Knowingly or unknowingly, a lot of us speak words that are highly offensive without realising it. Sometimes, it’s our privilege that we do not know what these words could cause emotional trauma to millions of people. Sometimes, we are just being A-holes. Either, we need to change and we need to do it yesterday!
Taken from the Greek word for uterus, it was historically used to ignore the ailments women faced and to this day continues to feed into the sexist trope that WoMeN Be CrAzY!
2. Rule of Thumb
It is said to have been birthed in England and America in the 1600s where laws stated that a man could beat his wife with any stick no wider than his thumb. Hence, the phrase.
Ghettos were basically prison communities meant for the segregation of Jews by the Nazis leading up to and during WW II. Later, they were used as a bigoted slang for socio-economically oppressed communities.
4. Basket Case
The term originated during WW II to describe soldiers who were so badly injured that they could be fit in a basket.
In the early 20th century, this term was used to refer to people who had difficulty learning. It has a very cruel history.
6. Eenie Meeenie Miney Mo
The little poem ends with ‘Catch a tiger by the toe’. Except, the word ‘tiger’ is a recent replacement. The actual word was referring to the enslaved people, which was the N-word.
Kewl dank meme pages and influencers might be using them with impunity and pretending to get away with a minor change in spelling doesn’t make it right. It is still very racist and extremely offensive to African Americans and black people, in general, all over the world.
The word might be used to describe someone as stupid these days but it was initially used by psychologists to describe people with cognitive disabilities.
Lame was originally used in reference to people with physical disabilities who found it difficult to physically move. While it is widely used as a substitute for uncool, it is still offensive to people with physical disabilities.
It is a colloquial term used to describe those with intellectual disabilities. It’s highly offensive, especially in this day and age where we know better about said disabilities.
Thrown around for fictional characters with quirks like Monica from FRIENDS, OCD is actually a serious mental condition many people actually suffer from. And it doesn’t mean that you have a need to organise. People suffering from the condition find it impossible to have control over some of the most basic things in life. So stop throwing it around for fun.
Naah. Nope. Not gonna explain this. Shouldn’t have to.
Behind the word, is the gruesome history that trans people have had to endure for centuries. So no, it’s not okay for cisgender people to ever use that word, no matter what your intentions are.
The word has been historically used to describe people from DBA community who were forced by upper-caste people to cleaning toilets and drains, and handling dead bodies.
The word was used as an offensive slang for gay men.
The term comes from Algonquin, ashkimeq, which literally means ‘eaters of raw meat‘. It is demeaning and was used/ is used to trivialise an entire culture and is racist in nature. You hear that, NCERT? Change your damn books.
17. Hip Hip Hooray
The term comes from anti-semitic chants in Germany during the 19th century. As the Jewish people were thrown out of their houses all across Europe, the Germans used to chant ‘Hep Hep’, making it extremely racist and a reminder of one of the worst genocides in human history.
18. Master Bedroom
The phrase has racist and sexist undertones. Master bedroom could refer to the practice of slavery in the Americas. Some also argue that the word Master is meant to refer to a man, making it extremely sexist.
19. Peanut Gallery
Often referred to as the ‘cheap seats’, it was originally used in the vaudeville era of the late 19th century and referred to that part of the theatre where Black people used to sit.
It is still used as slang for gay men. It’s derogatory in nature and needs to be stopped.
21. Nervous Nellie
The words were used to imply that gay men lacked masculinity because of their sexual orientation.
22. On the Down Low
Sounds innocent but the term was first used to refer to Black men who had secret homosexual relationships.
Yeah, I know, you’re running out of words. IDC. So, sucks what? A penis, right? That’s what it means- a blowjob. Tom Megginson pointed out on the Ethical Adman blog that using the word to express your distaste for something equates it with ‘a sexually submissive woman or a man forced into a homosexual act’.
It also perpetuates the notion that oral sex is something to be ashamed of, establishing a skewed view of sexuality.
24. Mumbo Jumbo
The phrase is racist in nature. It is used to refer to someone saying something that doesn’t make any sense. Well, it does. It is derived from Mandinka, a language spoken in West Africa. And the actual word is maamajomboo. So, racist!
Uppity was used to describe black people to disparage them for ‘not remembering their place in white America’.
The term is used for communities of people whose primary occupation was tanning. It is now being used by UC Indians, often in public spaces as an insult.
MK Gandhi might have thought rebranding the communities that UC people called untouchables was a good idea. It wasn’t. Nobody asked for it, nobody likes it. And it’s derogatory in nature.
If you use this slang on someone, it means you consider them from a ‘lower’ caste.
Casteist slur used to describe a community of people who engaged in sex work
The colloquial term, which is still widely used in the country, means owner. Crorepati, Lakhpati, you get it. Husbands don’t own their wives.
Again, the term refers to husbands, which means Lord. Shut your crap down. You ain’t nobody’s lord in the 21st century.
Used as an insult even today, it refers to the community of people who have historically been forced to deal with corpses. If you think these people are lowly, maybe you should just take a shovel and get on with it.
The term is used as an insult to refer to someone as uncivilised. It originally was meant as a derogatory term to refer to the tribal people of India, the natives who live in forests.
The Sanskrit word was meant to refer to foreigners, who actually were just non-Aryan people that didn’t live according to the word of Brahmins back in the day.
35. M*la M*kam
It’s a casteist slur, directed especially at women.
Naah. Wasn’t cool back in the day, isn’t cool when used in rap music and pop culture today. And it seriously needs to stop.
No, it doesn’t mean a stoner. God, I have spent aeons explaining to people why you can’t call anyone this. It was used as slang to refer to people who were street performers.
You cannot use this as an insult. It refers to an ST community, scattered across South India.
40. Long Time No See
While the actual term means ‘It’s been a while since we’ve met’, it was actually used to mock the broken English spoken by Native Americans, while white Europeans continued to commit genocides upon them.
With the word ‘slave‘, we deny people their dignity and humanity. We can, however, use the term, ‘enslaved’. By doing this, we recognise that the state of enslavement was forced upon them and is not intrinsic to their identity as human beings.
42. Sold Down The River
Used as a substitute for betrayal, the word was originally meant to describe people in the Upper South of the USA selling ‘troublesome’ enslaved people to the more brutal plantations in the deep Southern states like Mississippi. This was effectively a death sentence.
Often used to describe something easy, the word originally represented a ‘dancing competition’ between enslaved people that were judged by slave owners, with a cake as the reward.
44. Call A Spade A Spade
Spade was one of the derogatory slangs used to describe Black people in the Americas.
45. Black Sheep/ Blacklist/ Blackmail
Originated some time during the 1600s, during the start of slavery in the United States. People started used the word black to describe something bad.
The word was borne out of ancient Greek xenophobia. The Greeks used this to refer to people who were not part of their ‘superior states’, mostly Medes and Persians. Surprise, surprise, the white dudes thought brown people were uncivilised.
As ironical as this may sound, it is true. The first version of the word was used in 12th century France to describe Normans who refused to get off their horse to kiss the King’s feet because of their religious beliefs. Their religion sounded something on the lines of ‘Bi God’.
48. Run Amok
The words were first used by British invader Captain James Cook to describe Malaysian people who would get high on opium and run on the streets.
Used for thieves, the word is a shortened version of the word ‘gypsies’, which referred to travelling tribes. You know, Tommy Shelby and such. In hindsight, it’s not the best example but it’s the one you’ll relate to.
To say that Christopher Columbus was a racist idiot who went to find India and landed thousands of miles away in the Americas would be an understatement. Now, this despicable man used this word to refer to the natives of the Canniba Islands in the Caribbean. And all of this was because the man thought the islanders ate each other.
While the word is commonly used to describe English Football fans destroying public property and lighting flares of their anuses, it actually refers to a Germanic tribe that sacked Rome in 455 A.D.
52. Open The Kimono
A kimono is associated with formal attire in Japanese culture and was worn by geishas, who have been misinterpreted in the West as concubines. This 1970s slang sounds rude and basically works on the myth that Japanese people would remove their kimonos to show that they had no weapons.
Shouldn’t have to explain this and won’t.
While the term is not necessarily a slang, it is used by North Indians to refer to anyone from any state below Madhya Pradesh. They think we are all come from Madras, which is Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. Why? Ignorance and stupidity, that’s why.
Calm down. Americans refer to native American people as Indians, because Columbus thought he reached India, for reasons unknown.
Generally used to refer to women who don’t fit into a man’s idea of ‘what women are supposed to look like’. These days, its a slang used for women who are athletic.
The word was initially used to mean a woman of authority who employed others. But since the 17th century, it has been used to refer to ‘a woman other than a man’s wife who has long-lasting intimate relations with him’.
It means ‘a disreputable woman of improper behaviour’. Since we men are so sensitive when a woman does something we don’t think they should, we cry a little and call them names. This is one of those names.
While the word was initially used to describe a woman who had the authority over an institution, or a group of people, it has since drastically fallen from grace to just mean someone responsible for taking care of a person, generally a young lady or a child.
This is a derogatory term that is widely used to address trans people in India, often to their faces. You can’t do that to another human being. It’s regressive, offensive and dismisses them as sub-humans. So beat it.
Back in the day, it referred to a woman who spun yarn or thread. It meant that the woman could take care of their own expenses and did not need to depend on her husband. The term has since degraded to mean someone who is unmarried.
While it was originally intended to be used to refer to a young woman, from the late 14th century, it has been used to describe a woman who has a lot of sex, which is fine but the term is not used as a brag but as an insult, something to assassinate their ‘character’, so to speak.
63. Wanton Woman
Again, the word is used to describe a woman who has a lot of sex. I don’t understand why that should be a cause for insult though. Women, like every other being on the planet capable of sexual pleasure, want sexual pleasure. What’s the issue?
The term is used to refer to a woman with ‘loose’ morals. That’s three in a row. I gotta tell you guys, we men sure have a lot of problems with women having a lot of sex when it’s us they are not having sex with.
It is slang typically meant for gay men.
66. Madi*a Che***lu
It’s a casteist slang used to refer to a community of people whose primary occupation has been to work in tanneries.
Refers to a community in India listed under Scheduled Caste. You can’t use this as an insult.
The slang is primarily used to describe people who have been ostracised by the Hindu Upper Castes as untouchables for thousands of years.
It is still widely used to refer to the community of people who wash laundry.
The word is used to refer to the community of butchers.
It is used to describe socially and economically underprivileged people as an insult.
It’s a casteist slang used to call someone useless.
Calling someone this is as offensive as using the R-word. It’s short for the slang ‘spas**c’. The stigma comes from being associated with cerebral palsy.
The term was first used in the 19th century to refer to a cartoon family of Irish immigrants struggling to fit in London. The characters weren’t only racist but also contributed to the anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK.
75. Fuzzy Wuzzy
You’re probably thinking of a teddy bear, aren’t you? Well, in the 1800s, the Brits were thinking of an East African nomadic tribe when they came up with the term because the people from this tribe had black skin and curly hair.
76. No Can Do
Much like Long Time No See, the term was used by Westerners to mock how people from Asia spoke the language.
77. Cat Got Your Tongue
The English Navy used to use a whip called the “Cat-o’-nine-tails” to flog people and the pain was so excruciating that they couldn’t
78. Tipping Point
While it may seem harmless, the term was first used by white families in the 50s and the 60s. They used it to refer to the practice of white families moving out of a neighbourhood after it had ‘been taken over by the African American community’.
Chill. You can use it on a child. But back in the days of slavery and segregation, white people used to use it to call Black men, to relegate them from the status of an independent person. It was meant to show that black men were not of the same standing as white men.
80. Off The Reservation
While it is normally used to describe someone out of control, that is not it was designed for. Back in the day of early colonisation, Native Americans had been forced to live in lands reserved for them by the white man. And this term was used to describe a Native American person who had ‘strayed’ off said reserved land.
81. Grandfathered In
You have probably never used this before. So know what it means and make sure you never do either.
If someone is ‘grandfathered in‘ it means they’re exempt from any new requirements or fees or rules. Back in the days of Post-Civil War America, it was used as a way to get Black people to stop voting. For example, Black people were made to take literacy tests which white people didn’t need to if they wanted to cast their votes.
82. Spirit Animal
While the term is used endearingly these days, it comes from the indigenous people of the Americas. So yeah, if you are not indigenous to America, you shouldn’t be using it. Not even Rihanna is exempt from this rule.
Primarily used by the tech industry, master/slave implies the relationship where one device has control over and initiates the commands of another. This is the 83rd point? If you are still here, you already get it.
No. No. Just No.
85. Committed suicide
This is just basic etiquette. You will never say someone committed cancer, would you? So, just say, if you need to, “XYZ died by/ was lost by suicide.”
That is trivialising mental illness.
Oh, God no, You can’t say this either.
Dementia is a real illness. So don’t throw the word around every time your drink friend does something stupid.
Of course, you can use it if someone is disturbing you. Don’t be a prick and pretend you don’t understand the context I am talking about.
God, we as a society sure do hate the mentally ill, don’t we?
Just because someone is different from you, doesn’t mean they are odd.
92. Strait Jackets
And the hits just keep on coming. At this point, I feel like personally apologising to everyone who had to go through this.
No. Just No. I know the female dog logic. You’re not fooling anybody.
94. Off His Rocker
Again, just don’t be a prick to people who actually need medical help. As a matter of fact, just don’t be a prick.
The Wire explains it as, ‘The Mahar, and its equivalent untouchable caste across India were marshal communities that worked for the safety of village societies. But they never received humanitarian treatment because Brahminic rituals and social relations had taken deep roots in India.’
Mala are Dalits from the south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. You can’t use the word as an insult.
It is used to describe someone as ugly. The Yenadi are located in Andhra Pradesh and live primarily in the districts of Nellore and Chittoor.
This casteist slur is used for the Banjaras, a community usually associated with nomadic tribes originating in Rajasthan.
It is used to describe something really dark. However, the Katika’ is a community hailing from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The term is used to describe someone who’s dirty and is extremely casteist in nature. Yerukala or Erukala or Erukula is a caste primarily found Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.
So, at this point, you are probably thinking, ‘well what can you say?’. Well, to that I am going to tell you that your parents have spent a crap ton of money on educating you. Also, since you’re an Indian and can read this, you speak at least 2 languages. And there are at least 171,146 words in English itself. So, you’ll be fine!