what’s in a name?

posted by missmsian

Why is “black-” the prefix for everything bad? Blacklist, blackball, blackguard, blackmail, blackout … you get the idea.

I did a similar search for “yellow-” and “brown-“.

yellow-bellied: easily frightened
have a yellow streak down one’s back: to be afraid
yellow journalism: irresponsible, sensationalist reporting designed to sell more papers

Yellow-Azn guys struggle with their portrayals in pop culture as either emasculated, passive nice guys (Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles and Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) or emotionless ninjas/kung fu warriors (um, every Jackie Chan movie ever made, or Jet Li in Romeo Must Die).

Most of the idioms that include the word “yellow” are about cowardice, which can be defined similarly to passivity. The anomaly is “yellow journalism,” which refers to cunning and trickery, characteristics also associated with Azns going back as far as the Yellow Peril (think: stereotypical Azn gambling dens).

be browned off: to be angry or disgusted
brown bagger: term originally referred to a person who packed his/her own alcohol in a brown bag to carry in public spaces; associated with alcoholism
brown study: to be absentminded

Stereotypes of brown-Azn guys range from terrorist to lazy or stupid. Again, the idioms that use “brown” reflect these popular (mis)representations.

Interesting how racism is sometimes built right into our language.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s