We’ve had Piers’ ruminations on “The Dark Continent”, and Andy using the word “culled” to describe the effect of abortions on people in the third world (as if they were animals), and then here at Crikey itself I was more than a little surprised to read the concluding sentence (and the accompanying headline) in Guy Rundle’s piece on Monday about the gift-giving cockups between the UK and the new US Administration:

It’s a funny old world … unless you’re a fuzzy-wuzzy.

“Fuzzy wuzzy” is a nineteenth century racist British term relating to the Hadendoa tribe in Eastern Africa, who were apparently given the fairly patronising name because of the hairstyle many of them wore. Kipling used the term in a poem praising their martial prowess.

It appears that Guy is using the term because of Obama’s heritage (although it doesn’t really fit, since the Hadendoa were not from Kenya), but I can’t quite see why. Is he using the term ironically, mocking someone in the story for having racist views? But I can’t see who.

It just seems a very strange word to revive, in that article in particular. I’d be fascinated to learn why he did.

UPDATE: Thanks Guy (who apparently hasn’t figured out that these blogs have a commenting feature in which replies can be left) for your handy tips on recognising irony. You are clearly a master of the craft and we “remedial kids” could learn much from your example.

Problem is, the comparison you were trying to draw – ironically! – just doesn’t work. It’s a long way from “not recognising that Churchill is not a hero to everyone” to having anything like the patronising views of someone based on their ethnicity that would be required for the “fuzzy wuzzy” line to hit the mark, even as a parody. If Brown had actually made some kind of mildly patronising remark regarding Obama’s race (rather than apparently being tactlessly unaware of the connection between Churchill and anything that happened to Obama’s father) then, sure, ironic exaggeration to “fuzzy wuzzy” would’ve made sense, and been fair. But he didn’t, and it didn’t, and it wasn’t.


Ah well. Maybe next time.

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