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An Avoidable and Deceptively Benign Distraction which Masks an Intractable Mess

This Story and more specifically this story were the grains of irritant that led to this post.

Also, the second story mentioned how much bloggers were mentioning the controversy, so I seem honor bound to pile on.

For people to lazy to RTFAs, the basic summation is discussing whether the phrases "eenie, meenie, minie, moe" and "tar baby" can ever be used in polite conversation after some very uncouth men used them in horrible contexts dozens of years back. How long does it take a stench to wear off, otherwise suitable words?

"Tar Baby" holds a special place in my heart, since growing up in MN, I had *no* idea it had anything but a positive context of one of my most favorite childhood tales. So when I got big and grown up, and involved in complex problems, it's not suprising that I used it.

The first time my boss pulled me aside and asked me about it, I assured him he must be mistaken. That he simply wasn't familiar with the counter-culture story I was referencing, and must be confusing it with some other type of similar sounding, yet altogether different phrase.

The second time, I heard someone reference that their grandfather in the south often used it as a derogatory term. Well, I'm too much of a guilty liberal to fight that... But yet here I am. Not only defending a possible racial epitaph, but also doing so on timing so that it actually defends a criticism of Tony Snow...

I think the reason I can't let go of it, is that there simply exists no other word, story or even english phrase capable of expressing the idea. I liken it to the phrase "The lady doth protest too much", there is just no other way to say it, no other way to pull off that joke other than that phrase, no alternate way to invoke it.

I suppose there could be a push to rewrite the tale in a more modern context and call it "gluebaby" or something, but that has all the allure of yelling "Gosh" after hurting your thumb. Not to mention it may offend the vegans among us...

Oh well, I suppose I should probably start pointing out how I'm totally not racist, and that the historical context seems to strongly favor it being nothing more than necessary plot, since some might construed that as proof of my masking guilt for past racial indiscresions.

Which would really suck, since I hear the punishment for such infractions is being forcibly moved to Canada, and man, would that ever be terrible.

I mean, it's so cold there, and the health care, it's socialized! No one wants their tax dollars going towards that, especially now that the US dollar is so weak. Also, they're so far north, it'd be a wonder if they even know of the tales of Uncle Remus, let alone their tainted past... So please, I beg you, don't forcibly move me there by hiring moving trucks and selling my over priced American house for one in Canada. Anything but that.

8 comments:

Clearly, its been too long since you've spent some quality time with Kamil. Its hard to beleive I'm suggesting that he's a good influence, but after reading this post, I think its true.
by: Mike (contact) - 29 Jul '06 - 09:33
And the all important third data point:
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wi...
by: Kyle (contact) - 31 Jul '06 - 10:45
I'm unclear Mike, are you saying Kamil has a strong opinion on the appropriateness of using the term "tar baby"?
by: Kyle (contact) - 31 Jul '06 - 10:46
I remember one member of the Forest Lake extemp line up who used to use a tar baby introduction. I guess that would now result in being rode out on a rail. Although I can wax prosaic about the anti-Semitic roots of the word "shyster" and cringe when I hear the word "gypped," I never knew, until the Tony Snow debacle, that "tar baby" was offensive in origin. It's not that shocking, though, and objections to the use of the term seem a lot more reasonable than when people got upset about the use of the word niggardly. Not that I would EVER use that word at work. Especially not where *I* work. :)
by: Meg (contact) - 31 Jul '06 - 20:28
Its worse than I thought if you can't guess Kamil's feelings on politically correct language choice.
Now, if I can only come up with a way to force you back to Chicago more often...
by: Mike (contact) - 31 Jul '06 - 22:43
http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov...

Okay, setting aside the failure of the 8th Circuit to put any meaningful force behind Title VII, see page three. Kyle, you are *SO* getting deported to Canada.
by: Meg (contact) - 04 Aug '06 - 14:26
The only "tar baby" I have ever know was the comically used to be derogitory. I mean "tar baby" is such a funny word to funny to be derogitory in its nature. "Nigger" is bad it has that harsh "grrr" at the end that the "Krauts" seem fond enough of to sprinkle it through out thier god awful language. Being a "relativly fresh of the boat Pollock" who grew up in low income housing filled with "Spics, Reds, and Jigaboos" I realized that racial words can only hurt you if they are etched on a rock. It seems like the "Cracker" middle class families who raise their kids in white suburban communities are especially sensative to words but kids growing up in urban or low income settings tend not to be so tortured. Anyways words are words, no more no less. With out action they are worthless vibrations of air. For this reason I stopped caring when all the little "Wop" kids called me a "dumb Pollock" in high school, but when one of those bastards attacked my friend physically, you best believe it was on.
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Meta Information:

Title: An Avoidable and Deceptively Benign Distraction which Masks an Intractable Mess
Date posted: 27 Jul '06 - 22:50
Filed under: General
Word Count: 517 words
Good Karma: 105 (vote)
Bad Karma: 75 (vote)
Next entry:  sarcasm in an audience
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