place". For example, incouraging male only immigration by the use of the use of the Head Tax and at a rate that was beyond most of the men means to bring their wives and children over. Others included the lack of voting rights and other benefits of being a citizen of this fine country and the habit of abandoning them to fend for themselves, on a small island, just off Sidney, outside of Victoria, with little benefit of medical attention, if it was thought they might have Leprosy and sadly enough, the last few in the list occurred during my lifetime.

This was a hard thing for me to resolve as a child. These were the parents and grandparents of the kids I roller skated with and went to school with, my friends.

It is noteworthy that the Provincial Museum, as a painful reminder of those times, has a piece of machinery used in the early automation of the fish plants, with the Words "Iron Chink" emblazoned on it. The expression "doesn't have a Chinaman's chance" came from the use of the Chinese, to light the dynamite fuses during railway construction, with the accompanying horrendous loss of life. The expression, as used in B.C., at least always seemed to come with a sense of sympathy and awe associated with it; that one would even consider something so foolhardy. However looking at a set of old house plans and noticing the notation of the "Chinaman's Room" in the basement, makes me rather uncomfortable.

But I do not think we should deny history. I think, if this music selection was prefaced with an explanation, as suggested by Gary T. it might prove valuable.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 07:18 PM

"Your argument amounts to saying that its alright to insult someone if you hate the bastard - but not alright for the bastard to use the same word to describe himself!"

Not quite - I'm saying that when used by people who are not English, the term"Brit" doesn't necessarily have any more or less pejorative content than the term "English" but that when used by English people of themselves, it implies that the English are a lot more unpleasant than they really are.

It's an odd term, because most of the other terms we've had in this thread are very rarely used by people of themselves. And I feel that there's a way in which the English are being tempted into identifying with a dangerous and unpleasant national, and that this is linked with this term.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Lepus Rex
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 07:21 PM

Not renting to an ethnic group 'cause you don't want to "put up with their language and their boozin' and the smell of their lutefisk..." That would be descrimination, Liland. Landlords like that wouldn't have lasted long over here in MN ;)

Polak isn't really a slur, is it? It's just been appropriated by bigots.

---Lepus Rex


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: rabbitrunning
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 07:36 PM

I've read the whole thread, and I'll admit I can't really tell about this specific song without seeing lyrics. The term "chink" is generally used derogatorily, but given that the play is specifically a wartime setting, it might go over with some decent program notes. I do like the notion expressed above that it's nice to see all of those decades of immigration to England prior to WW2 recognized, along with the efforts that the immigrants made during the war.

But it all depends on how it's phrased, of course. If Mr. Wu is incompetent because he can't see through the slits of his eyes or something hideous like that, then of course the song just won't fly.

On the whole, I prefer my history without too much cleaning up. What offends one generation becomes the lingua franca of a later generation, and what was once fairly harmless can turn bitter. Give the context and then don't apologize too much for the words.

As for song lyrics like those in "Shortnin' bread," I have never heard that song sung with the 'n' word, nor seen it written that way. And I'm all for whoever changed it, if someone did, to "children" or "babies" for every day use. Some song's are just too much fun to lose!

But if we were discussing the history of the song, then it would be appropriate to use the less acceptable term so long as the context is given. How else do you track down when the change was made?


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 07:57 PM

Here's a site with a midi of the song, along with masses more by George, but no words, which doesn't really help.

I don't know this one, but going by the Formby songs I have heard, I can't imagine any kind of malice in it.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 08:01 PM

Naah - that's not quite the right site (though it links to it) - this should the right one


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Metchosin
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 09:07 PM

The lyrics are here Seems Mr. Wu was more than an air-raid warden.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: MarkS
Date: 05 Oct 00 - 10:57 PM

Hey Troll: Train your Isle of Mann friends to call you Bubba!


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: radriano
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 11:32 AM

I've read through this thread very carefully and all I can say is this. No matter how much you rationalize it the term "chink" is offensive in any context.

There was another thread asking if a discussion at Mudcat had ever changed your views on something. Well, this one has for me. I've been learning a shanty called "Young Girls" which contains some possibly offensive words and I've been struggling with whether I should introduce the song in its historical context and then sing the original words or just change the wording. I've just decided to not sing the offensive words.

If you sing offensive lyrics or tell racist jokes you perpetuate racism. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I have told a lot of racist jokes. I've tried to placate myself by saying that it's okay to tell racist jokes if you choose your audience carefully but I realize now that that's bullshit.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Metchosin
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 01:08 PM

Well having looked at the lyrics, Formby definitely wasn't singing about an all pull together attitude in England, despite race. Its definitely of the "poking fun at a foreign man" ilk and the song suggests that Mr. Wu was perhaps a coward and worse, the Airforce song suggests he's a traitor. I think this might require a lot of explanation in the program notes, so I reserve the right to change my mind, Yuk! perform this song? Why bother. Its not just one word, its the whole attitude.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 02:05 PM

There's a Chinese laundry man, the famous Mr. Wu
He's chucked his limehouse laundry shop and his window cleaning, too
He's got another job, and it's one of the best
Now he's doing his bit for England like the rest.

I'd call that last line definitely "an all pull together attitude in England, despite race." It's "poking fun at a foreign man" in exactly the same way as a song like "Donald where's yer troosers" pokes fun at the Scots.

Mr Wu is definitely seen as a good lad in all the Formby songs - a funny foreign lad maybe, but a good lad none the less for that, and no suggestion at all that he's a coward, let alone a traitor.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: GUEST,The lyrics to Formby songs
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 02:18 PM

they are to be found link from my site to JOIN THE GEORGE FORMBY SOCIETY..........you dont need tto join just pinch the words

Gerry

http://www.formby54.freeserve.co.uk


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Bert
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 02:20 PM

I guess Rad, that you have a rather strict definition of 'offensive'. I suppose by your definition you'd call the badinage between Spaw and myself and other Mudcatters offensive.
It might appear that way to the naive, but the reality of the situation is that, there is no offense intended; we're just having fun.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Lepus Rex
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 02:31 PM

bert, I encourage you to go up to a group of black folks, and say, 'Howdy, niggers! Hahaha, just kidding! Isn't this fun???' and see what happens. Or change that, if you're black, to a group of Hispanic people, and from 'niggers' to 'wetbacks'

Do you think no 'chinks' read this, man?

----Lepus Rex


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Bert
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 03:08 PM

It's the CONTEXT that matters. Many black folks use the N word amongst themselves as a term of endearment. I was trying to disagree with Rad when he says that it's offensive in ANY context. That is just not true.

For example, I sang "Congo River" once with a black friend in the audience and he loved the song and wasn't at all offended by the term "Black Sheep". But I'm sure that I could have used that very same term in an offensive manner if I had wanted to.

I also had another black friend refer to me as 'A Honky' one time. I wasn't offended because I knew that it was just a part of his speech and that he didn't intend to offend me.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Lepus Rex
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 03:28 PM

Do you think this song was written by another 'chink,' bert? A kind of inside joke amongst 'chinamen?' I don't. Sounds to me like it was written by some racist white fuck who thought 'chinks' were sneaky little bucktoothed buffoons. But I guess he only meant it in fun, eh? Ha-ha-ha.

---Lepus Rex


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 03:48 PM

Well George Formby had buckteeth, if that means what I think it means. I think you have to read rather hard between the lines to see any antagonism or hatred in those songs. "Racist white fuck" - I think you'd find there are black and Chinese people in Lancashire who would take great exception to that description of a man who is still held in great affection.

The truth is, we do find the differences between each other amusing. The important thing is to make sure that this isn't expressed in a way that is hurtful to each other, or encourages people to despise each other. At different times and places the rules of thumb for doing that are going to vary.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: radriano
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 03:49 PM

Bert, I guess I am acquiring a rather strict definition of offensive. I don't really feel anger at anyone whose posted to this thread. But, since you asked, I really do think that you're fooling yourself when you say "we're just having fun."

I really don't want to preach to anyone and my intent is not to look down my nose at anyone. As I have said, I find that I am guilty of racism myself and I've always thought I was pretty much a liberal. What I am saying is that I need to change my ways. In the end, I think it's possible for us to agree about disagreeing on the subject.


Regards,
Radriano


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Metchosin
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 04:01 PM

McGrath
A fire-bomb dropped one day, so close to him they say
That he deserves a medal they all vow
But perhaps what you don't understand, he put the fire out but he didn't use sand
'Cause Mr. Wu's an Air Raid Warden Now.
What image to you get from this as a method of putting out a fire? Donald just wears kilts he doesn't piss himself.

or to understand the whole tenure of the Mr. Wu songs how about this little gem

He's in the Air Force is Mr. Wu, he's a rootin' toot.in' shootin' pilot too.
His Coat of Arms is painted rather tricky,
It's two stiff collars and a shirt that's got no elbow.
He goes out with his lady friend, Sally May Wong.
They love to talk of aeroplanes, now don't get me wrong,
He's so keen on his work he takes his blueprints along.
'Cause he's in the Air Force now is Mr. Wu.

How's he doing his bit by giving away blueprints McGrath or have I got Mr Formby's meaning wrong too?

Sorry McGrath, you can take offense at me calling myself a moron in a past thread, I understand, but I will still stand by what I said: "to consider the word "moron" to be as much of a slur as using the term "nigger or "chink" to me means, you have little understanding of the hateful degrading connotation of those two words here in my part of the world."


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 04:35 PM

"Chink" is a word that can be used offensively, and it's more offensive in some places than others, and in some social contexts. In my part of the world, as I said I'd rate it more offensive than Jerry, less so than Kraut, and about the same as Frog. I wouldn't myself be likely to use any of those words.

The quotes - yes the suggestion is he pisses himslef and puts the bomb out. Or alternatively that he uses his ingenuity and improvises in a crisis. In either case, no insult need be assumed. Bloody scary things, incendiary bombs. No shame is being frightened of them, and people in wartime Britain knew that. It's the kind of joke any one in that context might have made - compare it with Guarding the Home Guard Home, where the hero who runs like hell when the Germans appear is George hmself.

As for the other one, I think you misinterpret a double entendre. George Formby went in for a lot of them, not very subtle ones either. And you've got to remember, this is the middle of the war, the Chinese are allies. Suiggesting that a Chinese bloke who has been the hero of a sequence of popular songs, has suddenly turned into a traitor - that would have smacked of defeatism. It really is a highly unlikely interpretation.




--- Link repaired-quotes added (that's what cut it off, McGrath) ---
-- PA --


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