Skip

Food-based nicknames for ethnic or cultural groups
February 25, 2012 7:44 AM   Subscribe

What are examples of ethnic groups being labelled or identified as an item of food (e.g. 'cracker')?

I found out last Summer that white Germans are sometimes referred to as 'kartoffel' (potato) by Turks, Slavic people and other 'non-white' Germans. Being from the Southern US, the mild similarity to the term 'cracker' struck me as interesting. On another tangential (but related) note, Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" statement is often misunderstood to be a goof on his part wherein he claimed to be a jelly doughnut.*

I imagine there are other possible examples out there, but I am drawing a bit of a blank. I would appreciate any suggestions that others might have.

* - According to a few sources I've found, although there is a doughnut called a Berliner, it wouldn't be referred to as just a 'Berliner.'
posted by Slothrop to Society & Culture (60 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Germans have also been called 'krauts'.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:46 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think 'cracker' is actually meant to refer to the food. There are apparently a couple theories, none of them food-based.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:50 AM on February 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


In the UK we call the french "frogs", presumably because they are reputed to eat frog's legs, and they call us "les rosbifs" on account of our predilection for Sunday dinners.
posted by emilyw at 7:50 AM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


French: Frogs (etymology disputed IIRC)
Brits: les rosbifs
posted by Jahaza at 7:51 AM on February 25, 2012


Potato-eater for Irish
Eggplant for black people (moulinyan or something like that in Italian)
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:51 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not ethnic but slang for women can be Tomato, Peach, or Twist (not sure if the last one is referring to lemon twist or what).
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:52 AM on February 25, 2012


Brits have also been called 'limeys'.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:54 AM on February 25, 2012


In Alaska, I heard "whitebread" and "pieface" referring to caucasians and eskimos, respectively.
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 7:55 AM on February 25, 2012


Katzenfresser is a German slur for Italians, meaning "cat-eater."
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:56 AM on February 25, 2012


Mexicans endure being called "beaners" by the less politically correct.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:59 AM on February 25, 2012


Cheese-eating surrender monkey for the French.

Fair warning, the rest of these are all pretty offensive ethnic slurs:

Beaner for Mexicans.

Oreo and banana or twinkie for blacks and East Asians respectively who are seen as overly assimilated to middle-class white culture - not a reference to a food they stereotypically eat, but rather things that are one color on the outside and white on the inside.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:00 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Misogynist gay men refer to women as fish.
posted by brujita at 8:02 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fish is also the name of a newbie in prison.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:04 AM on February 25, 2012


Children are sometimes called "sprout."

Small people are called "shrimp" or "small fry."

British guards at the Tower of London are the Beefeaters.

Nebraska sports teams are the Cornhuskers, and there are similar agricultural nicknames in lots of other places.

This one I'm less sure of: the Mayan language could refer to people in general as "walking corn."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:10 AM on February 25, 2012


French Canadians have been called "pea soups" and "Pepsis".
posted by maudlin at 8:12 AM on February 25, 2012


I have read that northern Italians are called polentoni by southern Italians, both because they eat polenta and because of the higher proportion of blonds relative to the rest of the Italian population--so they are both polenta eaters and polenta-colored.
posted by zorseshoes at 8:13 AM on February 25, 2012


During the First World War, the French referred to collectively to German soldiers as "Les Boche" which is French slang for cabbage. Like karotoffel, it was a reference to the German diet.
posted by three blind mice at 8:19 AM on February 25, 2012


A summer I spent interning in Washington DC, I met a bunch of Cornell students who called black people "melons" (short, I believe, for "watermelons"). I'm from the south, so I've been around blacks and racists a lot, but that was the first and only time I've heard "melon" used in that way.
posted by jayder at 8:20 AM on February 25, 2012


Oreos and apples for, respectively, blacks and Native Americans who are "white on the inside."
posted by drlith at 8:24 AM on February 25, 2012


On the Berliner thing: in German you don't use a definite article when describing certain things, such as your profession or where you're from.

Therefore:

"Ich bin Frankfurter." = I am a native of Frankfurt.
"Ich bin ein Frankfurter." = I am a delicious sausage.

"Ich bin Hamburger." = I am from Hamburg.
"Ich bin ein Hamburger." = I am a tasty beef patty inside a bun.

Think "I am Danish" versus "I am a Danish". The meaning gets through but you're still stuck with the sense that the speaker is a sort of pastry.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 8:30 AM on February 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


These are terrific responses! Some of them are leaving me smacking my head, because I wonder why I didn't think of them.

I am putting together a proposal for a public art project that investigates these definitions, how people use them and how they might apply them to themselves. The examples that each of you have contributed are really helping to define the idea for my proposal.

I welcome more responses as people think of them.
posted by Slothrop at 8:30 AM on February 25, 2012


Rice- bean- curry- or chicken-queen for gay men who prefer east Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern/South Asian or young men.
posted by brujita at 8:32 AM on February 25, 2012


lovedbymarylane, thank you for reminding me of one important part of my proposal - the project will take place in Berlin.

To follow up on what you write - from what I have read that is all correct and Kennedy's use of German might not have been as good as it could have been. However, also from what I've read, you wouldn't refer to the Berliner pastry as 'a Berliner.' It would be referred to as 'a Berliner pancake (donut).'
posted by Slothrop at 8:33 AM on February 25, 2012


Coconut is similar to banana, Oreo, apple, or Twinkie-it's a Latino who is brown on the outside, white on the inside.

Someone once scrawled "Mexi-melt" on my sister's arm with a Sharpie. I believe this was a Taco Bell menu item.

***proud multiracial Latina a.k.a. huuuuuge coconut***
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:36 AM on February 25, 2012


Oreo and banana or twinkie for blacks and East Asians respectively who are seen as overly assimilated to middle-class white culture
I've heard coconut used in a similar way to refer to Indians.
posted by peacheater at 8:37 AM on February 25, 2012


I've heard some environmentalists described as "watermelons" - green (environmentalist) on the outside and red (Communist) on the inside.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:42 AM on February 25, 2012


> On the Berliner thing: in German you don't use a definite article when describing certain things, such as your profession or where you're from.

This is a simplistic overstatement of a more complicated situation. Wikipedia covers it well:
There is a misconception that Kennedy made a risible error by saying Ich bin ein Berliner (emphasis added): the claim is made that Kennedy referred to himself not as a "citizen of Berlin", but as a "jelly donut" (US) or "jam doughnut" (UK), known in parts of Germany as a "Berliner". Kennedy should, supposedly, have said Ich bin Berliner to mean "I am a person from Berlin", and that adding the indefinite article ein to his statement implied he was a non-human Berliner, thus, "I am a jelly doughnut". However, the indefinite article ein is omitted when speaking of an individual's profession or residence but is necessary when speaking in a figurative sense as Kennedy did. Since the president was not literally from Berlin but only declaring his solidarity with its citizens, "Ich bin Berliner" would not have been appropriate.
Furthermore, "Whereas the citizens of Berlin do refer to themselves as Berliner, they generally do not refer to jelly doughnuts as Berliner. While these are known as Berliner Pfannkuchen (literally, 'Berlin pancake'), commonly shortened to Berliner in other areas of Germany, they are simply called Pfannkuchen (pancakes) in and around Berlin."

Interestingly, the earliest known example of the misconception appears to be in Len Deighton's spy novel Berlin Game, published in 1983.
posted by languagehat at 8:51 AM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Growing up in Ontario, Canada, Americans used to refer to us as "cheeseheads". Never under stood why - but here's a definition.
posted by what's her name at 8:59 AM on February 25, 2012


As someone who lives outside of Green Bay, that's just not right!

Chowderheads are from New England.
Poor poker players are fish or donkeys.
posted by carmicha at 9:09 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


the indefinite article ein is omitted when speaking of an individual's profession or residence but is necessary when speaking in a figurative sense as Kennedy did.

Ahh. Okay. This makes sense. I think it's confusing because it's so unusual to speak figuratively after "ich bin". Usually it'd be the subject of the sentence: "Ein Berliner ist stark" usw. Clearly ich bin misinformed.

Slothrop, to make up for that derail, New Zealanders are frequently called 'kiwis'. Although I think that was actually based on the native bird, and the fruit came later...
posted by lovedbymarylane at 9:09 AM on February 25, 2012


"Dog-eater" is evidently a popular one all over. I first heard of it as a Japanese epithet for Koreans and other foreigners, Urban Dictionary considers it to refer to Asians in English, and this book says that it has been used by many Native American groups to refer to each other and that in many languages in India it refers to lowest-caste people.

In the course of looking for that I came across a site called the Racial Slur Database that lists many more:
  • Apple - Used by Native Americans as derogatory for other Native Americans who are red on the outside but white on the inside.
  • Apple - Blacks - Has to do with "hanging from a tree".
  • Aunt Jamima - Blacks - After the stereotypically Black trademark picture on "Aunt Jemima"-brand breakfast foods.
  • Bagel-Dog - Jews - From Kosher "bagel dogs" - a Kosher sausage inside of a bagel.
  • Berry Picker - Hispanics - Refers to Hispanics who would work berry fields in California, specifically illegal immigrants, as their employer didn't have to pay them as much.
  • Bruised Banana - Asians - A "banana" who acts black.
  • Buckwheat - Blacks - Refers to Buckwheat, a Black character on "The Little Rascals."
  • Bug-Eater - Asians - Many Asians eat bugs such as Locusts and Grasshoppers.
  • Burnt Cracker - Blacks - Used as a response to Blacks who call Whites crackers.
  • Cabbage - Whites - Small town farm trash that wore spotted welder beanie caps and carried concealed knives to school.
  • Caneater - Australians - They consume a lot of canned beer.
  • Cashew - Jews - Catholic Jews. Mainly, the children of a Jew and a Catholic. Might have originated from a Saturday Night Live skit (doubtful).
  • Cheeser - Canadians - Used primarily in northern Washington State, refers to Canadians who cross the border to shop for big blocks of inexpensive American Cheese.
  • Cocoa Puff - Blacks/Whites - Represents a slang term for Blacks or a derogatory term for a White woman who sleeps or has children from Blacks. Originated from the cereal of the same name that turns white milk into chocolate milk.
  • Cocolo - Blacks - Dominicans used this term for Blacks because they look like "Coco"nuts and it sounds really African.
  • Cornbread - Blacks - It was in the movie "Shaft." Apparently Black people like Corn Bread.
  • Curry-Muncher - Indians - They eat Curry.
  • Egg - Whites - White males that try to really get into East Asian culture and date Asian women. White on the outside, yellow on the inside (opposite of banana).
  • Fig Gobbler - Arabs/East Indian - They eat figs.
  • Grape-Stomper - Italians & French - They make wine.
  • Grease Ball/Bag - Greeks, Italians & Hispanics - Possibly because of the grease they sometimes put in their hair or because of the types of food they make.
  • Herring Choker - Scandinavians - Scandinavians are known for eating lots of fish.
  • Hot Dog Eater - Americans - Used by Canadians, referring to American tourists who eat a lot of hot dogs.
  • Kaaskop - Dutch - Dutch for "cheese head".
  • Macaroni - Italians - The famous macaroni noodle originated in Italy.
  • Makaronifresser - Italians - German. Fressen is impolite term for eating (people essen, but animals fressen).
  • Melanzana - Blacks - Italian for "eggplant" - very dark black people have a purplish tint to their skin, so does eggplant.
  • Moss Eater -Whites - White trash in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Nacho - Hispanics - Based on the popular snack.
  • Neechee - Native Americans - Love of Lychee fruit.
  • Pepperbelly - Hispanics - They eat a lot of peppers
  • Pizzabagel - Mixed Races - Italian/Jewish mix. Popular in New York as Italian and Jewish neighborhoods grew together.
  • Ragu - Italians - Spaghetti sauce.
  • Salmon Nigger - Native Americans - Salmon was a primary food source for Northwestern Native Americans.
  • Spudnigger - Irish - Irish/Potato relationship. Also, Spudfucker.
  • Taco Bender - Hispanics - Self-explanatory.
  • Tater Tot - Irish - Irish Child.
  • Tea-wop - British - Tea-drinking immigrants.
  • Teabag - British - Self-explanatory.
  • Vodkalky - Russians - Vodka + alcoholics. Plural: Vodkalkies.
  • White Chocolate - Whites - Whites who try to act like Blacks.
  • Wonder Bread - Whites - Wonder Bread is white.
  • Wonder Bread Wop - Italians - Used by Italians to describe Italians who are more assimilated into "North American" culture.
  • Yolk - Asians - Egg yolks are yellow.

posted by XMLicious at 9:12 AM on February 25, 2012


One of my friends calls her husband "wonderbread" because he's very unadventurous and somewhat boring in a middle-class, small town, white way, especially when it comes to food.
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:20 AM on February 25, 2012


This is a fairly common motif. The only one I can think of that hasn't already been mentioned is that Icelanders refer to Danes pejoratively as bauni (plural: baunar). Baun means bean and adding the -i/-ar ending turns it into a demonym, i.e. bean person/people. I don't know the origin of that. I can't think of another food-based ethnic slur in Icelandic, though.
posted by Kattullus at 9:43 AM on February 25, 2012


I've heard various latin american groups called "platanos," primarily hondurans and dominicans.
posted by elizardbits at 9:51 AM on February 25, 2012


If you read the Studs Lonigan trilogy by James T. Farrell, which presumably employs real-life street slang from 20s-era Chicago, Jews are referred to as "noodle soup eaters."
posted by Bromius at 10:21 AM on February 25, 2012


"Ich bin ein Berliner" and "Ich bin Berliner" generally means the same. You can refer to both food and person with or without article. Mostly, it depends on slang or dialect.
In the case of Kennedy, "Ich bin ein Berliner" has the undertones stated above - "Ich bin Berliner" would imply he was born in Berlin, which isn't the case. Adding the article also implies to be "one of them/the people" in this context. At least, that's what I as a native speaker hear, where "Ich bin Berliner" wouldn't have that implication and be a neutral statement, describing the birthplace.

In some areas, Italians or immigrants from Italy are called "maccaronis".
Dutch people are sometimes called "Kaasköppe" (roughly "cheeseheads").
"Krauts" for Germans and "Frog eaters" for French is also common.
posted by MinusCelsius at 10:24 AM on February 25, 2012


On the 'highly offensive' side, I believe I saw 'kraut' mentioned but I've also heard that 'spic' (for Italians) is derived from spaghetti.
posted by Lady Li at 10:40 AM on February 25, 2012


Cool Papa Bell: which is "the Mayan language" you refer to? Kaqchikel? K'iche'? Or one of the other few dozen?
posted by univac at 10:40 AM on February 25, 2012


Brits have also been called 'limeys'

allegedly due to British sailors eating limes
(citrus, to prevent scurvy)
posted by Rash at 10:43 AM on February 25, 2012


Belgians are sometimes called "Frites" (fries - well, specifically, the yummy Belgian fries which are far superior to any others (I miss them)) - at least in Luxembourg and (I think?) France.

Also to address the Berliner thing again, it's definitely referred to as "Berliner" (with no Pfannkuchen addition) at least in some parts of Germany. Funnily enough I was reading the Krapfen Wikipedia entry just a few days ago:

Norddeutschland, Rheinland, Westfalen: In großen Teilen Norddeutschlands, von Mecklenburg über Schleswig-Holstein und Niedersachsen bis nach Westfalen und dem Rheinland sowie in Teilen der Pfalz, in Teilen Baden-Württembergs (vor allem im Westen), im Saarland und in der Deutschschweiz werden sie „Berliner“ oder „Berliner Ballen“ genannt. [source]

So, er, to paraphrasedly translate, in large parts of Northern & Western Germany they are called either Berliner or Berliner Pfannkuchen. "Berliner" would definitely be understood - as in, if you said "I'm eating a Berliner", no one would look at you funny.
(Also, in Luxembourg (which is extremely important!) they're definitely only ever a "Berliner".)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 10:44 AM on February 25, 2012


Apple-knockers: rubes from Upstate New York, such as myself.
posted by jgirl at 10:55 AM on February 25, 2012


In the book Shogun the Japanese refer to Koreans as "Garlic eaters". I don't know if that's something that Clavell made up, though.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:59 AM on February 25, 2012


New Zealanders are frequently called 'kiwis'. Although I think that was actually based on the native bird, and the fruit came later...

The fruit are called kiwifruit not kiwis, and the people are named after the bird (so are the fruit). The bird is called a kiwi because that's the sound it makes (kee-wee). 'Kiwi" for the person is most definitely not a food-related nickname.
posted by shelleycat at 11:09 AM on February 25, 2012


When I was living in Texas I often heard my Mexican-American friends refer to white people as "bolillo". Years later I was in Mexico and went to a bakery and lo and behold, a very popular bread sold there was called a "bolillo". Here's the wikipedia definition:

Bolillo is a slang term used in some parts of Mexico and the United States to refer to Anglos (Caucasian), due to the white interior of the bread. The usage is similar to the word Gringo or Gabacho, but it is usually a pejorative slur, referring to the individual(s) as "white bread" - one who is culturally unaware
posted by Sal and Richard at 11:15 AM on February 25, 2012


My Hawaiian friends were often called "pineapples" when they were in the military.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:28 AM on February 25, 2012


In New Zealand, Pacific Islanders are sometimes called coconuts. However so are Maori or Pacific Islanders who are brown on the outside but white in the middle. In other words, the same as Juliet Banana said about Latinos -- I didn't realise it was such a widespread term.
posted by tracicle at 11:28 AM on February 25, 2012


In Japanese, "bata-kusai" is an old phrase referring to caucasians. It means "stinking of butter."
posted by illenion at 11:34 AM on February 25, 2012


My grandmother recalled before and during WWII being called a "mackerel snapper" for being Catholic. It's pretty old-fashioned, but every now and then you see it in an older novel and I've seen it a few times in columns by, like, older newspaper columnists (always saying "here's an old rude term," not actually using it). By WWII, my grandma said, it wasn't a SUPER-rude, but it was on the list of slurs her WAVES unit wasn't allowed to say. (I don't know if there were rules about conduct specifically for women, or if they just had a strict commanding officer, or what. I didn't think to ask.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:26 PM on February 25, 2012


OP, you might be interested in this great song about the word "beaner" - Frijolero by Molotov (maybe NSFW: foul language in both English and Spanish).
posted by lunasol at 12:48 PM on February 25, 2012


Redheads are gingers or carrot tops.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:01 PM on February 25, 2012


As a child I once heard my neighbor's father, who I hadn't realized was racist, root for a black player on the Red Soxby saying "come on Hershey bar."

Not sure if that's a common thing or just something he came up with on his own.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:46 PM on February 25, 2012


Swedes are sometimes (but not as often as many swedes think) called "garlics" by immigrants. This may seem counterintuitive, but the word for garlic is vitlök, literally whiteonion. Onion is also slang for idiot, so it's got. Like, levels. Maaaan.

It occurs to me that the somewhat more common slang term also includes food, svenne banan or swedey-banana. No idea why.
posted by Iteki at 2:12 PM on February 25, 2012


High school bullies use the term "pizzaface" to taunt kids who have a bad case of acne.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 2:31 PM on February 25, 2012


Bermudians are called onions, after Bermuda onions.
posted by jgirl at 2:33 PM on February 25, 2012


Following up on tracicle's comment, I have heard Polynesians referring to New Zealand Maori as "kumara" (sweet potatoes), in revenge for the "coconut" term.
posted by lollusc at 4:18 PM on February 25, 2012


My friend's Italian family (in Ontario) called non Italians "mangia cake", referring to the boring (and sweet?) bread we ate.
posted by cider at 5:41 PM on February 25, 2012


This one I'm less sure of: the Mayan language could refer to people in general as "walking corn."
Cool Papa Bell: which is "the Mayan language" you refer to? Kaqchikel? K'iche'? Or one of the other few dozen?
After a little googling, it looks like Michael Polian used the phrase "corn walking" in The Omnivore's Dilemma, but he just chalks it up to "descendants of the Maya living in Mexico," and he doesn't cite a source or mention a specific language. I'm guessing he's passing on a third-hand story here, and this might just be one of those umpteen-words-for-snow things.

Still, it seems plausible, and for all I know his third-hand information is accurate. If nothing else, there's a really widespread Mesoamerican creation story — it crops up in the Popol Vuh, for instance — where the gods make humanity out of corn dough. So the image has definitely been floating around that part of the world, and there's no reason why it couldn't have gotten lexicalized in one of the Mayan languages.

(In K'iche', which is the only one I can speak at all, there isn't a colloquial expression that looks like "corn people" or "walking corn," though I'm willing to bet you could find something like that used in poetry. "Corn people" would be ixim winaq, which shows up a few places online, but mostly in sort of new-agey contexts or in straight-up retellings of the Popol Vuh. Possibly relatedly, Mayan language activists have been trying to get Iximulew — literally, "Cornland" — to catch on as a K'iche' name for Guatemala, but it's definitely a recent addition to the language, and most people still just say Guatemala whether they're speaking Spanish or K'iche'.)

Anyway, long story short, the K'iche' don't call themselves "corn walking" in normal conversation, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the Maya in Mexico did.

Hi! I'm on Metafilter and I could overthink a napkin full of tortillas!
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:50 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fruitcake for a gay man, tart for a promiscuous woman.
posted by null14 at 7:00 PM on February 25, 2012


In the opposite direction, Samoas as a type of Girl Scout cookie.
posted by null14 at 7:03 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rice Boys or Ricers, referring to east Asian guys who drive souped up import cars, or Rice Rockets.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:47 PM on February 26, 2012


« Older How do I stop paying vehicle e...   |  MoneyFilter: A small windfall ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post