January 13, 2002
You keep using that word...

Damian Penny gives a spanking to The Globe and Mail's Heather Mallick for getting into a snit over Dubya's use of the term "Pakis". I've read enough British books to know that "Paki" is frequently used derisively over there, but then the Brits often use words like "French" and "Irish" with equal derision. In other words, just because a word can be used derisively doesn't mean it's an insult per se.

There's also the fact that Pakistanis call themselves "Paki". One of the most colorful stars in the world of tournament bridge is Zia Mahmood, a Pakistani now living in New York. In his vastly entertaining memoir Bridge My Way, he refers to himself and his countrymates as "Pakis". He even jokes about their variation on the popular ace-asking convention, which he calls "Paki Blackwood". I can't imagine Zia working up a sweat over Bush's use of the word.

Penny goes on:

This whole kerfuffle reminds me of an incident which occurred here in Newfoundland a couple of years ago. The provincial community college changed its name to "College of the North Atlantic", with the acronym "CONA", naturally. T-shirts, jackets and other trinkets were printed up with "CONA" written on them. Then, someone raised a major stink about what how shocking and offensive the acronym was - it turns out "Cona" is a slang term for the female anatomy.

In Norwegian.

Which reminds me of an old schoolmate who lived in Denton, Texas. Denton is the home of the University of North Texas, known as UNT. At the time we were in school, though, it was called North Texas State University, or NTSU. The call letters for their radio station were KNTS. When he told me that NTSU was to become UNT, we had a good laugh at the thought that KNTS would have to change its call letters to reflect the new school acronym. (In case you're wondering, they changed it to KNTU).

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 13, 2002 to Around the world | TrackBack