Is wonky politically correct?

A friend of mine recently expressed concern about her own use of the word wonky. As a teacher she has to be careful of how she uses words around a diverse population of students and she attempts to be politically correct in how she speaks. The last thing she’d want to do is accidentally offend someone.

This makes me think of the word gyp – for example “That movie was such a gyp. I feel like I got ripped off.” In this sense the word gyp is used negatively and the word is a shortened form of gypsy, who are stereotypically known as thieves and con artists. I also hypothesized that she might have an association in her mind with the word honky, which is a derogatory term for white people.

As it turns out the word wonky, meant as unstable, unreliable, or defective does not appear to be derived from any term meant as a slur or insult toward any particular person or group of people. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists it as a “fanciful formation” first used in the early 20th century as an adjective alongside wonkier and wonkiest.

The word wonk, however, when used to refer to a studious or hard-working person, or more specifically someone who takes an excessive interest in the minor details of political policy, is meant as an insult.  In the OED specifically, but not in the US English version, you will also find wonk listed as nautical slang to refer to an incompetent or inexperienced sailor. This word, which is not directly linked to wonky in its origins, was first used in the 1920s. But just to make things confusing, sometimes people use the word wonky or even wonkish to describe someone who is a wonk.

So to return to our original question, is the word wonky insulting to a person or group of people in and of itself? It all comes down to context. If you are using wonky in its more traditional sense as a reference to something unstable, unreliable or defective, you are not necessarily calling to mind a group of politicians squabbling over the minutiae of a new policy. But you might be. I guess it’s just up to you to choose which words you use.

Sources:

OED Definition of Wonky

OED Definition of Wonk

Grammarist: Wonkish, wonky

Grammarphobia: A wonkish question

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

 

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A Samoa by Any Other Name

Would a Samoa by any other name taste as sweet? I know this is old news but it comes up almost every year when we pull out our pocketbooks to buy our favorite Girl Scout cookies. Why did the Samoa get renamed to the Caramel Delite? There are several theories on this one (myths to be busted, actually). The myths are more fun and scandalous of course, but the truth is out there and must be shared!

Myth #1: Girl Scouts changed the name because it was offensive to the Samoan people

There is no evidence of this. Besides, who wouldn’t want a delicious cookie named after them? It is theorized that Samoas are named after the island of Samoa because one of the island’s major exports is coconut, one of the cookie’s key ingredients.

Myth #2: Girl Scouts changed the name because Caramel Delite sounds more healthy

Throw “lite” on the end of anything and its diet friendly, right? If you think Girl Scout cookies are healthy in any way, shape or form, you are clearly deluding yourself. If the Girl Scouts wanted to imply that eating cookies was a healthy activity, they would be fighting an uphill battle and losing horribly. But, for shits and giggles, feel free to read this rant I found (not sure if this guy is for real or just trolling but it made me laugh my ass off).

Myth #3: Girl Scouts changed the name

You read that right. The name never changed. Let me repeat that so it sinks in. The name. Never. Changed. Now you might be shouting at your screen insisting that the name did change. You might be yelling that you can’t get your hands on Samoas, that all the Girl Scouts you know only sell Caramel Delites and  that’s wrong and how could they do this to you? What happened is that the Girl Scouts in your area started getting their cookies from a different distributor. The merger of many Girl Scout councils due to a reorganization in 2006 (yes, I know, old news) caused many troops to change which bakery they used.

Samoas can still be purchased, but your girl scout cookie dealer (I mean seller) needs to get her cookies from the right source. There are two companies that are licensed to sell Girl Scout cookies, Little Brownie Bakers (LBB) and ABC Bakers. If her girl scout troop got their cookies from Little Brownie Bakers, she’ll be selling you Samoas. If they got their cookies from ABC Bakers, she’ll be selling you Caramel Delites. Which brings us to (drum roll please…)

Myth #4: Samoas and Caramel Delites are not the same

There is still some debate on this one, including “scientific” studies to determine if the cookies themselves are different in in any significant way. They’re not. The reason they have different names is that they are made by different bakeries. They are made with the same recipe and are the same cookie, just with different names. Many of the other cookies also have different names, as shown below:

ABC[32] LBB[33] Sales[23] Flavor
Thin Mints Thin Mints 25% Thin, mint-flavored chocolate wafers dipped in a chocolatey coating.[34]
Caramel deLites Samoas 19% Vanilla cookies coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut and laced with chocolatey stripes.[30]
Peanut Butter Sandwich Do-si-dos 16% Peanut butter filling sandwiched between crunchy oatmeal cookies.
Peanut Butter Patties Tagalongs 13% Crispy vanilla cookies layered with Peter Pan peanut butter and covered with a chocolatey coating.
Lemonades 9% Shortbread cookie with lemon icing.
Shortbread Trefoils 7% A traditional shortbread cookie made in the shape of the Girl Scout trefoil.
Thanks-A-Lot 6% Shortbread cookie dipped in fudge with a thank you message.
Savannah Smiles Lemon wedge cookies dusted with powdered sugar.
Girl Scout S’mores Graham cookie double dipped in crème icing and finished with a chocolatey coating.[35]
Girl Scout S’mores Graham sandwich cookies with chocolate and marshmallow filling.[36]
Trios Gluten-free peanut butter oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips.
Toffee-tastic Gluten-free buttery cookies with toffee bits. (Pilot, not offered everywhere.) [37]

Source: Wikipedia

So there you have it. Now shut up and eat your damn cookies!

 

Sources / Further Reading:

The Crazy Truth About Samoas vs. Caramel Delites

5 Fascinating Facts About Girl Scout Cookie Names

 

Podcast Recommendation: A Way with Words

To my fellow word nerds,

If you listen to podcasts, A Way With Words is definitely one of my faves and I recommend it to anyone who loves learning word origins and new words. 

A Way with Words is a fun and funny radio show and podcast about language. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett talk with callers from around the world about linguistics, slang, new words, jokes, riddles, word games, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, books, literature, folklore, and speaking and writing well. Email your language questions for the show to words@waywordradio.org. Or call with your questions toll-free *any* time in the U.S. and Canada at (877) 929-9673. From anywhere in the world: +1 (619) 800-4443. Hear all past shows for free: http://waywordradio.org/. Also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wayword.

The Polite Puss and the Crude Pussy

The word puss has two separate meanings, one in reference to a cat and the other in reference to the face. The origins of puss as a cat appears to have been borrowed from Middle Low German pūs. However, it may have originated from the calling of cats, saying Psss! to get their attention.

Puss used as slang for mouth or face comes from the Irish bus, meaning lip or mouth.

Other lesser known usages of puss include:

  • An informal reference to a woman or girl, used affectionately. I personally would hate to be called a puss because of its similarity to pussy (see below).
  • Apparently the Brits also use it to mean a hare (a.k.a. rabbit). They call pretty much everything by weird names, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.

For those of you with your minds in the gutter, the word pussy also has two meanings, one in reference to a cat and the other to a woman’s naughty bits. Pussy as cat comes from the Old English pusa, meaning bag – which if you ask me, sounds closer to the other definition of pussy. Pusa was also used to refer to anything soft and cuddly – closer to a cat, but you be the judge of that.

Pussy meaning cunt may come from the Low German pūse (meaning vulva) or the Old Norse púss (meaning pocket or pouch). You could also use it as a reference to a woman, if you’re not being very polite.

So go out there and punch that puss in the puss with a pussy. Or not. You know, whatever suits your fancy. I don’t mean to be offensive here, but words tend to twist and turn their way from polite to crude in an instant.

Sources:

Note about photo: This is a picture of my ex-roommate’s cat Gizmo, who is a main coon with really creepy toddler-sized eyes.

Incomplete Thoughts

I dreamt of lemon mousse tarts, Lucille Ball

And sweet-hearted redheads, girls I once called friends.

With my warrants paid, I’m finally free and

Pleased to go home in my black velvet dress,

Back to 1996 and memories.

 

Modern women argue with our dental insurance and volunteer

For Wisconsin nonprofits, shunning prophets-for-profits.

We take care of things, realising

Flooding facebook with chain letters is no kind of protest.

Us witches craft signs and flaunt ourselves out on the lawn

In front of white government buildings.

 

So here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. You live in an unforgiving place.

Drink wine to forget all the pain, all the laughing.

They fluff your dress, fix your lipgloss,

And as you get sloshed they choose a jukebox tune

You never wanted to listen to.

Later, coherent but cranky, you ask for coffee.

 

I broadcast my problems on social media,

Seven black and white photos of my life.

The internet explodes my brain with the powers that be.

I pretend this day doesn’t exist.

My little sister ain’t little no more. She’s already learning

What it means to be.

 

Stop by and keep me busy.

Kick me while I’m on the ground already.

How could you ever want to date me?

When I met you, you asked me not to

Go into labor during your anti-bullying presentation.

It just didn’t – feel right

But I guess you’re not a little boy anymore.

 

I hope for my future daughter’s looks,

She should be beautiful and therefore respected

Able to hold her own at only eight weeks old.

For now, I’ll hide in my pillow pile until tomorrow

Wondering when and if my thoughts will ever be complete.

 

Note: This is a Facebook Poem – think magnetic poetry with social media. Of course, I mold and shape it to fit my purpose but the original inspiration is my friends’ status posts from October 21, 2017.