Sunday 17 May 1998
Nicknames for foreigners come in various shades of offensiveness, and in theory the least offensive are those that pick on a familiar name like Paddy or Taff, or ape the language spoken, which makes Russians Russkies and the Chinese Chinks; while the worst are the merely abusive ones like "Wop", which seems to have come from the Italian for a ruffian, or possibly from the Latin for a no-good, and "Hun", an archetype for barbarism. In between come the names that have to do with food, or what your true patriot calls foreign muck. "Krauts" for Germans (also "Limeys" for Brits, because our sailors sucked limes) comes in this category, and so, one would think, does "Frogs".
But it doesn't work like that. The theory puts "Yid" among the milder insults, but in practice it's one of the rudest. And the history of "Frog" is not so simple. The OED says froggy is a term of contempt for a Frenchman, from their frog-eating habits; but under frog we also read "A term of abuse applied to a man or a woman" (French or otherwise), though it gives no examples later than the 17th century, when it applied to Jesuits and Dutchmen.
Anyway, I doubt whether the Daily Star is worried about word origins. Calling a Frenchman a Frog is neither more nor less offensive than calling him a Frenchy or an Italian an Eyetie. Such names were common enough in middle-class society before and after the Second World War. Now they live on only in the fantasy world of the ultra-popular press.
Life & Style blogs
What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
Why you should never make assumptions about people with autism
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Majority of UK women don't bathe or take a shower daily
From criminal to catwalk: Convict Jeremy Meeks wins modelling contract in the most unusual fashion scouting – behind bars
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
- 1 Autism 'caused by genetics', study suggests
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Why you should never make assumptions about people with autism
- 4 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
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