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View Full Version : Airline sued for saying "Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe"


sqweels
01-22-2004, 08:56 PM
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/5154059.htm

Two black women have sued Southwest Airlines for discrimination, claiming "physical and emotional distress" after hearing a simple rhyme spoken:

Grace Fuller, 48, and her sister Louise Sawyer, 46, were returning from Las Vegas two years ago when flight attendant Jennifer Cundiff, trying to get passengers to sit down, said over the intercom, "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go."

The sisters say the rhyme was directed at them and was a reference to its racist version that dates to before the civil rights era: "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; catch a n----- by his toe."

The airline was found not liable, but this is just one of countless accusations of racism made over gestures that merely draw vague associations to racial stereotypes or slurs or history.

So the question is, can't blacks agree to a more reasonable place to draw the line over whether something should be considered racism?

jayjay
01-22-2004, 09:38 PM
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/5154059.htm

Two black women have sued Southwest Airlines for discrimination, claiming "physical and emotional distress" after hearing a simple rhyme spoken:



The airline was found not liable, but this is just one of countless accusations of racism made over gestures that merely draw vague associations to racial stereotypes or slurs or history.

So the question is, can't blacks agree to a more reasonable place to draw the line over whether something should be considered racism?

This is silly. I've never even heard the "catch a n----- by his toe" version. The only version I've ever heard was "catch a tiger by the toe". I'd bet that's the most widespread one. If the other was ever in vogue, it was well before me or pretty much anyone of my generation would have had ears to hear it.

Apos
01-22-2004, 09:42 PM
So the question is, can't blacks agree to a more reasonable place to draw the line over whether something should be considered racism?

You mean: "these particular two black people, the only ones mentioned in the article" right? Right? Or are you really starting off a "what's wrong with all these BLACKS..." thread based on a single incident, reported largely because it is exceptional fringe-type news?

To put it simply, I don't see what grounds this suit is even based on. first of all, it's one thing to claim emotional distress (I don't see any description of physical anything here) as part of a crime that was done to you. But causing someone emotional distress alone, even intentionally, is not any sort of crime that I am aware of. That their lawyers even let them pursue that claim could only be a means of bilking them out of legal fees. I don't know if these ladies were too dumb to find seats on time, but boy are they dumb when it comes to finding legal representation.

But on the part of the case that was allowed: what the heck is "objectively" racist? What idiot spent so much time studying tort reform that they forgot that utterances are NEVER objective events? This is a clear case of two differing SUBJECTIVE interpretations.

And, even given that, what law was broken. Is there a law against offending people with even deliberately meant racist remarks? Are they claiming discrimination (based on what? they got every material thing their ticket entitled them to: a seat, meals, transport, etc.,)

Rashak Mani
01-22-2004, 09:45 PM
I hardly think its a black american thing... there are so many stories of outrageous suits in the US... I suppose its more of a national thing. Its way too easy to sue.

(I didn't know about the "nigger" version of the ryhme... )

John Mace
01-22-2004, 10:14 PM
So the question is, can't blacks agree to a more reasonable place to draw the line over whether something should be considered racism?

All 25 million of them? Unlikely. And even if they could, you (assuming you are white) might not agree that it was "reasonable" anyway. So it goes to the courts like a lot of things do.


Hey, I think most people can agree that this was a silly lawsuit. We even had a thread about this back when it first broke, and most people never heard the version of nursery rhyme that containted the "N" word.

Diogenes the Cynic
01-22-2004, 10:54 PM
Yes, the lawsuit was frivolous, the claims of "damages" were laughable and these two women deserve nothing but ridicule but let's not generalize these two individuals into "black people." The vast majority of black people have endured far more egregious and deliberate racial insults than this imagined slight and they don't go running to lawyers. This kind of action is not representative.

AHunter3
01-23-2004, 12:17 AM
It's a damn silly lawsuit, but yeah I grew up fully aware of the racist version of "eenie meenie miney moe".

stuyguy
01-23-2004, 12:45 AM
Just to give this thread a little balance, when I was a kid (1960s & 70s) the "... catch a n***** by the toe... " version was the only one I ever heard. (We're talking solid white, Italian-American Brooklyn here, a neighborhood that would probably have been happy to sponsor a Klan rally if the KKK didn't hate Catholics. I doubt many opinions have changed in the minds of the old timers even today.) When I finally heard the "... catch a tiger ..." variation, sometime in my 20's or later, I laughed to myself that someone has sanitized the real version.

I'm not saying that these women have a valid case, but I can see how they might be taken aback at the "Eenie, Meenie" reference if the racist version is the only one they've ever heard (like me). Once someone explained to them that 99% of the world is used to the inoffensive version they should have gotten over it.

Roches
01-23-2004, 12:53 AM
To those who grew up with the 'clean' version, did you actually say 'tiger' or was it 'tigger'? (And did you use the second line, 'if he hollers, let him go'?) The version I heard was with 'tigger', so it was eventually obvious that it was formerly something else. Also, tigers don't have toes, and they don't 'holler'. That being said, I've met a few people who were surprised to learn that there's a racist version of the rhyme.

dangermom
01-23-2004, 01:11 AM
We always said 'tiger', and I never heard the old version till college--I think I read it, really, and was quite surprised. I can see where plenty of people in this country can have gotten to adulthood without ever hearing it. (Tigers do too have toes, you just wouldn't really want to catch a tiger by one. But then, how many teddy bears can turn around, and who kisses snakes accidentally, and since when can you slide down a rainbow? It's no more nonsensical than any other schoolyard rhyme.)

We also had a sung version that was 'whipper-whopper.' (Eeny meeny and a, miney mo, catch a whipper-whopper, by its toe, and if he holler-holler-hollers, don't let him go, eeny meeny and a, miney mo)

Marley23
01-23-2004, 01:17 AM
:smack: Can someone point me to the court case that made people think they were entitled to sue for millions of dollars if someone said something that made them uncomfortable?

So the question is, can't blacks agree to a more reasonable place to draw the line over whether something should be considered racism?
:smack: Jeez, squeels. If you're going to start a thread about racism, use a little discretion and avoid making pronouncements that could be taken as racist.

kmg365
01-23-2004, 02:43 AM
This whole incident reminds me of the black guy who accused a Washington D.C. Councilmember of using racist language just because he had used the word "niggardly" in describing a budget proposal. ("Niggardly" means stingy or miserly and is derived from the Scandinavian word for miser, Nygaard -- a far cry from the Latin word for black, Negro, which of course, the other word comes from.)

Desmostylus
01-23-2004, 03:22 AM
Previous version of this thread, from a year ago: Airline sued for "eeny meenie miney mo" (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=162362)

Mangetout
01-23-2004, 03:51 AM
So the question is, can't blacks agree to a more reasonable place to draw the line over whether something should be considered racism?'Can't blacks agree'

:confused:

You think that black people are a monolithic entity?

There are stupid petty people in every population, doing stupid petty things and feigning (or genuinely experiencing) offense at the most stupid petty stimuli - this example is just another one of those.

kmg365
01-23-2004, 04:06 AM
Can you imagine the brouhaha that would have ensued if the stewardesses, while passing out drinks and snacks, used this one instead?

"Me insert ethnicity or nationality here, me play joke, me go pee-pee in your Coke!"

devilsknew
01-23-2004, 04:17 AM
Weird! This is something that I unfortunately have personal experience with. First, I am not a rascist but I am a white country boy (and no, this does not somehow forgive what I am to describe but may go quite some distance in explanation.)
Basically, this is what happened.
I'm standing on a darkened porch with three very good friends and a choice in rotation comes to the fore, I must choose a person. Unthinking and nonchalant, and perhaps with a bit of juvenile ritualism I proceed to "eeney meenie miney moe" the pass. Well, "eeney meeeney miney moe" was always of the more "traditional" variety within my immediate childhood circle and was probably learned from my family, so I get to the damning part and I stutter and obviously flounder, "Catch a Nnnn...nTIGER!... by the toe..." (internal dialogue: "Oh shit, wait! my black friend is here!") I flushed. I was never so embarassed and horrified at the nonchalance of a childhood prejudice! Simultaneously, as I felt the warmth in my face, I also realized that I intended no slur upon my friend- my intentions were from habitual semantics and had no rascist undertone. The word "Nigger" is politically charged and swollen with prejudice of and within its etymology. I also simply realized that the simple fact that I caught myself and was embarassed so deeply must point to my redemption. Surely, I would have no such remorse if I were rascist? Does a word still carry hate, if without the intention of hate?

TwistofFate
01-23-2004, 06:08 AM
If they win this case, I'm going to sue anyone who uses the term "Paddy-Wack".

jjimm
01-23-2004, 06:14 AM
If they win this case, I'm going to sue anyone who uses the term "Paddy-Wack".You should sue the manufacturers of Nik-Nak corn chips, in that case.

Futile Gesture
01-23-2004, 06:15 AM
[url]So the question is, can't blacks agree to a more reasonable place to draw the line over whether something should be considered racism?
:rolleyes: :rolleyes: I think when all the blacks meet up at their secret world HQ to decide this, your statement will still fall on the wrong side of the line.

Lynn Bodoni
01-23-2004, 06:26 AM
To those who grew up with the 'clean' version, did you actually say 'tiger' or was it 'tigger'? (And did you use the second line, 'if he hollers, let him go'?) The version I heard was with 'tigger', so it was eventually obvious that it was formerly something else. Also, tigers don't have toes, and they don't 'holler'. That being said, I've met a few people who were surprised to learn that there's a racist version of the rhyme. The version I learned had "catch a monkey by the toe, if he hollers make him pay/fifty dollars every day."

TwistofFate
01-23-2004, 07:07 AM
You should sue the manufacturers of Nik-Nak corn chips, in that case.

1. Sue snack company

2. ??

3. Profit!!

emulsified
01-23-2004, 09:45 AM
With apologies to MLK jr., I have a little dream of my own.

I have a dream that some day people will come to realize that it is possible to say or do something that offends someone else even if they did not intend to offend at all.

I have a dream that those people will recognize that and feel honest regret at having offended someone else--again--even though they did not intend offense.

I have a dream that those offended will in those cases learn to recognize that offense was not intended and be overcome with understanding and forgiveness.

It saddens me that we're so far from what seems so simple.

Homebrew
01-23-2004, 10:57 AM
If the other was ever in vogue, it was well before me or pretty much anyone of my generation would have had ears to hear it.I dare say it's not an age difference between us that allowed me to hear the racist version. I think it's more a reflection on those around you that you were shielded from that version. Here in the South, it was, and still is, not uncommon.

Tapioca Dextrin
01-23-2004, 11:48 AM
This was posted in Legal Briefs Newletter (http://www.nationalcenter.org/LB26.html)


The plaintiffs say the modern-day next line of the rhyme, "catch a tiger by the toe," once was sung with a reference to the "n-word," making a mere mention of the song a coded reference to a minority group.

Southwest now may expect calls from Jacques Chirac and from PETA. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, both "Frenchman" and "chicken" each once were sung where we now sing "tiger."

That's not all. Tinkers, spiders, beggars, sailors, young men and various other persons and animals historically have been mentioned in the spot now graced with "tiger."

The case goes to trial in federal court in September 2003.


Sources: Sisters Suing Southwest Over 'Racist Rhyme,' AP, 2/10/03, downloaded from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,78139,00.html on April 28, 2003

"Rhyme Doesn't Fly on Southwest: Airline Sued Over Nursery Rhyme," John Stossel, Commentary for ABC News, April 12, 2003, downloaded from
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/2020/GiveMeABreak/stossel_gmabrhyme030411.html on April 28, 2003

Interview with Melanie Jones of Southwest Airlines on April 29, 2003

Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes

Tort du Jour in this edition of Legal Briefs may be reprinted provided source is credited.


Who says lawyers have no sense of humour? ;)

Tinker Grey
01-23-2004, 12:11 PM
This was posted in Legal Briefs Newletter (http://www.nationalcenter.org/LB26.html)

That's not all. Tinkers, spiders, beggars, sailors, young men and various other persons and animals historically have been mentioned in the spot now graced with "tiger."I want my slice of the pie, DAMMIT!

Who wants to be my lawyer?!?

Tinker

suranyi
01-23-2004, 04:51 PM
If they win this case, I'm going to sue anyone who uses the term "Paddy-Wack".

I guess you missed the first message in this thread, in which it was stated that they had LOST the case. The verdict was announced yesterday. The airline won.

Ed

jayjay
01-23-2004, 05:17 PM
I dare say it's not an age difference between us that allowed me to hear the racist version. I think it's more a reflection on those around you that you were shielded from that version. Here in the South, it was, and still is, not uncommon.

Entirely possible, and likely, given what I've read from other people so far on this thread. Regional differences are likely, as well, since I grew up in central Pennsylvania. And I think the only time my parents EVER used the n-word was in reference to Brazil nuts, which they both called n-----toes. Used to drive me crazy wincing whenever they did that.

Stuffy
01-23-2004, 06:02 PM
Entirely possible, and likely, given what I've read from other people so far on this thread. Regional differences are likely, as well, since I grew up in central Pennsylvania. And I think the only time my parents EVER used the n-word was in reference to Brazil nuts, which they both called n-----toes. Used to drive me crazy wincing whenever they did that.


Don't feel bad. My Grandma still calls them that, and she's black.

Northern Piper
01-25-2004, 10:55 AM
To those who grew up with the 'clean' version, did you actually say 'tiger' or was it 'tigger'? (And did you use the second line, 'if he hollers, let him go'?) The version I heard was with 'tigger', so it was eventually obvious that it was formerly something else. Also, tigers don't have toes, and they don't 'holler'. That being said, I've met a few people who were surprised to learn that there's a racist version of the rhyme.I only knew the "tiger" version - "Tigger" was a character on Winnie-the-Pooh. And I think we used he/him or it/it interchangeably. As for "hollers", as a six year old with little actual experience of tigers in real life and the noises they make, I don't think I even thought about it.

"Brazil nuts" was the only way I'd ever heard them referred to until I was well into my 20s.

Northern Piper
01-25-2004, 10:57 AM
shoot - hit "post" too quickly. I also heard a third pronunciation of "tiger" in this rhyme, from some of my buddies - "tayger", which was a not uncommon pronunciation of the word on the Canadian Prairies at that time. Suggests to me that we only thought the rhyme was about a big cat.

whiterabbit
01-25-2004, 11:49 AM
I'd never heard of the "nigger" version until this case hit the news. I probably first learned the tiger version in Ohio, though I spent most of my growing up time in central Texas.

Tir Tinuviel
01-25-2004, 12:37 PM
Also, tigers don't have toes,
Whose Toes Are These? (http://www.billybear4kids.com/animal/whose-toes/toes15a.html)

sqweels
01-25-2004, 02:19 PM
Criticizing blacks is like poking at a school of fish--they scatter then immediately re-group.

You think that black people are a monolithic entity? (etc.)

Well, black people portray themselves as a monolithic entity, and that “society“ is a monolithic entity, as in, “We‘re living in a racist society“. The African-American community speaks with seemingly one voice in response to any number of issues. Let’s not smokescreen.

There's often a lot of talk about having a "national conversation about race" and this is understood on one level to be among whole groups. "Look at history" we are told when we want to know why blacks--apparently as a group--are reacting in a certain way to a particular issue, and this implies a shared background upon which they base an identity as a group. We often hear calls for the US to issue a formal apology for slavery, but apologize to whom if blacks aren't a group? Of course there’s diversity of opinion within the African-American community--that’s what the movie Barbershop was about for example--but then again, look at the protests that film elicited.

I’m also talking about incidents such as college students getting in tons of trouble for dressing as Tiger Woods or the Jackson 5 for Halloween. It’s not understood in terms of any other masquerade, but rather it’s associated with those old blackface minstrel shows. They were clearly demeaning, but it shouldn’t be considered demeaning to do something that simply reminds one of something demeaning. At the same time as the infamous “niggardly” case, someone was accused of racism for referring to a problem as a “tar baby”, because that reminded someone of Uncle Remus, which in turn reminded them of slavery. One of my favorite examples came when a major league ballpark awarded its daily ticket upgrade to a group of fans. They show you on the diamond vision and play the theme from "The Jeffersons" cuz you're "movin' on up" to better seats, but this time it was a black family and they complained of racism. (Not sure which of these cases included lawsuits or demands for dismissal as opposed to simple complaints.) Or how about complaints over recent TV ads for Three Musketeers bars, which had a black guy as one of the musketeers. That bit of casting was done in the name of diversity, but some saw racism in the association of blacks and chocolate (I think I read that one in Time Magazine).

We're talking about a pattern here, a tendency within a specific body politic. I could have better-stated the final remark in the OP, to wit: In the course of having a national conversation about race, can the problem of frivolous lawsuits and complaints over questionable associations with racism and arrive at a more sophisticated understanding of what should or should not be considered racism?

Floater
01-26-2004, 07:56 AM
("Niggardly" means stingy or miserly and is derived from the Scandinavian word for miser, Nygaard
Wherever did you learn that ? Nygaard is just a proper Danish name (in Swedish it would be spelt Nygård), meaning litterally "new yard". AFAIUnderstand it's the same word as the the name of the Russian town Novgorod.

mark_rischard
01-26-2004, 08:45 AM
Wherever did you learn that ? Nygaard is just a proper Danish name (in Swedish it would be spelt Nygård), meaning litterally "new yard". AFAIUnderstand it's the same word as the the name of the Russian town Novgorod.
According to my handy Webster's, it's derived from the Scandinavian "nigard"; a stingy person.

Floater
01-26-2004, 09:19 AM
According to my handy Webster's, it's derived from the Scandinavian "nigard"; a stingy person.
I must say that I have never heard any such word before. On the other hand, when I checked Merriam-Webster they confirmed its Old Norse origin and I can only say that it is definitely obsolete nowadays, at least in Swedish.

Floater
01-26-2004, 09:25 AM
Some deep thinking made me realise what it is in current Swedish (njugg). My defence is that it has corrupted through the years and isn't very common anymore.

spingears
01-26-2004, 12:31 PM
To those who grew up with the 'clean' version, did you actually say 'tiger' or was it 'tigger'? (And did you use the second line, 'if he hollers, let him go'?) The version I heard was with 'tigger', so it was eventually obvious that it was formerly something else. Also, tigers don't have toes, and they don't 'holler'. That being said, I've met a few people who were surprised to learn that there's a racist version of the rhyme.

I didn't find which planet Roches is from but on the Planet Earth all cats (felines) have toes and claws, aka: toe nails. Some cats are even polydactyl, i.e. 6 or more toes, a few even have 7. It is a genetic thing. Earnest Hemingway had a lot of cats and motst of them were polydactyl.

Cats, don't 'holler,'but cry, mew, and tirgers roar.' so call it what you will.

Read about them at:
http://centralpets.com/pages/critterpages/mammals/cats/CAT5776.shtml

MagneticPortal
03-31-2017, 10:37 PM
Few things are more offensive than taking offence where none is intended.

They herd n*ggers cause they got the word stuck in their nappy heads......

Personally, I never herd the 'tigger' version before. Thanks, muchly. Gonna use it.

Robot Arm
03-31-2017, 10:43 PM
Few things are more offensive than taking offence where none is intended.I suspect that the people involved may have gotten over it by now.

cochrane
03-31-2017, 10:48 PM
They herd n*ggers cause they got the word stuck in their nappy heads......


Wow. Really? :rolleyes:

Jonathan Chance
03-31-2017, 11:08 PM
Closed.

And you're gone.