Friday 24 June 2011

Is 'ginger' a derogatory word?

Guardian columnist Barbara Ellen takes a look at the recent Domino's pizza incident and questions whether the use of 'ginger' to describe someone with red hair should really be considered a prejudicial attack on the individual.

It's horrible to hear of children crying, but was "ginger kid" in this context malicious? The whole tone of the story is that Ross suffered some kind of sub-racist, or otherwise discriminatory, attack – almost on a level with "spaz kid" or "paki kid". Rather more likely is that the Domino's staff meant no offence – it was just a description of who the food was for.

Which raises the issue of who or what we are allowed to describe without getting our PC knickers in a twist. "This pizza is for that boy who has… erm, hair of a vivid colour, the shade most associated with fire and sunset; on an artist's palette you could mix it with yellow and get orange… ah, sod it, the pizza's gone cold!"

In reading this article, you can't help wondering if Barbara has considered the evolution of language. She uses the the phrase "paki kid" as a genuine example of prejudice. Originally, the word "paki" was a non-offensive way of describing a person from Pakistan (in the same way a Gam is from Gambia or a Scot is from Scotland). The word has since evolved and is now always considered offensive.

The word 'ginger' is evolving in the same way and in the same direction. Eventually, it is likely 'ginger' will be considered a derogatory word and the only unoffensive way to describe a person with red hair will be to call them a red head.



Anonymous said...

Ginger is not offensive as a descriptor of an INDIVIDUAL - but it is offensive when it is used to characterise and draw conclusions about someone - i.e. prejudice them.

In exactly the same way, it would be fine for the employee to have written "black kid" on the box if there was only one african-american kid in the store. It's just a descriptor.

However once you start saying "gingers have such fiery tempers" it is exactly the same as saying "blacks are always stealing stuff". You are prejudicing a group of people.

Amy said...

I agree with this article. Ginger tends to be negative. Redhead is positive.