Is "gyp" offensive?

It’s an ethnic slur. Alas, most people who use the word aren’t aware of it’s origin as such - and more to the point, don’t connect the verb gyp with any group of people, let alone the Rroma. The only thing you can do is educate when you hear it. I don’t find it offensive from people who are surprised by the origin of the word, but do find it so from those who do know the origin. I think intent or knowledge does make for an important part of how I respond to it’s use. Or more accurately, how I respond to the person using it.

This is different from how the word ‘nigger’ is used - I can’t imagine anyone using that word and not realizing what connotations it has. And, I’m somewhat contrarian, in that I don’t believe that use of nigger by an African-American makes it less offensive. At least in the times I’ve overheard it, it’s been used as just as derogatory a term by them as I’d assume it to be from a non-black. If there is an attempt to redefine the word or redirect it, don’t use the definition unaltered. Skin color of the person using the word shouldn’t define whether the word is unacceptable.

OtakuLoki, I understand what you’re saying but there is no word that is inherently offensive. I’ll state again, words are only offensive if someone perceives them as such. Thus if two black men were calling each other “nigger” and both of them were unoffended by that word, then the word is not offensive. However, if you were part of the conversation, then the word would be offensive because you find it so.

To illustrate my point about no word being inherently offensive, let’s look at a couple of words that are now considered offensive: colored, handicapped, and disabled. Back in the day, the group of folks we call “African Americans” were referred to as “colored.” That was what they wanted to be called. Now, however, if you call a black person colored, he or she will be offended. Similarly with “handicapped.” Used to be that all people with disabilities were labeled as handicapped. That became offensive, however, and then the formerly handicapped were the disabled. Then that became offensive and the former disabled became people with disabilities.

The perception of certain words change over time, and the perception of certan words differ depending on who is speaking and who is listening. To deny that is to deny a fundamental fact of our society. The offensiveness of a word is completely subjective.

Renob, I wasn’t really trying to speak to your points. I understand why you’ve taken them as such, but that wasn’t my intent, just giving my response to the OP.

I agree that definitions change over time - as does language. Which is why I believe that gyp is out in the middle there. As are other terms that can be percieved (Or really started) as racial slurs, such as: niggardly, gerryrig (Soft ‘g’ if you’ve never heard the term.), steak tartare. Whether they were intended as a racial slur, or not, doesn’t matter to some people.

And I have no problem with ‘nigger’ when used in a friendly manner between friends. Certainly I’ve called friends ‘mofo’ or other equally scurrilous terms with nothing meant behind it. It’s when the use and definition is unchanged, and unmoderated, from the one that is found offensive I don’t see as an acceptable double standard.

A more general question to those who find the use of gyp unacceptable under all conditions, do you feel the same about the term ‘steak tartare’?

I’ve got to question that one, which I’ve heard recited plenty of times - can you give us an actual example of somebody claiming ‘disabled’ to be offensive?

I work in the disability community and can tell you that the term “he is disabled” as opposed to “he has a disability” will get you in big trouble with quite a few people with disabilities. The thinking in this field is that one should use “person centered” language. This is language that stresses the person first and the disability second instead of defining a person by his/her disability.

Frankly, I didn’t know much about this when I entered the field. I’m not one to usually care about using politically correct language, but I’v adapted to it because that’s what the disabilty field prefers.

If you want to find someone who will get upset if you refer to him/her as disabled, come over to D.C. and look me up. I’ll introduce you around.

OK, maybe I took that as second nature, that a person ‘has a disability’. I guess I’m too far down the PC route to criticise :wink:

I’d be very interested to know of such people or situations that the term causes such concern.

In my field I have a lot of contacts with disability-rights groups and, while I’ve never actually heard any of them state that ‘disabled’ is offensive as such, I have noticed that they never, ever, ever use the term. It’s always ‘person(s) with disabilities’.


Disability Rights Commision



Well, none of those groups has ever written my office a letter, perhaps because they are based in a foreign country.

You never specified that you were talking about Irish disability rights groups only. How about these?

Well, I’m in Ireland, it would make sense …

Anyway, I don’t know the last two groups. The NDA is really a statutory agency set up to oversee the enforcement of government policy, more than a disability-rights group. But it is interesting seeing it on Forum’s website, as they’re just about the most radical of all these NGOs and are very language conscious. I have certainly never seen the term ‘disabled’ in any of their correspondence with us.

I’ll qualify my earlier statement to say that it is not the preferred usage, in any case.

Sorry for the slight hijack, but I couldn’t resist. I was doing some googling to see how sites used the word “disabled”, and came up with Alberta Disabled Access !

Not only do those dudes use the word “handicapped” (naughty! naughty!), they seem to think Alberta is a part of the US! (I checked - they also have a similar “Ontario Disabled Access” page). Expert witnesses that don’t know that Alberta and Ontatio aren’t states and that the Americans with Disabilities Act is sort of irrelevant up here. Hmm…

PS I am paraplegic, and I really couldn’t care less whether I’m called “handicapped”, “disabled”, “a person with a disability”, or whatever. A rose by any other name…

That I’ll certainly agree to. And I realised, while finding those quotes, looking for those various quotes, that some groups don’t have a choice about the terminology: for example, it’s not possible to rephrase “people with learning disabilities” in a way that uses ‘disabled’.

Hee hee…I like this bit: …“Federal and state court trials and arbitrations in Alberta…”