According to the feminist blog Bustle, seemingly harmless phrases including “no can do” and “long time, no see” are actually terribly racist and so we must stop using them “immediately.”
The piece was based on a video that aired on MTV, which explained that the phrase “no can do” originated from Westerners’ mocking Chinese immigrants’ “pidgin language” in the early 20th century, and “long time, no see” was a way of mocking the speech of indigenous people.
The host of MTV’s segment, Franchesca Ramsey, clarified that the history of these phrases did not mean that people have to stop using them. In fact, she said that all of the phrases — other than the word “gypped,” which she referred to as a “racial slur” for the Romani people — were “pretty harmless” and that there was no reason to ban them from our speech.
And that’s completely reasonable. After all, knowing history is important, and learning more of it is never a bad thing.
I mean seriously, how are we even supposed to communicate anymore? After all, if you think hard enough, every single word and phrase in the English language could probably somehow be construed as offensive. If we ban all of them, how the hell could we even be expected to talk?We couldn’t. So, sorry, Bustle . . . no can do.
By the way, the other “racist” no-no phrases on the list were “the peanut gallery” (because it used to describe the area where black theater patrons were forced to sit in the 1920s,) “hip hip hooray” (because it is the Americanized form of “hep hep hoorah,” which the Nazis shouted while raiding Jewish ghettos) and “sold down the river” (because it was originally a description of the way that slave owners would send disruptive slaves down the Mississippi river to work further South where conditions were worse in order to punish them.)