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'Offensive' words in song lyrics

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McGrath of Harlow 10 Oct 00 - 07:19 AM
GUEST,John Hill 10 Oct 00 - 06:46 AM
jofield 09 Oct 00 - 11:22 PM
GUEST,Murray MacLeod 09 Oct 00 - 07:48 PM
GUEST,Murray MacLeod 09 Oct 00 - 07:44 PM
GUEST,John Nolan 09 Oct 00 - 07:23 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Oct 00 - 07:02 PM
Seamus Kennedy 09 Oct 00 - 06:51 PM
Bert 09 Oct 00 - 12:24 PM
MartinRyan 09 Oct 00 - 05:05 AM
MartinRyan 09 Oct 00 - 04:37 AM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Oct 00 - 07:28 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 07 Oct 00 - 09:02 PM
Ely 07 Oct 00 - 06:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Oct 00 - 05:53 PM
Doctor John 07 Oct 00 - 05:33 PM
Jim Dixon 06 Oct 00 - 07:31 PM
Haruo 06 Oct 00 - 07:30 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Oct 00 - 07:18 PM
Doctor John 06 Oct 00 - 05:39 PM
Bert 06 Oct 00 - 05:27 PM
Doctor John 06 Oct 00 - 04:58 PM
Dave the Gnome 06 Oct 00 - 04:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Oct 00 - 04:35 PM
Metchosin 06 Oct 00 - 04:01 PM
radriano 06 Oct 00 - 03:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Oct 00 - 03:48 PM
Lepus Rex 06 Oct 00 - 03:28 PM
Bert 06 Oct 00 - 03:08 PM
Lepus Rex 06 Oct 00 - 02:31 PM
Bert 06 Oct 00 - 02:20 PM
GUEST,The lyrics to Formby songs 06 Oct 00 - 02:18 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Oct 00 - 02:05 PM
Metchosin 06 Oct 00 - 01:08 PM
radriano 06 Oct 00 - 11:32 AM
MarkS 05 Oct 00 - 10:57 PM
Metchosin 05 Oct 00 - 09:07 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 08:01 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 07:57 PM
rabbitrunning 05 Oct 00 - 07:36 PM
Lepus Rex 05 Oct 00 - 07:21 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 07:18 PM
Metchosin 05 Oct 00 - 07:05 PM
catspaw49 05 Oct 00 - 06:13 PM
GUEST,Liland 05 Oct 00 - 06:11 PM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 05 Oct 00 - 05:44 PM
Anglo 05 Oct 00 - 04:41 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Oct 00 - 04:14 PM
Bert 05 Oct 00 - 04:13 PM
Ely 05 Oct 00 - 04:12 PM
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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Oct 00 - 07:19 AM

"Congratulations on keeping your cool in the midst of provocation." Thanks Murray - but any provocation really didn't register. I'm just too thick-skinned. Probably comes from being a social worker for all those years, and a journaliust before that.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: GUEST,John Hill
Date: 10 Oct 00 - 06:46 AM

I note that Steve Parkes mentioned "Showboat". Has anyone ever heard the original (1929?) recording that Paul Robeson made of "Ol' man river"?..
The original first line is "Niggers all work on the mississippi". Most people will know Robeson's history in black civil rights. He obviously felt that in the context of the period that the story is set that these words wore appropriate or he would have refused to have sung it.
For the film in 1933(?) Robeson re-recorded the song with the words "Black man works on the Mississippi" but I have to say that the original, to me at least, is more effective in reminding me of attitudes to black people at that time.
To say that there are no times when you can use these words is just not true.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: jofield
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 11:22 PM

I am continually amazed by some people's indignant claim to a right to use offensive, racist language to demonstrate their steadfastness in the face of "over-zealous PCers" or in the guise of "historical accuracy". Neither excuse sticks -- there is no good reason to use racially or ethnically derogatory language before an audience -- none. As a bluegrasser, I've changed "pickaninny" to "little children", and the song is in fact better for it ("Mississippi Shore"). The ridiculous "coon" song Bert quotes was almost certainly written by white Tin Pan Alley practitioners looking for a lucrative hit song. You could dump all such tunes from the 1890-1920 era into the Charles River and the world would be none the worse, morally -- or musically.

James, in Bristol, RI

PS -- Up here in New England, a Yankee is a white, Protestant blue-blood.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: GUEST,Murray MacLeod
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 07:48 PM

Mcgrath, I have always found your contributions to be the most lucid and restrained on the Forum. Congratulations on keeping your cool in the midst of provocation.

Murray


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: GUEST,Murray MacLeod
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 07:44 PM


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: GUEST,John Nolan
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 07:23 PM

The last verse of The Unreconstructed Rebel goes:

And when the war was over I joined the Ku Klux Klan,
And for the glorious Union, I still don't give a damn,
I love to see a nigger hanging from a tree,
But if it was a Yankee, it's all the same to me. Of course these words are enormously offensive, but of historical importance as a measure of the hate and bitterness that existed in the South after, in fact long after, the Civil War. To soften or omit the lyrics would be to deny part of the whole unpleasant truth.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 07:02 PM

So can all the non-slang labels. For anything. "Look - another ***king bodhran-player" (Putting in the stars somehow makes it even more offensive, because it sets you thinking how to fill them. And you have a choice.)

The offence always lies in the intent of the speaker, as interpreted by the recipient...


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 06:51 PM

All the ethnic slang terms can be offensive, epecially when preceded by the word "fuckin'." Seamus


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Bert
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 12:24 PM

If the environment is such that the singer intends no offence and the audience are not offended then why should there be a problem, whatever the word?

Having said that, there are many songs that I don't sing because they would cause offence.
Here's one that nowadays seems incredible. How could anyone write such a song?

There's a mighty heap of trouble brewing down in Tennesee,
and it's all about a little yellow coon.
Now this little pickaninny was as black as he could be
on the morn that he was born the first of June.
Now the cause of this commotion was the fact the other night,
exactly in the fullness of the moon,
this little pickaninny changed his color from black to white,
and in the morn they found a little yellow coon.

Sitting by the fire in his Mammy's arms
as she sings to him this tune
Honey don't you cry, wipe your shiny eye,
There's going to be a little yellow coon.
Never mind your color if your heart ain't black,
better days are coming soon,
Honey don't you cry, wipe your shiny eye,
There's going to be a little yellow coon.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 05:05 AM

Whoops! For "disguise" in the p.s. read "describe"! Sorry about that. Too much assonance!

Regards


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 Oct 00 - 04:37 AM

McGrath

"Tory" is indeed an interesting one. I think you need to go a further step back in the derivation - almost certainly to the Gaelic (Irish) word "tóir" - hunt.

Regards

p.s. I still think your analysis of "Brit" is disingenuous at best - much as I despise the "little Englander" syndrome you disguise (there's an irony in that term, also/)


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Oct 00 - 07:28 PM

Of course, here the word's being used specifically for shock effect


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 07 Oct 00 - 09:02 PM

Eeny meeny miney mo, (spelling?)
Catch a nigger by the toe..."

What place these days for a couplet such as that, except as a museum piece to remind us how crass we can be? If a kid came out with that in the street, people of any colour would be entitled to be offended, and no good saying the kid really meant no harm.

Not sure I'm on the same planet as you Bert. I just don't seem to bump into these many blacks who go around calling each other niggers. And if these words are OK in context, what's the context where it's OK to call a black African "kaffir"?


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Ely
Date: 07 Oct 00 - 06:50 PM

I don't think the song always becomes nonsensical. "Year of Jubilo" would become nonsensical, but "Rose of Alabama", which perpetuates a stereotype that I find unsavory, could just as easily be sung with its words adapted. It would not have the same historical context, of course, but for purposes of everyday singing, it's just a matter of whether one is singing of one's girlfriend, or whether one is singing of one's girlfriend in an 1840's 'pickaninny' caricature.

Besides, I can control what I want words to mean to me, but I cannot so much control what they mean to my audience.

And yes, I can see preserving original words in cases of historical song collections, movies, etc, (although I personally might choose not to participate in them, given the opportunity), but I would not perform them on my own behalf. Depending on the audience, I might explain that I had changed the words. Kind of like sex ed--it can be worse if people find it on their own.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Oct 00 - 05:53 PM

Depends why you're singing the song - if you're singing it as a historical record set in a historical period, changing the words is dodgy, because you are in danger of falsifying history.

But if you're singing it in the first person, so to speak, rather than in character, and it's a song through which you are expressing yourself, there's no reason you shouldn't change it so that it says what you are trying to say. Words change, and songs change with them.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Doctor John
Date: 07 Oct 00 - 05:33 PM

Not at all Jim; they're just words and it's interesting how their meaning and accepatability changes over the years. In Through The Looking Glass it says (something like) "words mean what I want them to mean." Which is just about true - to whom said, from whom said, how said etc. If we remove or change words in a traditional folksong because we happen not to like them at the moment then the song becomes non sensical: it's rewriting history which the very people who are so sensitive about objectionable words would probably strongly object to. There again some postgrad student in a couple of generations could get a PhD on what the song is really about. Dr John


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 07:31 PM

All you guys who are dredging up the history of various epithets: Are you trying to argue that, if a word was acceptable at some time in the past, then it's OK to use it now?


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Haruo
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 07:30 PM

Applied to Americans by Americans, "Tory" is still under the taint of its use in the War of Independence as a somewhat pejorative synonym of "Loyalist", i.e. "one who advocates remaining under the King of England". Other connotations are not unheard of (e.g. when I was at Yale there was a "Tory Party" in the Political Union, and while ultraconservative, it wasn't pro-British particularly), but rare.
Liland


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 07:18 PM

Tory is an interesting one. Started out as an insult, got adopted by the people it was used against as a label of choice. Still used with pride by their political descendants. And still used as an insult by everyone else.

Out in the States I gather it's never got taken up again. And yet anyone in England with the kind of view expressed by most American politicians from both parties would unhesitatingly be described as Tories.


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Doctor John
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 05:39 PM

A good point there, Bert, words go the other way too and what starts off as a derogatory term becomes an accepted one, even one to be proud of. (I'll try and get it right this time!) Quaker is one that come to mind but there are lots of them. Dr John


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Bert
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 05:27 PM

A Limey and a Brit is OK. but a - Scouse - I'm not too sure about.
Now Dr. John knows that I'm only kidding but I suppose someone is going to be offended.

The thing is that the term 'chink' was not a derogatory term in England when the Mr Wu songs were written. There was no offense intended, and while it was part of the culture to tease people about their origins, even that was not the intent of the song. It was just a normal part of the language and carried no more harmful intent than 'Geordy' or 'Cockney' (which was originally a derogatory term but is now acceptable) or 'Scouse' or 'Taffy'.
It might be wise to explain that, if you sing the song nowadays.

Bert (Cockney)


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Doctor John
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 04:58 PM

How silly it can all get. Bert: with regard to the N word (which does come from the Latin word for black after all) there's a discussion similar to yours in Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory which seems realistic. Does anyone remember the colour "N...Brown", certainly commonly used as late as the 50's, if not later. Greyeyes: bastard was used quite without offence in medieval wills: " and I leave whatever to my dear bastard John...", neither an Australian term of endearment nor an offensive word... just a word. Skipjack: I'm told by them that know that the word istan means the land of. So , Kurds come from Kurdistan, Afghans come from Afghanistan, so what wrong with the word for the people that come from Pakistan? There's some pretty offensive stuff in early blues like the term monkey men . As one word becomes offensive it's replaced by another pc word which, in due course, itself becomes offensive; eventually we'll run out of words. Of course it depends how you use it but I'm totally against any form of censorship but that's another thread. Dr John (a limey scouse brit}


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Subject: RE: 'Offensive' words in song lyrics
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 06 Oct 00 - 04:47 PM

Where have you guys been in all the latest discussions on PC and offensive/terms songs? We have had a plethora of then of late (One started by me I must admit!)

I reckon if the terms wop, dago, polak(me), nigger, rooskie(me again), spic, kraut, taff(another grandparent...), frog, mick(dim and distant past) yankee or brit(yep - you've guessed it!) turn up in a traditional song we need to be aware of the pain it can cause some people.

Then again the songs were generaly written not to cause offense but to describe an event of the time, in the language of the time. Remember that the terms man and woman are becoming non-pc and, eventualy, the term 'human' may become speciesist! Don't be afraid to use the old terms but don't be suprised if someone who makes a career out of being offended takes you to task on it!

Cheers

Dave the Gnome (or should I say person the verticaly challenged...;-)


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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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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