'Homo erectus' as an insult, is it homophobic?

This is a true debate I was having with my significant other. I won’t tell you which side I was on, but want your view. If you call someone a homo erectus and mean it as an insult, is it homophobic?

Homo can be used to intend a homophobic insult, and Erectus used in a sexual sense, either/or in combination or separately. Or it can just mean a caveman. The intent of the insulter and the perception of the insultee can be quite different. There’s no single answer, but usually the context let’s you know the intent.

Kinky Friedman wrote a song called “Homo Erectus.” In which *he *was the eponymous character, inspired by a longing for his pretty Anthropology teacher.

If Kinky couldn’t make it offensive, nobody could…

The context was as a term to mock a disagreeable person - as a substitute for the more commonly used terms ‘twatdonkey’ or ‘fucknut’, more due to the intrinsic meaning of the words than a direct reference to the genus of hominid.

I voted “no,” but my real answer is “it can be” if the speaker intends it to be. Generally, the type of person who would even use a slur like “homo erectus,” I think, would be invoking its literal meaning of pre-H. sapiens human, implying the target is less advanced/dumb/caveman-like/etc. That said, I could see teenagers or someone of that adolescent mentality glomming on to both the “homo” and “erectus” bit, and invoking the sexual associations with that. Now, as kids, we did sometime use “homo sapien(s)” as a veiled insult. It’s not literally an insult–it’s one where you can say “what? I just called you a human!” when you draw out/emphasize the “homo” part. But the allusion to “homosexual” is there.

So, like most things, I don’t feel it’s quite black-and-white, though I vote with the “it’s not homophobic” crowd because, literally, it is not.

If someone called me homo erectus, my first thought would be that they were calling me a caveman. It would depend on the nature and mentality of the insulter for me to then decide if they meant it in a homophobic way.

It’s not homophobic if I do it, no. Not that I would, it’s not really much of an insult, is it? Too obscure for precisely the kind of troglodyte you’d want to use it on. And I’m of the school that if someone doesn’t know they’re being insulted, there’s no real point.

Can’t speak for teenagers, though.

Heh, reminds me of when I was in first year university, and a bunch of my buddies were sitting around (in a bar, natch) thinking up really obscure insults for each other (can there be any more typical undergraduate pastime? :wink: ).

My contribution was to complement my friend on his “well developed sagittal crest” - silence for a beat - and then another fellow got it: “humans don’t even have them”. :smiley:

There were several more clever examples from others; sadly, due to encroaching decrepitude, I have forgotten them.

Do they know it was meant as an insult? The speaker knows it was an insult but if their intended victim doesn’t know it, what’s the point? The speaker can feel that warm, smug feeling but the victim will just think that the speaker is an ass.

Homo erectus isn’t an insult, but just as there are people who like to reassign the meaning of words to give themselves something to be offended about, I’m sure the more ignorant can and will consider the term an insult. :smack:

Indeed. There is much debate about H. erectus, whether it was a single species or represents several species. Lumpers and splitters once again.

I think a better insult would be either Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster, or Homo heidelbergensis. :smiley:

It also would be an insult to binomial taxonomy to not capitalize the “H”, as in the OP.

Of all of the words in the English language, the speaker chooses to insult using “homo” as part of the phrase. Even though the phrase used has an entirely different meaning, the speaker chooses to try to be clever and insulting at the same time, while maintaining plausible deniability that they are not indeed using a homophobic slur. By choosing the term “homo” the intent is clear, that the term “homo” contains the connotation of a homophobic insult.

I call foul.

As a comparison, as a white person in a group of African Americans, try calling someone an “enigma” and see how it works out. Same same.

You have got to be kidding. I’m not self-censoring like that.

The Homo erectus thing is different because NO ONE ALIVE TODAY IS A HOMO ERECTUS!! It’s not part of the vernacular like “Neanderthal” is.

There are plenty of “enigmas” walking around.

Based on the OP, I do not believe the speaker is expecting the hearer to have any knowledge or understanding of the specifics of what Homo Erectus means, in a technical sense. I do believe the speaker is using the term as it has a “sounds like” connotation. That is the intent of my comparison.

Beavis: Heh-heh. He said “homo”.

Butt-head: Huh-huh. He said “erect us”.

If one wants to go that route, say “I have a niggling suspiciion you are niggardly”. “Enigma” is’t I think enough.

I refuse to vote, because it depends on the context and what the insulter intended it to mean.

Context dependent, IMHO, however, why would you choose that over neanderthal if there wasn’t a sexual implication?

Obscurity. Insulting someone with a term they may not understand - most people have heard (by way of cartoons etc. at the least) of neanderthals.

So the insulter intends for the insultee to be insulted homophobically, with the excuse that he meant to insult his intellect, not only for being unevolved but for being ignorant, with the phallic reference tossed in on top. Man that is one good insult.

I have nothing to say on this topic.