August 17, 2006
"Macaque" Ado: North African Linguists Needed
Here in the USA, George Allen Jr., candidate for governor of the Commonwealth (that's "State" if one is less pedantic) of Virginia, is in hot water for referring to a dark-skinned Indian-descended opposition activist as a "macaca". Allen's people sort of claim it was improvised gibberish, but now it is recalled that macaque is a kind of monkey, and furthermore, that Allen is a good French speaker and Allen's mom was a Tunisian-raised Francophone of European heritage. Tell us, o Aqoul sages of North African and francophonic wisdom, is there a "there" there, to that accusation? Has French-style bigotry really made Allen deaf to what he himself is saying, proving indeed that Le Pen is mightier than Le Sourd?
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How do you say "groan" in nicely idiomatic North African French? They skipped over that one when I studied it in college.
Posted by: Eva Luna at August 17, 2006 12:08 PM
Well, macaque is indeed a French word for a type of monkey. I've read it being used as a racial slur against blacks, but cannot recall having heard it in vivo. You have many other insults at the ready, especially if you're a North African francophone (most of them would involve putting in doubt your victim's or his/her ancestors' sexual mores), before resorting to macaque, so I cannot think for a second that the slur was devoid of any racial implication. It is furthermore very seldom used and rather dated. It is hardly an expression you'd pick up on the streets of France or Morocco nowadays.
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at August 17, 2006 12:58 PM
considering I've never seen a monkey in Tunisia...
i agree with IK. all such slurs are about one's or one's ancestors sexuality. you hear the very occasional "slave" too...
and as we're speaking about Tunisia, Arafat's widdow is threatening to sue anyone that publishes a story saying she's married Ben Ali's wife's brother. since when did Jerry Springer start a show in the MENA? http://uk.news.yahoo.com/17082006/323/arafat-widow-denies-reports-remarried.html
Interesting. Strange, very queer really. Macaca? I can't ever recall hearing macaque actually used in French as an insult. It's so... 1950s-60s at best.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at August 17, 2006 02:00 PM
It's also used by US white supremacist today, and there was an anecdote in a Kos diary of some random virginian hicks using it.
Allen's mom can't have livedin Fance since the 50s.
In any case, the rest of what he said was bigoted too, and we already knowguy's a racist. A noose and a confederate flag in the office for christ's sake.
Posted by: David Weman at August 17, 2006 02:12 PM
a noose? oh, that's a dead giveaway. Whatever happened to subtle racism?
Posted by: Klaus at August 17, 2006 03:13 PM
No noose is good noose, but I hadn't heard the noose story. Flag, yes.
Posted by: matthew hogan at August 17, 2006 03:32 PM
I was going to say, it doesn't matter if 'macaque' hasn't been used as a racial epithet since the 50s or 60s, since Allen would have picked it up from his mom and she would presumably have immigrated around then.
If this man became President he could have us all waxing nostalgic about what a nice guy W was.
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at August 17, 2006 04:51 PM
My brother in law calls Black Americans "Makake Birds." Says it right as he walks by them, laughing. Thinks they do not know what he is saying. He says he made it up. He may have, but whatever the word is we all damn well know what it means....given the looks he got from Blacks when he said it anyhow.
Posted by: Laury at August 17, 2006 07:30 PM
I remember "macaque" used by Capitaine Haddock, but then again his insult vocabulary is as wide as it is idiosyncratic.
Posted by: Frandroid Atreides at August 17, 2006 08:28 PM
The racist slur he may be able to live down, but the French parentage/connection could be a problem for his political career, given the knee-jerk anti-French sentiment in the Land of the Free these days.
Look, there's already a T-shirt to commemorate l'affair Macaque..
Posted by: SP at August 18, 2006 12:22 AM
I've heard macaque, but never said directly to someone, rather the kind of slur you'd say in someone's back. It's rare though, there are other more common racial slurs, and this one has a "humorous" component.
Eve, by groan you mean the sound of pain?
by groan you mean the sound of pain?
Faux pain at Matthew's torture of two otherwise perfectly respectable languages simultaneously.
Posted by: Eva Luna at August 18, 2006 12:23 PM
SP, regarding the knee-jerk anti-French stuff:
you're assuming that Republicans have internal logic... As Lounsbury redemonstrated recently, "facts" rarely get the way of the bolshy neocons!
Posted by: Frandroid Atreides at August 18, 2006 12:27 PM