"Wifebeaters" in AskMe. August 9, 2005 6:54 AM   Subscribe

"Wifebeaters" in AskMe.
posted by Miko to Etiquette/Policy at 6:54 AM (233 comments total)

Yes?
posted by grouse at 6:55 AM on August 9, 2005


By the way, just exactly when did they stop beating their wives?
posted by soyjoy at 6:56 AM on August 9, 2005


Is there some sort of contest going on to see who can post the worse callout this week?
posted by keswick at 6:57 AM on August 9, 2005


Write on the chalkboard 100 times:

"Political correctness is the enemy of all true progressives."
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:58 AM on August 9, 2005


"Callouts" in MeTa.
posted by tweak at 6:59 AM on August 9, 2005


beats wife
posted by Kwantsar at 6:59 AM on August 9, 2005


I'm not really interested in starting a flap, but there has been righteous objection to the question about white sleeveless men's undershirts in AskMe.

It's worth noting that, if someone asked a question about Brazil nuts in which they were called "N------toes", ("What? I'm not racist, that's just the name I know them by!") the word choice would be roundly vilified. "Wifebeaters" is not significantly different.

There are two things that bother me about the name. First, it was not in common parlance until perhaps the early 90s, when it was popularized by TV. For their entire 20th century existence prior to that point, they were known as "white sleeveless men's undershirts", perhaps with the addition of "ribbed" to differentiate them from plain cloth versions. The terminology worked just fine. So when people make the choice to use the term 'wifebeaters', they are doing so because it's seen as a clever, humorous appellation - not because there's no other way to describe the item. Unfortunately, to many it's too serious to be clever or humorous.

The other reason I hate it is that it's classist, suggesting that men who wear that type of shirt are violent, uneducated, lowlifes.

So, anyway. It's a gratuitious term that it's just not necessary to use.
posted by Miko at 7:01 AM on August 9, 2005


I reiterate my question to flod: "Do you beat your wife?"

[Just for the record, I do not disagree with Jessamyn's decision to delete it from AskMe. I was naughty and apologize for posting it there.]
posted by caddis at 7:02 AM on August 9, 2005


Political correctness

Yeah, I was brought up to call this courtesy, or perhaps respect.
posted by Miko at 7:02 AM on August 9, 2005


drinks Stella
posted by blag at 7:03 AM on August 9, 2005


"Wifebeaters" is not significantly different.

Uh, yes, it is. Significantly. Take apart the two words for the nut. See how one of them is a racist slur all by itself? Now do that with "wifebeater."

Lame.
posted by soyjoy at 7:04 AM on August 9, 2005


the word choice would be roundly vilified. "Wifebeaters" is not significantly different.

Except for not being "roundly vilified". There's a tipping point on this kind of thing, and the t-shirts aren't there yet.
posted by smackfu at 7:04 AM on August 9, 2005


"Hey anyone know where I can get a white sleeveless men's undershirt?"

It's called a vest.
posted by fire&wings at 7:06 AM on August 9, 2005


Uh, yes, it is. Significantly. Take apart the two words for the nut. See how one of them is a racist slur all by itself? Now do that with "wifebeater."

Fudgepacker.

Oh yeah! Your line of reasoning works great!
posted by Miko at 7:07 AM on August 9, 2005


Miko : "It's worth noting that, if someone asked a question about Brazil nuts in which they were called 'N------toes', ('What? I'm not racist, that's just the name I know them by!') the word choice would be roundly vilified. 'Wifebeaters' is not significantly different."

"Nigger" is not significantly different than "wife"?

Miko : "The other reason I hate it is that it's classist, suggesting that men who wear that type of shirt are violent, uneducated, lowlifes."

Which class is it classist against?
posted by Bugbread at 7:08 AM on August 9, 2005


Distasteful woman struck my commercial vehicle.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:09 AM on August 9, 2005


All this talk of wifebeaters when there's a LARGE PHOTO ON THE FRONT PAGE OF METAFILTER?

Just Sayin'
posted by null terminated at 7:10 AM on August 9, 2005


I think it's more significant that we AskMe protocol prevents us from posting 'You're going to wear a vest? You soft shite.'

soyjoy: I have to say that your namesplitting logic makes no sense whatsoever.
posted by biffa at 7:12 AM on August 9, 2005


Growing up in rural western NY, when we first heard the term "wifebeater," we thought it was great. It was a way of making fun of all the backwards asshole hicks we were surrounded by (me and all my elitist friends, ha).

Despite my agreement with most of what Miko said, I can't imagine taking that word out of my vocabulary and replacing it with the bulky "white sleeveless men's undershirts." It's too ingrained, and it's just not bad enough for me to feel guilty and change it.
posted by mikeweeney at 7:13 AM on August 9, 2005


Look, I'm not trying to start a big battle at all, so I'm bowing out now. I'm just saying: when you have the option to use a word that is likely to give offense, and yet no offense is meant, it would be a good move to would pick another word.

When an offensive word is a considered, conscious choice, it doesn't make sense to expect no one to call it out. That's all.
posted by Miko at 7:17 AM on August 9, 2005


all the backwards asshole hicks we were surrounded by (me and all my elitist friends, ha

Thanks for the example, mikeweeney. That's the class it's classist against, bugbread. Anyway.
posted by Miko at 7:18 AM on August 9, 2005


Where I come from, they're called "guinea t-shirts." I think that we should adopt this instead because it is less offensive to women. Except the italian ones.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:19 AM on August 9, 2005


Oh, shut up and get me a beer, bitches.
posted by jonmc at 7:19 AM on August 9, 2005


It's a term used by dumbfucks to describe dumbfucks. But not the SAME dumbfucks, interestingly enough.
posted by selfnoise at 7:19 AM on August 9, 2005


I'm wearing a wifebeater right now, and I'm not offended.
posted by nyterrant at 7:20 AM on August 9, 2005


I hate the word, too, but...kee-rist. What selfnoise said.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:20 AM on August 9, 2005


I always thought wifebeater referred to stella artois. As in, "three pints of wifebeater and a half of girlsberg please."
posted by handee at 7:20 AM on August 9, 2005


I don't like your use of "wifebeater", but I will defend to the point of very slight personal discomfort your right to use it.
posted by sfenders at 7:21 AM on August 9, 2005


Wiki.
posted by Miko at 7:21 AM on August 9, 2005


I'm beating someone's wife right now and I'm not offended either.
posted by jonmc at 7:22 AM on August 9, 2005


So, anyway. It's a gratuitious term that it's just not necessary to use.

It's a cultural reference; if you say tank top, people think of a full shouldered top; if you say a-shirt, noone has any idea what you're talking about.

In the interest of clarity, until a better cultural reference comes along, it's the reference that's popular.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 7:22 AM on August 9, 2005


I grew up calling them undershirts (the ones with sleeves are t-shirts). I also grew up not really understanding the point of wearing them (I want the extra layer of cloth covering my armpits to soak up sweat, not covering all the other parts of my torso , thereby generating more heat and thus more sweat).
posted by tiny purple fishes at 7:22 AM on August 9, 2005


Mike, maybe not feeling guilty about it is a good reason to try to stop using it. Being desensitized to bad things is no excuse to let them continue.
(I'll tread lightly here by pointing out that this is a comment on a hypothetical problem and not an accustation that you are a desensitized bastard that walks around kicking puppies because you played DOOM when you were six.)
posted by oddman at 7:23 AM on August 9, 2005


I call them tank tops. My husband calls them wifebeaters. And no, I don't allow him to wear them in public.

And what BTTOG said.
posted by deborah at 7:23 AM on August 9, 2005


Miko : "That's the class it's classist against, bugbread."

Ah, well, then I guess I don't see it as classist. Backwards asshole hicks aren't a class, they're a subset of a class (rural folks). Some of that class (rural folks) are backwards, some aren't. Some are assholes, some aren't. Saying that disliking backwards asshole hicks is classist is like saying disliking asshole neo-nazi urbanites is classist.
posted by Bugbread at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2005


discussions like this are what make people laugh at liberals, and that helps the GW Bushes of the world get elected.
posted by jonmc at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2005


First of all, it's technically an A-shirt. Second of all, get a fucking helmet. If your world is so small and insular this is the kind of thing that puts you off your feed for a week, take some time in the bunker tonight before you pull up the lead-lined sheets to count your blessings. If it's offensive to anyone besides overly sensitive haystacks, it should be offensive to the guys rocking them for being lumped with spousal abusers just for their sartorial preferences.
posted by yerfatma at 7:28 AM on August 9, 2005


From Wikipedia: "The implication is that wife beating is not viewed as sufficiently serious to lift it above the level of something that's OK to joke about," says Kim Gandy.

Oh come on. Some of the greatest comedy comes very serious issues. Blazing Saddles is just the first of many examples that spring to mind.

As for the "wifebeater" issue. I'm torn. Obviously you are able to call in that. Whether it's in bad taste probably depends on the company you keep. I don't agree that it's on the level of the brazil nut. Seems more like... "suicide lanes" on roads.
posted by ODiV at 7:30 AM on August 9, 2005


Word to that, jonmc.
posted by nyterrant at 7:31 AM on August 9, 2005


Coming from Australia, where the shirts are called "singlets", my husband gave me a look of horror the first time I called them "wifebeaters".

He's right, it is horrible, and I haven't done it again.
posted by frykitty at 7:31 AM on August 9, 2005


Is this better or worse than the recent Ask MetaFilter post where the poster originally referred to themselves as a "porch monkey" before the question was sanitized? 'cause I'm gonna call that guy out.
posted by Danelope at 7:34 AM on August 9, 2005


*ring ring*
Hello?

Hey Tom, it's boo_radley.
Oh, hey. What's up?
We were having a discussion and a term came up. As a gay man, do you find "fudgepacker" offensive?
Fudge--? What? I haven't heard that in I don't know how long (laughs). Fudgepacker (laughs). Seriously, it's not like this is seventh grade. I don't know that the term really bothers me. It's just funny, I guess. Fudgepacker.
and, yeah, I know anecdotes aren't data, etc. etc.

So there's another one down. I guess when you're offended by something, it might be good to consider if it's really just a matter of personal taste; something you find personally offensive, something to which you'd say "I'd never use the term, I always found it crass and vulgar", and hope to embarrass people into your line of thinking. Maybe you were trying to do that here, but calling it out is overly sensitive and a little too meta.
posted by boo_radley at 7:35 AM on August 9, 2005


It's worth pointing out that boy beater is making headway as an alternate name.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:38 AM on August 9, 2005


From now on, let's just call them "chookies".
Okay? pass it on.
posted by hellbient at 7:39 AM on August 9, 2005


I beat my wife with a belt every night and I was wasn't offended at all, fwiw.

I'm unusually open-minded though.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:43 AM on August 9, 2005


The rest of the world calls it a vest.
posted by riffola at 7:46 AM on August 9, 2005


I beat the offended and you're not my wife.

Where's my vest? And what's a patio chimp?

...

More gin!
posted by NinjaPirate at 7:47 AM on August 9, 2005


Using the term 'wifebeater' to describe a t-shirt in public discourse makes you sound like an uninformed dumbfuck, akin to using the terms "gypped" or "indian-giver". But no on e has the right to tell you how to look like less of a fuckwit in public. Saying so does not make one easily offended, or a prude.
posted by docpops at 7:52 AM on August 9, 2005


Is this better or worse than the recent Ask MetaFilter post where the poster originally referred to themselves as a "porch monkey" before the question was sanitized?

Danelope, that question was edited with the okay of the person who posted the question when I asked him "Hey did you know that a lot of people consider porch monkey a racial slur?"

I think wifebeater is a lame term and I don't use it. Wife beating jokes are similarly lame. Beyond the pale lame? No, not to me anyhow, but similarly to people tossing around the word "retard", it's probably good to remember that there are a lot of different types of people here some of whom consider the term disrespectful or hurtful.
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 AM on August 9, 2005


it's probably good to remember that there are a lot of different types of people here some of whom consider the term disrespectful or hurtful.

Sure, let's all cater to the caprices of the most pathologically sensitive among us. Listen, if big, mean old words are too much for you to take without crying to mama, then maybe you should quit the internet and take up tetherball instead.
posted by jonmc at 7:55 AM on August 9, 2005


Many people seem proud of not being sensitive to hurtful things. This confuses me.
posted by spaghetti at 7:58 AM on August 9, 2005


Jessamyn - This is unrelated, but I'd like to thank you for deleting the picture of a giant obese vampire from the front page this morning. That was a public service.
posted by selfnoise at 7:59 AM on August 9, 2005


Many people seem proud of not being sensitive to hurtful things. This confuses me.

It means we're grownups. We can handle the big mean old world without getting all sniffy and pissy.
posted by jonmc at 7:59 AM on August 9, 2005


Oh, I wasn't questioning the edit, jessamyn. There was just a moment of cognitive dissonance when I saw it appear as written in my RSS reader. I was neither surprised nor displeased to see the thread straightened out upon clicking through.

Still, it reinforces the point that people can say or write things without deliberate intent of malice.
posted by Danelope at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2005


Jonmc- Unless you're across the international date line you're drunk before the acceptable time period for polite society. Please consider this and reform.
posted by selfnoise at 8:01 AM on August 9, 2005


Sure, let's all cater to the caprices of the most pathologically sensitive among us. Listen, if big, mean old words are too much for you to take without crying to mama, then maybe you should quit the internet and take up tetherball instead.

"catering" would be deleting the thread, admonishing the poster publicly, and making everyone promise to be nicer from now on. We're just talking about this like adults, most of us anyhow.
posted by jessamyn at 8:04 AM on August 9, 2005


Folks, I wouldn't make a joke (funny or no) about a genuine wife-beating.

If there were a real person like Homer Simpson, he would be the world's most atrocious father and s.o.b., an utterly unlikable self-centered cretin. The reason people laugh is because it's not real.

Seriously, he literally and violently strangles a ten-year-old boy every other episode, and they broadcast it on national TV. Where's the outcry? There isn't any, coz it's a joke.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:04 AM on August 9, 2005


Many people seem proud of not being sensitive to hurtful things.

Many people seem proud of being sensitive for others.
posted by yerfatma at 8:05 AM on August 9, 2005


Wait, are we worrying about offending wife-beaters now?
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:07 AM on August 9, 2005


i call them trailer tanks. for the simple reason that i love them and look hot in them, but the term "wifebeater" just doesn't make sense for me to call them.
posted by ifjuly at 8:09 AM on August 9, 2005


Without real consciousness changing, jessamyn, what benefit does word changing confer except to sublimate and mask the prejudice?
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2005


Many people seem proud of being sensitive for others.

Point taken.
posted by spaghetti at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2005


CunningLinguist: I think we're protecting the t-shirts.
posted by boo_radley at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2005


Many people seem proud of being sensitive for others.

Yup, looking for people with problems they can make their own.

Seriously, all this finger-wagging over incredibly minor verbal gaffes is dangerously close to church ladies going "you said a bad word!"
posted by jonmc at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2005


What jonmc said.
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2005


I dunno, it never struck me that the phrase "wifebeater" was in any way making light of the beating of wives, it's making light of the person who wears that clothing. Like calling a military person a "babykiller". It isn't an attempt to insult babies, it's an attempt to insult the military guy.
posted by Bugbread at 8:12 AM on August 9, 2005


As a dead gay African-American writer renowned for such twentieth century classics as Go Tell It On The Mountain and The Fire Next Time, I find the term fudgechucker doubly offensive.

Sincerely,
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:12 AM on August 9, 2005


I find the term fudgechucker doubly offensive.

you'd prefer dork-snorkeler or bowel-troweler?

(hey, if we're gonna use slurs we might as well use funny ones)
posted by jonmc at 8:15 AM on August 9, 2005


On postview:

CunningLinguist : "Wait, are we worrying about offending wife-beaters now?"

Exactly. If the phrase "wifebeater" is offensive, it seems that the people who are in a position to be offended are either: people who wear sleeveless ribbed t-shirts, or people who beat their wives. I must be lacking some outrageatonin, but I'm not too worried about offending either one of those groups. If someone is offended on behalf of wives who are beaten, then it looks like they're just parsing the phrase wrong.
posted by Bugbread at 8:15 AM on August 9, 2005


(I'll tread lightly here by pointing out that this is a comment on a hypothetical problem and not an accustation that you are a desensitized bastard that walks around kicking puppies because you played DOOM when you were six.)

I appreciate the consideration. I'm actually in grad school right now to be an urban high school teacher, so I'm immersed in the whole labeling, words have power, class struggle thing. I think Miko was just bringing up a point, not trying to attack anybody. The word wifebeater does have power, and does create an unconscious condescenion towards those in lower classes (who are more likely to wear them, to make a broad over-generalization). I know the first thing I think of when I hear the term "wifebeater" is: a middle-aged guy stepping out of his trailer with his beer gut hanging out of the bottom of his shirt, stains all over it, with his bruised and broken family trailing behind him out of their trailer into their spare parts-strewn yard.

But anyways, such is the way of American life, it's not going to change, so suck it up and deal. etc. Like others have said, there's much worse out there that deserves our attention.
posted by mikeweeney at 8:21 AM on August 9, 2005


Wifebeaters, the phrase, the garment and the concept, are very popular among a certain subset of the lesbian community.
posted by mischief at 8:21 AM on August 9, 2005


It's a revealing statement. It reveals that you think the concept of wife-beating is funny.
posted by selfnoise at 8:22 AM on August 9, 2005


outrageatonin

I hereby appropriate this word.
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:24 AM on August 9, 2005


f there were a real person like Homer Simpson, he would be the world's most atrocious father and s.o.b., an utterly unlikable self-centered cretin.

At least he doesn't beat his wife.
posted by caddis at 8:24 AM on August 9, 2005


If
posted by caddis at 8:25 AM on August 9, 2005


I don't think the issue is that it is offensive. Ironically, by Jonmc's definitions, I should walk around with my frontal lobe unhinged and just let the slurs fly. Nigger-this, kike-that, cos who gives a shit if I offend?

I don't think most of the dissent here has anything to do with being offended. People are merely trying to let you know, ahem, much as we might if you had bad B.O., that you sound like a dumbass, or worse, a kid trying out a new cuss-word, when you use a term that is so clearly controversial.

What you don't sound like is someone with an edgy grasp of descriptive language, or a cavalier insouciance and libertarian disregard for political correctness.
posted by docpops at 8:26 AM on August 9, 2005


If there were a real person like Homer Simpson, he would be the world's most atrocious father and s.o.b., an utterly unlikable self-centered cretin

Eh. But he'd make a great drinking buddy.
posted by jonmc at 8:27 AM on August 9, 2005


1. All my in-laws live in trailers and not one of them wears these A-shirts.

1a. As far as I know, none of them beat their wives.

2. Why is it called an "A-shirt," anyway? It doesn't look anything like the letter A.
posted by scratch at 8:27 AM on August 9, 2005


What docpops said.
posted by selfnoise at 8:27 AM on August 9, 2005


Ironically, by Jonmc's definitions, I should walk around with my frontal lobe unhinged and just let the slurs fly.

If the slurs represent what you really think, I say go crazy. Better than presenting a false face to the world. Cards on the table, says I.
posted by jonmc at 8:28 AM on August 9, 2005


selfnoise : "It's a revealing statement. It reveals that you think the concept of wife-beating is funny."

Apparently, it's revelatory powers are broken, then, because I don't find the naming of the garment offensive, and yet I don't think the concept of wife-beating is funny. It's very revealing that you find incorrect revelations, though.

Oh, and it's also very telling.
posted by Bugbread at 8:28 AM on August 9, 2005


I thought they didn't become a true wifebeater until there was some big pizza/coffee/urine stain all down the front of it.

In Amazonia, wife beats YOU!
posted by Balisong at 8:29 AM on August 9, 2005


SNOO SNOO!!
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:30 AM on August 9, 2005


i call them trailer tanks.

What? What about offending people who just happen to live in trailers, like me?! I DEMAND ifjuly be reprimanded and booted from MeFi. I NEED justice! I WANT BLOOD!!

Or not.

Yes, I really live in an RV. No, I don't want ifjuly censored. The term "wifebeater" is mocking the person wearing said shirt. I am neutral about the term - my mother was beaten by one of my step-fathers and my husband uses the term self-mockingly.
posted by deborah at 8:30 AM on August 9, 2005


docpops : "What you don't sound like is someone with an edgy grasp of descriptive language, or a cavalier insouciance and libertarian disregard for political correctness."

Nor, if you avoid the term, do you sound like someone with a deep empathy for people or some sort of strong sense of respect and decency.

If you use the phrase, you'll sound like a jerk to some people, and not like a jerk to others. Some of the people who think you sound like a jerk will be non-jerks, and some will be jerks themselves. Some of the people who support you will be non-jerks, and some will be jerks themselves.
If you protest the use of the phrase, you'll sound like a jerk to some people, and not like a jerk to others. Some of the people who think you sound like a jerk will be non-jerks, and some will be jerks themselves. Some of the people who support you will be non-jerks, and some will be jerks themselves.
posted by Bugbread at 8:32 AM on August 9, 2005


you sound like a dumbass, or worse, a kid trying out a new cuss-word, when you use a term that is so clearly controversial.

Whereas, if you call it an "A-shit," "sleeveless tee-shirt," or "vest," you just sound like a prat.

While we're at it, how does everyone feel about "red-headed stepchild"?
posted by nyterrant at 8:33 AM on August 9, 2005


bugbread: All that jerk talk is making me hungry for chick'n.
posted by mischief at 8:33 AM on August 9, 2005


Beat it, nyterrant.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:34 AM on August 9, 2005


As a gay man, do you find "fudgepacker" offensive?

On behalf of gay people everywhere, although I'm not actually particularly gay myself right now, not that there's anything wrong with that, I would like to ask you all to please stop using "gay" to denote homosexuals. It is offensive both to the homosexual community, in that it perpetuates the stereotype that they are generally gay in appearance and behaviour, and also to people who are actually gay but not homosexual. Please, enough with the "gay".

"wifebeater" on the other hand is okay to use, since although it could be interpreted as offensive if you look at its origin and literal meaning from before the time when that original meaning (to the extent that there was one) was obliterated by the new meaning, its widespread popularity as slang for a particular style of shirt has rendered it harmless.
posted by sfenders at 8:34 AM on August 9, 2005


sfenders: are you joking? If not, who is gay but not homosexual? (And I assume you don't mean the "bright and lively" definition)
posted by null terminated at 8:38 AM on August 9, 2005


My God, if you don't want to be mocked don't wear the stupid shirt1 in the first place. Just because you beat your wife doesn't mean you can't dress with a bit of style -- you'll make a much better impression in court.

1. Unless you a hottie, in which case I encourage you to wear them... wet, even.
posted by cedar at 8:39 AM on August 9, 2005


I guess you could also just be a total cretin. I hadn't considered that possibility.
posted by selfnoise at 8:39 AM on August 9, 2005


/me buys jonmc a drink. And then drinks it. And buys him another.
posted by loquacious at 8:41 AM on August 9, 2005


selfnoise : "I guess you could also just be a total cretin. I hadn't considered that possibility."

It could mean a few other things as well, which you may not have considered. In the same way, your posts could mean that you're a kneejerk pseudo-empath with a superiority complex born from an internal knowledge of your own patheticness, OR it could mean a lot of things that aren't insulting. So, it could mean a whole variety of things, but it seems that the only ones that occur to you right now are the ones that set up people who disagree with you as being somehow inferior to you.
posted by Bugbread at 8:44 AM on August 9, 2005


sfenders: "On behalf of gay people everywhere, although I'm not actually particularly gay myself right now, not that there's anything wrong withthat, I would like to ask you all to please stop using "gay" to denote homosexuals."

That's so gay meta.
posted by Plutor at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2005


/me calls jonmc a cab.
posted by caddis at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2005


err, yes, I was joking. Sort of. Trying to say something to the effect that "wifebeater" already has, in some places, reached the kind of wide acceptance and general ubiquity that "gay" has, though they were both sort of awkward at first. Because of that, it's foolish to take offense at it, or even to draw any conclusions at all about the person using it if you don't know what cultural context they're from. You might as well get offended at someone saying "pop" when they mean "soda". There is no "community standard" on the internet. Somewhere, in some distant land, somebody out there really does think "gay" is an offensive slur. Screw them.
posted by sfenders at 8:47 AM on August 9, 2005


Would you call it a "wifebeater" in front of a woman who had been beaten by her husband, or in front of a person who as a child had witnessed his mother being beaten by his father? Would you call it a "wifebeater" in front of a poor, white rural man wearing said garment? If you'd feel compunctions about doing either of those, then you shouldn't use it at all. The original objection in this thread came from abbyladybug, who specified that she works with domestic violence victims -- she is an expert, and so I think that her sense of proper usage should be paid very serious attention. The rest of use who have never dealt with domestic violence victims can never really hope to understand the significance of the word.

And enough of the "oooh liberals with their stupid PC talk" -- I for one am glad to be associated with a movement that pays careful attention to its words.
posted by footnote at 8:47 AM on August 9, 2005


footnote: poor white domestic violence victims everywhere will sleep soundly tonight because of your bravery. Godspeed.
posted by jonmc at 8:52 AM on August 9, 2005


jonmc writes "that helps the GW Bushes of the world get elected"
Would the correct collective noun be plague or army or pox or infestation or bother or pitchfork or..
posted by peacay at 8:54 AM on August 9, 2005


Bugbread- nice try, but you need to work on your technique. You sound kind of defensive- try word economy over descriptive glamour.
posted by selfnoise at 8:57 AM on August 9, 2005


Look, I'm not trying to start a big battle at all, so I'm bowing out now.

For future reference, the best way not to start a battle is not to post the thread.

On behalf of gay people everywhere, although I'm not actually particularly gay myself right now, not that there's anything wrong with that, I would like to ask you all to please stop using "gay" to denote homosexuals. It is offensive both to the homosexual community, in that it perpetuates the stereotype that they are generally gay in appearance and behaviour, and also to people who are actually gay but not homosexual. Please, enough with the "gay".

I'll assume this is irony. Most of us gays are thrilled to be gay.

I really can't get all worked up about "wifebeater." If anything, it actually discourages both wife beating and the wearing of those shirts by people who shouldn't be wearing them. They are attractive on a very small subset of men, generally men of the sort who have no wives to beat.
posted by anapestic at 8:57 AM on August 9, 2005


And enough of the "oooh liberals with their stupid PC talk" -- I for one am glad to be associated with a movement that pays careful attention to its words.

Which movement is that, now? It'd be a nice replacement for political correctness, that's for sure.
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:57 AM on August 9, 2005


jonmc: Your stance of too cool for school irony really inspires me to be a better person. Thanks.
posted by footnote at 8:58 AM on August 9, 2005


footnote : "Would you call it a 'wifebeater' in front of a woman who had been beaten by her husband, or in front of a person who as a child had witnessed his mother being beaten by his father? Would you call it a 'wifebeater' in front of a poor, white rural man wearing said garment? If you'd feel compunctions about doing either of those, then you shouldn't use it at all."

I wouldn't use it for those situations (different reasons for each). On the other hand, I wouldn't use the word "geek" in front of someone who worked in a circus sideshow, I wouldn't use the word "punk" in front of a male prostitute, and I wouldn't use the word "bastard" in front of someone whose parents were unmarried. I don't think that means that I shouldn't use them at all, just that I shouldn't use them in front of those folks, and, if I did so unknowingly, I'd probably apologize. If I'd used the phrase "wifebeater" in that thread with abbyladybug, I'd probably apologize for inadvertent offense. I wouldn't strike the word from my vocabulary forevermore, though.
posted by Bugbread at 8:59 AM on August 9, 2005


Somewhere, in some distant land, somebody out there really does think "gay" is an offensive slur. Screw them.

The people who object to it are usually either homophobes ("You took a perfectly good word and ruined it for the rest of us!") and gay Republicans.
posted by anapestic at 8:59 AM on August 9, 2005


jonmc: Your stance of too cool for school irony really inspires me to be a better person.

If you knew me at all, you'd know that I loathe ironic hipsters. But I loathe hubristic sanctimony even more.
posted by jonmc at 8:59 AM on August 9, 2005


selfnoise : "Bugbread- nice try, but you need to work on your technique. You sound kind of defensive- try word economy over descriptive glamour."

Yeah, I'm not too good at snark, and I'm horrible at conciseness. I hope you got what I was trying to get at, though.
posted by Bugbread at 9:03 AM on August 9, 2005


As someone with hips, I object to jonmc's use of the pejorative term "hipster".
posted by soiled cowboy at 9:03 AM on August 9, 2005


The "gay" thing is a similar situation, actually. It was perfectly acceptable to call A-shirts "wifebeaters" until this wave of Spousal Abuse Pride swept the nation and abusive husbands adopted the term as their own, using it as a sign of solidarity.

Give us back our words, you perverts!!!
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:04 AM on August 9, 2005


jonmc, go down to a domestic violence shelter or family court and see for yourself what it's like. until you do that you've got no clue what you're talking about.
posted by footnote at 9:04 AM on August 9, 2005


jonmc, go down to a domestic violence shelter or family court and see for yourself what it's like. until you do that you've got no clue what you're talking about.

footnote: I wasn't mocking domestic violence (as someone who's taken swats to the head as a kid plenty of times, I wouldn't do that). I was mocking your ostentatious display of your own righteousness, which has zero to do with victims and everything to do with ego, IMHO.
posted by jonmc at 9:07 AM on August 9, 2005


footnote: Why do you hate our freedom?
posted by null terminated at 9:07 AM on August 9, 2005


I for one am glad to be associated with a movement that pays careful attention to its words

...and yet has fuck-all idea how language works.
posted by flashboy at 9:10 AM on August 9, 2005


"Would you call it a "wifebeater" in front of a poor, white rural man wearing said garment?"

Funny, the first time I heard the word was from a poor southern redneck.
posted by mischief at 9:11 AM on August 9, 2005


jonmc: I'd absolutely rather err on the side of righteous ego than cool complacence. How about you?
posted by footnote at 9:13 AM on August 9, 2005


This is a stupid callout but a great thread -- there's been too little humor in MeTa lately, and Miko, I thank your extra-sensitive soul for allowing it to happen.

all this finger-wagging over incredibly minor verbal gaffes is dangerously close to church ladies going "you said a bad word!"

Yup, and I loved the Church Lady. "Could it be... Satan?" We need more Church Lady around here. And more beer.
posted by languagehat at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2005


(Though that wasn't directed at me) That's a tough call. Like "I'd rather err on the side of punching the guy on one side of me than punching the guy on the other".
posted by Bugbread at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2005


Sleeveless white ribbed undershirts are also very attractive on buff butch lesbians, especially dark-skinned ones. I don't know what they call the shirts, though.
posted by matildaben at 9:15 AM on August 9, 2005


jonmc: I'd absolutely rather err on the side of righteous ego than cool complacence. How about you?

If anyone's complacent here it's you. Complacent in the idea that you are somehow morally superior to somone who would call a sleveless t-shirt (which my grandpa wears, BTW) a "wifebeater."

Furthermore, I detest people who abuse their own family members in any fashion and have zero sympathy for them. Yet, I still refer to those shirts as "wifebeaters." Because it's a fucking word. It is of little consequence.

So, don't sit there and pretend that your ostentatious indignance over a verbal gaffe is anything other than a self-serving gesture. That's more offensive than the word itself.
posted by jonmc at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2005


Oh, and there's no way I'm using "'white sleeveless men's undershirts', perhaps with the addition of 'ribbed'" -- and they were certainly not "known as" that until the early '90s, because I grew up well before the early '90s and I never heard the term "white sleeveless men's undershirts" (although I may have seen it in catalogs). Making shit up is not a good way to construct an argument.
posted by languagehat at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2005


matildaben: See my previous comment. Yes, they call them wifebeaters, and you can use your imagination about the sub/doms in that group.
posted by mischief at 9:20 AM on August 9, 2005


I'm beating someone's wife right now and I'm not offended either.

Best euphemism ever.
posted by keswick at 9:22 AM on August 9, 2005


jonmc: too cool for school. you win if you go down to a domestic violence family shelter and offer them a donation of a packet of "wifebeaters."
posted by footnote at 9:26 AM on August 9, 2005


No, no, you're the best person here. Go home happy about it.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:27 AM on August 9, 2005


this sensitivity crap is such a fucking joke. jesus, people.
posted by puke & cry at 9:28 AM on August 9, 2005


biffa and Miko, I think it's pretty simple. Miko's chosen example contained a racist slur, which is what makes it beyond the pale.

If the phrase describing the nuts were "African-Americans' Toes" then we'd have a situation like "wifebeater" where there's a harmful situation implicit in the phrase, and we could ask whether it should not be used on that basis. But Miko chose a phrase that is offensive in a completely different, more extreme way. So it's a false analogy.

Having been called on that he pulls out "fudgepacker," as though this is a term people use, in everyday conversation, to describe objects. Again, false, and continually, lame.
posted by soyjoy at 9:32 AM on August 9, 2005


It's a "vest" where I come from and like frykitty's hubby I was fairly horrified when I first heard the term.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:38 AM on August 9, 2005



Political correctness


Yeah, I was brought up to call this courtesy, or perhaps respect.

If you confuse these terms, the conversation is over before it started. Also, what jonmc said.
posted by squirrel at 9:39 AM on August 9, 2005


soyjoy : "If the phrase describing the nuts were 'African-Americans" Toes' then we'd have a situation like 'wifebeater' where there's a harmful situation implicit in the phrase, and we could ask whether it should not be used on that basis."

Actually, not even then, because, unlike "wifebeater", the phrase would not be used in an attempt to insult the user/wearer of the item. A better example would be if a certain type of car were called a "Klan car", or a certain type of pants "pedophile pants", or the like.
posted by Bugbread at 9:42 AM on August 9, 2005


This thread is as queer as a football bat, you flarg swoggling fumpswuzzlers.
posted by sciurus at 9:46 AM on August 9, 2005


selfnoise: Bugbread- nice try, but you need to work on your technique. You sound kind of defensive- try word economy over descriptive glamour.

Me thinks thou dost protest too much.
posted by Chuckles at 9:47 AM on August 9, 2005


'"Wifebeaters" in AskMe.'

I think, just this one time, "AxMe" would be the more appropriate title.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2005


Whatever.

The correct term is Dago-T.

Every guinea in my old neighborhood said so and they told me to tell you that they will kick your asses if you disagree.
posted by sic at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2005


Sweet Jesus, it's like everyone's trying to troll everyone else, but since everyone else is ALSO trolling they just go around in this big whirlpool of insincerity and mediocre snark. I'm glad I managed to grab the edge of the pool escape and get some lunch.

(I don't really think Bugbread is a cretin. But I still think docpops had it exactly right.)

Chuckles - that was like 30 posts ago. Stay on target!
posted by selfnoise at 9:51 AM on August 9, 2005


Would you call it a "wifebeater" in front of a woman who had been beaten by her husband, or in front of a person who as a child had witnessed his mother being beaten by his father?

I dunno. But I do know someone from the latter situation who uses the term. So maybe not everyone is as innocent and in need of your protection as you think.
posted by yerfatma at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2005


Miko's chosen example contained a racist slur, which is what makes it beyond the pale.

But your argument was that if you split the words up you would have 2 ordinary words, neither of which were slurs, which was nonsensical in reply to the suggestion that wifebeater was offensive.

Also, we make a lot of fudge where I live, it's the poor bloke at the end of the production line I feel sorry for.
posted by biffa at 9:58 AM on August 9, 2005


soyjoy: nonsense. What's harmful about an African-American having toes?

Part of the problem is that many people here evidently grew up with the name, and now think of it in that context. It's difficult to judge objectively. I have never heard of vests or singlets being referred to as wifebeaters, and when I hear it now, not having grown up with it, it's shocking. The only context I have for wifebeater is someone that beats their wife. It's impossible therefore for me to think of people using the term who aren't somehow complicit in the beating of wives, whether theirs or other peoples'. People that can't or stubbornly refuse to appreciate that have no theory of mind.

Similarly (conversely), where I grew up, long overcoats are known as a raping jackets. But that's ok, right, because I don't advocate rape. It's just what they're called. And people who don't like the term can just fuck off.
posted by nylon at 10:04 AM on August 9, 2005


Yerfatma -- right, if it's not an actually offensive term then who cares? the point of my approach is to find out whether it actually is offensive. Until I actually started learning about indian issues, I didn't realize that hardly anybody says "Native American." That's why I'm particularly likely to pay attention when someone who is an expert (abbyladybug in the Askme thread) says something about language use.

Also, I don't concede that these are "just fucking words" with no connection to the real world beyond possibly insulting the person who hears them. Paying attention to your language has a connection to paying attention to the world around you -- maybe if you catch yourself before saying "wifebeater," you're also going to be more likely to say something when you see your neighbor with a black eye again. It starts to construct a state of mind that makes you more likely to take action.
posted by footnote at 10:05 AM on August 9, 2005


She was asking for it...
posted by Carbolic at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2005


Paying attention to your language has a connection to paying attention to the world around you -- maybe if you catch yourself before saying "wifebeater," you're also going to be more likely to say something when you see your neighbor with a black eye again. It starts to construct a state of mind that makes you more likely to take action.

What I call an article of clothing influences my propensity to intervene in a situation where domestic violence has occurred?!??
posted by LionIndex at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2005


nylon : "It's impossible therefore for me to think of people using the term who aren't somehow complicit in the beating of wives, whether theirs or other peoples'."

I think you're looking at it from the wrong end of the telescope. For the most part, the people who call them wifebeaters are not the people who wear them (if that were true, I can understand your mental association). Instead, they're used as a term of denigration to both the clothing and its wearer. "Those t-shirts that people who beat their wives wear". It's not being used by people who beat their wives or are complicit with those who beat their wives, but used (primarily) by people who don't beat their wives or wear those shirts as a term of degradation. Kinda like "pedo" or "nazi scum". Unfortunately, some of the people who do beat their wives also now refer to them as "wifebeaters", and, yeah, they're pretty damn scummy. But that's neither the origin of the phrase, nor the types of folks who're supporting the existence of the phrase.

(Jonathan Swift talking about eating children is not horrible. Jeffrey Dahmer talking about eating children is. Whether or not an expression is insulting or not, horrible or not, is partly based on who is saying it, and why. Pegging a statement as being, in-itself, beyond the pale results in many false positives)
posted by Bugbread at 10:17 AM on August 9, 2005


Yes, it could be one part of creating a such a propensity. (Not a necessary or sufficient part, of course.)
posted by footnote at 10:17 AM on August 9, 2005


Q: "What do you call this thread?"

A: The Aristocrats!
posted by papercake at 10:18 AM on August 9, 2005


I had no idea "gypped" was a potentially offensive word. Anybody care to enlighten me as to the reference of why that would be offensive?

I don't know if I should be embarrassed to have used the word without knowing it could be offensive, or proud that I don't even know whatever slur it's referring to.
posted by raedyn at 10:18 AM on August 9, 2005


footnote : "maybe if you catch yourself before saying 'wifebeater,' you're also going to be more likely to say something when you see your neighbor with a black eye again."

And maybe it makes you less likely to say something when you see your neighbor with a black eye again, as "you've already done your bit". Maybe, maybe. Unless we get some statistics out here, neither argument is particularly swaying.
posted by Bugbread at 10:18 AM on August 9, 2005


raedyn : "I had no idea 'gypped' was a potentially offensive word. Anybody care to enlighten me as to the reference of why that would be offensive?"

It comes from "gypsy", based on the high incidence of theft and shortchanging by gypsies in some areas towards non-gypsies.
posted by Bugbread at 10:20 AM on August 9, 2005


Thanks bugbread.
posted by raedyn at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2005


raedyn it hadn't occurred to me either and now, just seeing it, I'm imaging it has something to do with gypsies. I could go look it up of course.
posted by peacay at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2005


and people objected out of their deep concern for the Romani people, who are now living trouble-free lives as a result.
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2005


Exactly.

Who caught the 'skins game?
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2005


Not me. I was too busy watching the Canucks game. Or was it the Fightin' Irish?
posted by jonmc at 10:25 AM on August 9, 2005


What do you say to a woman with two black eyes?
Nothing, you've already told her twice.
posted by keswick at 10:26 AM on August 9, 2005


The only context I have for wifebeater is someone that beats their wife. It's impossible therefore for me to think of people using the term who aren't somehow complicit in the beating of wives, whether theirs or other peoples'. People that can't or stubbornly refuse to appreciate that have no theory of mind.

I get the confusion, and even shock, from those not familiar with the term. But "impossible"? People generally can learn to cope with different colloquial names for a familiar thing, yes? Hey, the first few times I heard "fag" for cigarette in the UK I was surprised, but I got over it.

(Yes, I know it's not the same kind of colloquialism, but it has the WTF value of wifebeater, unlike hypothetically confusing the terms "firefly" and "lightening bug."
posted by desuetude at 10:28 AM on August 9, 2005


Is it possible not to care for any of the following: a) the word in question; b) this callout; c) the boyzone atmosphere following the callout, and; d) keswick's "joke" in particular? This is definitely not MeTa's finest hour...
posted by .kobayashi. at 10:34 AM on August 9, 2005


Hey, the first few times I heard "fag" for cigarette in the UK I was surprised, but I got over it.

Or worse... "blow a fag". I vurped the first time someone asked me that.
posted by Necker at 10:35 AM on August 9, 2005


bugbread: I understand what you're saying, but what if I wasn't familiar with either Swift or Dahmer? How should I react then? I know nothing about flod, or his domestic habits. All I see is a feed headline of 'Do beige/nude wifebeaters exist?' And as far as I'm aware, a wifebeater is a beater of wives.

desuetude: If cigarettes in the UK were called 'kiddy fiddlers', you'd have more of a point. Or if vests in the US were called something like 'pikeys', which could have any number of origins. Fag and fag have different etymologies, and just happen to have the same letters. It's no coincidence that vests are called wifebeaters. They weren't invented by Leonard Wifebeater Jnr. That's my point.
posted by nylon at 10:47 AM on August 9, 2005


you're also going to be more likely to say something when you see your neighbor with a black eye again. It starts to construct a state of mind that makes you more likely to take action.

Which leads heroes like you to jump in there and pissing off the attacker. When you're laying in bed feeling self-satisfied, realize she's taking an ass-kicking for your heroics. You're not the person you think you are. You're a thousand Xeroxes from there.
posted by yerfatma at 10:50 AM on August 9, 2005



posted by gramschmidt at 10:52 AM on August 9, 2005


I had no idea "gypped" was a potentially offensive word. Anybody care to enlighten me as to the reference of why that would be offensive?

It is similar to saying that someone "jewed" you down in price or "jewed" you out of something (to their benefit).
posted by sic at 11:17 AM on August 9, 2005


*plays 'Old Black Joe' on jew's harp*
posted by jonmc at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2005


I ran into this on Flickr in the last several weeks, I amended my comment to "peoplebeater" and that seemed to solve any real issues. Equal opportunity to get a beating for all!

Besides, its when the womens borrow them and wear them that they look absolutely hot (SFW). Maybe its a different sort of "beatin'" they're getting?
posted by fenriq at 11:21 AM on August 9, 2005


yerfatma - that's right -- helping would be uncool; but vigorously protecting your right to use hipster slang is very cool.
posted by footnote at 11:21 AM on August 9, 2005


OK, so: Here's what I see happening. OP objects to the term "wifebeater" used to describe a kind of men's undershirt. I assume it is because she (?) feels the term trivializes the problem of domestic abuse. She makes a perhaps overly terse post on MeTa about it. She is accused of being "politically correct," there is much arguation, hasty attempts to liken the term to other terms that are offensive to some, and then the thread pretty much devolves into name-calling and knee-jerk responses to people whose various buttons have been pushed. That's kinda too bad, huh. Not very constructive.

Oh, and Miko, I agree with you about "wifebeater." I just wanted you to know.
posted by scratch at 11:23 AM on August 9, 2005


let's not get hysterical.
posted by keswick at 11:23 AM on August 9, 2005


nylon : "bugbread: I understand what you're saying, but what if I wasn't familiar with either Swift or Dahmer? How should I react then? I know nothing about flod, or his domestic habits. All I see is a feed headline of 'Do beige/nude wifebeaters exist?' And as far as I'm aware, a wifebeater is a beater of wives."

True, which means your initial reaction is not unwarranted. And then when you realize there are other definitions, that's the end of that. Much the same way as an insular person visiting the UK hearing the word "fag" for the first time. (Yes, I realize the evolution of the phrase is different, but I'm talking about the "what if I wasn't familiar? As far as I'm aware..." aspect) They'd probably be offended, then informed, then the issue would probably stop.
posted by Bugbread at 11:23 AM on August 9, 2005




yerfatma - that's right -- helping would be uncool; but vigorously protecting your right to use hipster slang is very cool.

Helping? Talk is cheap. I doubt your speechifying and Public Displays Of Indignance are stopping any woman from getting beaten.
posted by jonmc at 11:26 AM on August 9, 2005


OP objects to the term "wifebeater" used to describe a kind of men's undershirt. I assume it is because she (?) feels the term trivializes the problem of domestic abuse. She makes a perhaps overly terse post on MeTa about it. She is accused of being "politically correct," there is much arguation, hasty attempts to liken the term to other terms that are offensive to some, and then the thread pretty much devolves into name-calling and knee-jerk responses to people whose various buttons have been pushed. That's kinda too bad, huh. Not very constructive.

That's about right. When "tanktop" and "wifebeater" carry two entirely different sets of cultural baggage, for what is at the end of the day the same piece of clothing, the choice of language does impart various meanings to a varied audience, whether we like it to or not.

While I'm not casting any particular imputation of motive, like Miko, I, too, am curious why one term was chosen over another. It seems unrealistic that the original poster of the AskMe question didn't know that the term "wifebeater" refers (in a concrete, if ironic way) to domestic violence, and that the use of this term wouldn't be more than somewhat distracting from the question at hand.
posted by Rothko at 11:34 AM on August 9, 2005


The correct term is Dago-T.

I've always understood a Dago-T to be a sleeveless tee shirt, AKA muscle tee.

By the way, my wife wears the wifebeater in our house, and she looks HAWT in it.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:36 AM on August 9, 2005


Geez, people, it isn't all about being offensive. It's that you sound like such a total duuumbfuuuck when you use certain types of slang.

Wifebeater was sort of amusing for about ten minutes, but when every middle-schooler knows it's origins it's time to move on.
posted by docpops at 11:36 AM on August 9, 2005


Geez, people, it isn't all about being offensive. It's that you sound like such a total duuumbfuuuck

I think "Geez" sounds pretty stupid too. Aren't you glad I let you know?
posted by sfenders at 11:43 AM on August 9, 2005


By the way, when I was a wee teen in the backwoods of rural New England. We also called Pontiac Firebirds and Trans-Ams wifebeaters as well.

SteveinMaine, see my comment above. Does she look that hot? You're a lucky man!
posted by fenriq at 11:43 AM on August 9, 2005


Rothko : "When 'tanktop' and 'wifebeater' carry two entirely different sets of cultural baggage, for what is at the end of the day the same piece of clothing"

Tanktops and wifebeaters are the same? My wife owns some things she calls tank tops, but they aren't what I picture when I think wifebeater.

(By the way, isn't saying geez probably offensive to people who believe in the third commandment?)
posted by Bugbread at 11:51 AM on August 9, 2005


It comes from "gypsy", based on the high incidence of theft and shortchanging by gypsies in some areas towards non-gypsies.

How many fucking times does this need to be discussed? It doesn't. Don't be so niggardly with your etymology research.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:56 AM on August 9, 2005


I am deeply offended by easily offended people. Or, easily offended by deeply offended people, whichever.
posted by yhbc at 11:59 AM on August 9, 2005


Oh and since the Mayor brought it up - "indian giver" doesn't mean what you thnk it means either.
posted by yhbc at 12:01 PM on August 9, 2005


helping would be uncool; but vigorously protecting your right to use hipster slang is very cool.

Yes, that's exactly what I meant, as opposed to the pointing out thinking positive thoughts is miles away from doing anything useful.
posted by yerfatma at 12:02 PM on August 9, 2005


P.S., If "wifebeater" is still within the purview of hipsters in your town, move.
posted by yerfatma at 12:03 PM on August 9, 2005


Mayor Curley : "How many fucking times does this need to be discussed? It doesn't."

Actually, from the link you provide: it isn't that it does, or it doesn't, but that it probably doesn't, and there's no hard evidence either way. But, yeah, point taken.

And I guess it needs to be discussed as many times as it takes everybody to stumble across one of those discussions at some point in their life. That is, it probably needs to be discussed a whole lot, unfortunately.
posted by Bugbread at 12:06 PM on August 9, 2005


When "tanktop" and "wifebeater" carry two entirely different sets of cultural baggage, for what is at the end of the day the same piece of clothing, the choice of language does impart various meanings to a varied audience, whether we like it to or not.

No way. A man's tank top is less fitting than a man's wifebeater, and a women's tank top has much thinner straps than a woman's wifebeater.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:09 PM on August 9, 2005


A tank top is a regular shirt with no arms.
A vest is an overshirt.
A wifebeater is a specific kind of undershirt.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:16 PM on August 9, 2005


But we can still say "Chinks," right? Chinks is still OK.


posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:18 PM on August 9, 2005


Civil_Disobedient : "But we can still say 'Chinks,' right? Chinks is still OK."

In regard to nicks and dents in armor, yes. In regard to people, well, you can still say it (nobody's going to burst into your house and stop you), but, generally, culturally speaking, you'll be regarded as a boor if you do.
posted by Bugbread at 12:23 PM on August 9, 2005


Somebody call the paddywagon. This hair-splitting is getting out of hand.
posted by nyterrant at 12:26 PM on August 9, 2005


nyterrant : "Somebody call the paddywagon."

"Paddywagon" comes from a pejorative reference to the Irish.
posted by Bugbread at 12:31 PM on August 9, 2005


I agree with Miko completely. Nobody should wear a wifebeater, and requesting a source for such offensive clothing is an abuse of AxMe.
posted by mosch at 12:33 PM on August 9, 2005


Vocab:

A man's tank top is less fitting than a man's wifebeater, and a women's tank top has much thinner straps than a woman's wifebeater.

Women's tank tops can have straps just as wide as a wifebeater, though this is not the current fashion. You may be referring to spaghetti straps? (And if so, please realize that you are potentially offending both the linguini and the fettucine.)

Wifebeater refers to an undershirt. (This underwear is frequently worn as outwear, and has spawned outerwear imitations, but we're still essentially talking about something that can be purchased in a three-pack from the display in the men's panty section. I mean briefs.)

In the UK, "vest" means man's undershirt. What is called a vest in the US is called a waistcoat in the UK.

Little girls wear undershirts (or they used to when I was a kid.) Grown-up girls may wear camisoles, which are lingerie versions of undershirts, which in either gender are worn ostensibly for modesty, so that skin does not show through thin shirts. It is currently fashionable for women to wear camisoles as outerwear.

"Tank top" is sometimes used to refer to undergarments, but also may be used to generically describe any casual sleeveless non-button-down shirt worn by either gender.
posted by desuetude at 12:34 PM on August 9, 2005


Worst.

Callout.

Ever.
posted by wakko at 12:35 PM on August 9, 2005


Ah, well, then I guess I don't see it as classist. Backwards asshole hicks aren't a class, they're a subset of a class (rural folks). Some of that class (rural folks) are backwards, some aren't. Some are assholes, some aren't.

You could say that about any group of people. You're talking a lot, and saying very little.
posted by justgary at 12:36 PM on August 9, 2005


Anyone know where I can get a Fishfucker, medium, light grey?
posted by docpops at 12:36 PM on August 9, 2005


A better example would be if a certain type of car were called a "Klan car", or a certain type of pants "pedophile pants", or the like.

Everywhere I've lived, people have universally understood the term "Child-molester Van." I'm just sayin' is all. Once, an evangelical type told me the correct term is "Kidnapper Van."
posted by stet at 12:43 PM on August 9, 2005


Bugbread: "Ah, well, then I guess I don't see it as classist. Backwards asshole hicks aren't a class, they're a subset of a class (rural folks). Some of that class (rural folks) are backwards, some aren't. Some are assholes, some aren't.

justgary : "You could say that about any group of people. You're talking a lot, and saying very little."

For something to be classist, it needs to apply to a class. "Goddamn rich people" = classist. "Goddamn folks who beat their domestic help" = not classist. So, you could say it about most groups (not all groups), and it would be true, and that's because most groups aren't classes, and making pejorative statements about them isn't classist.

I don't know that that says little, except that "there's little to be said, and too much being said of it".
posted by Bugbread at 12:44 PM on August 9, 2005


"Paddywagon" comes from a pejorative reference to the Irish.

*slaps forehead*
posted by nyterrant at 12:45 PM on August 9, 2005


Stupid wagons, comin' over here, stealin' our jobs.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:59 PM on August 9, 2005


(Sorry, nyterrant, I thought I was playing the ball you set up for me)
posted by Bugbread at 12:59 PM on August 9, 2005


With a flourish, I might add.
posted by nyterrant at 1:05 PM on August 9, 2005


I remember a bumper sticker not too long ago that said:

"God is coming - Stick out your tongue"

This sticker made a number of assumptions; that God was into facials and that us mere mortals were into bukkake. If I were a believer in God, I'd want one that isn't into the kinky, weird shit and takes care of business. Oh, and the bumper sticker was beyond fucking stupid. Everytime I saw it, I got this uneasy feeling which I couldn't put my finger on.

Same thing occurs when I hear "wifebeater" tossed around. Not that my comfort level should be of anyone's concern; it's just an observation.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:05 PM on August 9, 2005


That person scared to do something, possibly illegal, is a fat incorrigible pussy!
posted by The Jesse Helms at 1:10 PM on August 9, 2005


We should Shanghai that pussy!
posted by The Jesse Helms at 1:11 PM on August 9, 2005


"God is coming - Stick out your tongue"

Bukkake? Perhaps. It more likely just implies the disrespect of making a face at God.
posted by caddis at 1:32 PM on August 9, 2005


As a man who has often been referred to as a "tank." (As in "built like a tank") I take offense to the term "tanktop."
And the term "undershirt" is offensive to those of us who believe that all shirts are equal in the eyes of the law.
posted by Floydd at 1:40 PM on August 9, 2005


This has gone beyond pathetic to being merely fun.

You hear about the new Italian tires? When dago flat, dago wop, wop, wop.
posted by yhbc at 1:45 PM on August 9, 2005


FWIW, my father (born in the 30's -- hardworking, honest man), loathes the term "redneck". From a farming family (but a socialist-progressive political background on the prairies), he is incensed by the idea that a man who spends a day doing honest work in the sun must somehow be socially or politically backwards. And he's right.

Of course, it's the generalization he hates, not the word, but the word solidifies the generalization. Does he think people shouldn't be allowed to say it? Of course not. He's a leftie like me, despite the tan.
posted by dreamsign at 1:57 PM on August 9, 2005


Redneck was a reference to the red dermopathy that comes with niacin deficiency, common in corn-heavy, southern diets of the time.
posted by docpops at 2:01 PM on August 9, 2005


Then you'd best correct the wiki.
posted by dreamsign at 2:06 PM on August 9, 2005


Wikipedia on redneck etymology:

The popular etymology says that the term derives from such individuals having a red neck caused by working outdoors in the sunlight over the course of their lifetime. The effect of decades of direct sunlight on the exposed skin of the back of the neck not only reddens fair skin, but renders it leathery and tough, and typically very wrinkled by late middle age. Another popular theory stems from the use of red bandanas tied around the neck to signify union affiliation during the violent clashes between United Mine Workers and owners between 1910 and 1920.

Some historians claim that the term redneck originated in 17th century Virginia, when indentured servants were sunburnt while tending plantation crops.

An alternative origin of the term comes from Scotland. In Scotland, the National Covenant and The Solemn League and Covenant (a.k.a. Covenanters) signed documents stating that Scotland desired a Presbyterian Church Government, and rejected the Church of England as their official church.

Many of the Covenanters Signed these documents using their own blood, and many in the movement began wearing red pieces of cloth around their neck to signify their position to the public. They were referred to as Rednecks. Many of the early inhabitants of the US South were of Scottish Descent, and according to this theory, this term was applied to many of the southern Scottish immigrants early on, eventually changing into the term we know today.
posted by Bugbread at 2:07 PM on August 9, 2005


From www.wordorigins.org:

Redneck

Redneck dates to 1830, when it was first used to denote the Presbyterians of Fayetteville, Georgia. But it wasn't until 1893 that the term was used in the modern sense of a poor, white farmer or laborer. The significance of the name is somewhat obscure. Three explanations are commonly offered. First, it could be a reference to a ruddy neck caused by anger. Second, it could be a reference to sunburned necks caused by working in the fields all day. Finally, it could be a reference to pellagra which turns the neck red. The original reference to Presbyterians may be to poor, Scotch-Irish farmers that was later expanded to a larger economic class.

There is also a tale in which it referred to striking coal miners who wore red bandannas as a means of group identification. This is unlikely due to what we know of its origin. The sunburn or pellagra explanation seems more likely than the anger one.

Interestingly, the Afrikaans Rooinek, which literally means redneck, is a disparaging term the Boers used to apply to the British and later became associated with any European immigrant to South Africa.

(Sources: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition; American Speech, Vol. 76, No. 4, Winter 2001)

God forbid anyone disagree with the haphazardly edited Wiki-scribe.
posted by docpops at 2:16 PM on August 9, 2005


Wifebeaters everywhere need to take this word back.
The undershirt has rendered it virtually meaningless.
An example:
"What up, wifebeater? Hey, you see that wifebeater down the street?"
"Yeah, that's my wifebeater right there..."
"Wifebeater, please."
posted by hellbient at 2:19 PM on August 9, 2005


re: "gypped"
It is similar to saying that someone "jewed" you down in price or "jewed" you out of something (to their benefit). - sic

I didn't heard the term "jewed" until I was in my twenties. And it shocked me. I immediatly found it distateful (and continue to feel that way) because of the obvious slur nature of it. The (possible) gypped/gypsy connection had never occurred to me.
posted by raedyn at 2:21 PM on August 9, 2005


I didn't heard the term "jewed" until I was in my twenties. And it shocked me. I immediatly found it distateful (and continue to feel that way) because of the obvious slur nature of it. The (possible) gypped/gypsy connection had never occurred to me.

The former Maxwell Street area in Chicago is still referred to by some old-timers as "Jew Town". Old habits, good and bad, die hard I guess.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:30 PM on August 9, 2005


"Wifebeater, please."

Maybe the funniest thing I have ever read in MeTa.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:50 PM on August 9, 2005


Wifebeatas Wit Attitude?
Woman Is The Wifebeater Of The World?
posted by keswick at 3:10 PM on August 9, 2005


Wifebeaters of the world
Unite and take over
posted by gramschmidt at 3:23 PM on August 9, 2005


The former Maxwell Street area in Chicago is still referred to by some old-timers as "Jew Town"

I've heard cadillacs and lincoln continentals referred to as jew canoes, kike kayaks, guinea gunboats, jig rigs, and taco wagons.

As slurs go, those aren't bad. And those cars sure are popular.
posted by jonmc at 3:42 PM on August 9, 2005


How is "Jew Town" inherently any better or worse than "Chinatown"?
posted by aaronetc at 3:46 PM on August 9, 2005


or "Little Italy," or "Greektown?"
posted by jonmc at 3:48 PM on August 9, 2005


Can we all agree, in spite of our different opinions on the acceptable nomenclature for men's sleeveless athletic undergarments, that calling Stella "wifebeater" is fair game? That crypto Streetcar Named Desire reference is so clever!
posted by nyterrant at 3:48 PM on August 9, 2005


leaving a comment to inflate the count
posted by angry modem at 5:09 PM on August 9, 2005


PC outrage turns into etymological debate. I love this thread.
posted by languagehat at 5:42 PM on August 9, 2005


My wandering jew has just informed me that it is totally okay with being associated with the fine jewish people, but from here on out, would like to cease association with the cursed Jesus-mocker of legend who wasn't even a jew.
posted by desuetude at 5:55 PM on August 9, 2005


We're talking about Kentucky smoking jackets, right?
posted by emelenjr at 6:11 PM on August 9, 2005


PC outrage turns into etymological debate. I love this thread.

Well, once you detach yourself from the emotional content. It's fun to judge ethnic/racial/sexual slurs on their creativity; ie: "gap-lapper," is far superior to "dyke," don't you think?

plus doing so knocks bigots off balance.
posted by jonmc at 6:27 PM on August 9, 2005


I'm disappointed that nobody's welshed on any deals yet.
posted by flashboy at 6:46 PM on August 9, 2005


I'm proud to be a gaplapper.
posted by mischief at 7:05 PM on August 9, 2005


Last night I got portugaled right in the liechtenstein. I won't be able to sit down for a week.
posted by marxchivist at 7:14 PM on August 9, 2005


Political correctness

Yeah, I was brought up to call this courtesy, or perhaps respect.


Sucker.
posted by scarabic at 7:25 PM on August 9, 2005


caddis: are you serious? My gut feeling is that the pun is intentional.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:26 PM on August 9, 2005


Did the guy ever get his link for a good place to get the shirts he wanted?
posted by interrobang at 7:34 PM on August 9, 2005


If you absolutely had the power to stop another Hiroshima, would you spend 5 years chained in an uncomfortable position, naked, with a hot curling iron up your ass, being beaten and questioned twice a day, and be fed the finest foods, would you do it?
posted by Balisong at 7:58 PM on August 9, 2005


I dunno, what's the hourly rate?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:00 PM on August 9, 2005


/
posted by moonbird at 8:16 PM on August 9, 2005


OMG, moonbird, that reminds me of all the T-shirt vendors down the shore in NJ carrying kid sized shirts emblazoned with "Future M.I.L.F."
posted by caddis at 8:30 PM on August 9, 2005


I think this discussion has run its course.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:37 PM on August 9, 2005


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