Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Inuit Pie

I've mentioned before that I love stories where both sides of an argument are ridiculous. One of the lead stories on last night's TV news, appearing merely on page A2 of the Herald today, is the harrowing tale of Canadian tourist Seeka Parsons who was shocked to discover Eskimo lollies on sale in New Zealand:
The word Eskimo was unacceptable in her country and carried with it negative racial connotations, she told the Taranaki Daily News.

The correct term was Inuit, Ms Parsons said. "I was taken aback. When I was a little girl white kids in the community used to tease me about it in a bad way. It's just not the correct term," she said.

She also believed the shape of the lolly was an unfair stereotype of her people.

Oh dear. There's a point here, obviously - we probably wouldn't think that some liquorice shapes called 'Gollolliewogs' were particularly appropriate. Or, I don't know, 'Jewbes', chewy, expensive Semitic shapes marketed by Hitler Sweets Ltd. So why does it seem to me like Ms Parson's complaint is a bit frivolous? I don't even really like the lollies. Perhaps because New Zealanders really know nothing about the inhabitants of the Arctic region and their culture, they're not like real people who get offended by things. Or perhaps 'Eskimo' just really isn't up there with World's Worst Insults.

For such a stupid issue, a lot of the debate seems quite wrong-headed.

But Cadbury Australia and New Zealand communications manager Daniel Ellis said Cadbury/Pascall did not intend to rename or remove the product.

"Pascall Eskimos are an iconic New Zealand lolly and have been enjoyed by millions of New Zealanders since they first hit shop shelves way back in 1955," he said.

"They continue to be incredibly popular today. Last year, we produced almost 19 million individual Eskimos."

Because that means they're not racist, right? Sigh.

Anyway, guess where this 'debate' ended up. It actually produced one of the most enlightening and informative YV debates of recent times:

Neevey (Onehunga): yeah change it to inuits

Good idea, that'll fix everything.
Tracey Cooper (Albany): So, do we now have supermodels who are going to be mortally offended by lollipops - or perhaps we may have some lazy islanders who could be upset by say coconut rough or pineapple lumps [...]
Oops - your fly's undone and your racism is showing.

stuart allen (United Kingdom): [...] I'm sure that someone, somewhere in the world is going to be offended by something else in the world. As a hetrosexual should I be offended that in NZ my icecream is given to me on a Gaytime cone? Hell no! I love them.

Yeah, that's right, Stuart. You love the cone.

karen hawxhurst (United States of America): [...] Amazing what people find the need to get upset about in this day and age. Surely there are far more pressing matters up for discussion! And how on earth does naming a lolly or an ice-cream for that matter become racist? Again, amazing!

How does it become racist? It's easy. Ching Chong Chinaman icecream. Lazy Gummi Dole-bludging Maoris. Now you try.

JD (Opawa): How dare a visitor to this country be so insensitive to OUR culture.

Eskimo - Eskimo - ESKIMO!

We pride ourselves at offending everyone where I come from.

Well remind me not to visit Opawa any time soon.

Sasha Siale (Queensland): Oh dear,here goes another issue risen which will not stop the crime in the worlds! Eskimoes are one of my favourite childhood lollies must I say.
I feel insulted just for being told to name it something else. Not very good!

Sasha's criteria for whether or not an issue is worth discussing: Will it stop the crime in the worlds? If not, she'll be offended that you wasted her valuable crime-solving time by bringing it up.
Block of Cheese (Auckland): Hmmmmm this is an interesting one. It doesn't really bother me because I don't eat them. [...]
Thank you for your valuable contribution, 'Block of Cheese'. I don't know you, so it doesn't bother me if a husky Uzbek attaches electrodes to your testicles and administers a hearty shock.
Tracey Thomson (Remuera): I would probably be offended if I went to Canadia and found Pakeha lollies for sale. Level of offence would depend on the shape of the lollies.
I know that I would be very offended if I went to Canadia and the Pakeha lollies were shaped anything like Tracey Thomson.
pippynz (Morningside, Auckland): If this is the only thing she takes back from NZ, then I feel sorry for the little fluffy-bonneted girl. [...]
Not only are New Zealanders not racist, we're not condescending either.

Luigi (Auckland): Here we go again. the "PC" brigade is now on the band wagon because one Canadian tourist has decided that there is an offensive "link" between an Eskimo lolly and her Inuit roots. [...]
This is PC gone mad again and should be treated accordingly. I had hoped that this PC c**p was dumped by the majority of New Zealanders (Kiwis) at the last election. Clearly not by all.

Luigi, the dirty wog who should be fixing my plumbing, is sick of the PC brigade. You know, the PC brigade who are demanding that Pascall's change the name of the lollies? And when I say 'brigade', I mean 'one tourist'.

Bruce f (Te Kuiti): I find the terms English toffee, Scottish shortbread, Welsh rarebit, Irish cream, Kiwifruit, Australian Coon cheese, etc., all very offensive! Come off it you P.C. clowns. Wait until my mate Eskimo Joe hears about this.

He's right. I lived in Glasgow for quite a while, and if you call a Scottish guy in the street Scottish, he will stab you in the mouth.
WelshJerry (Waiheke Island): I am an Inuit from Nunuvthat originally, now living in your beautiful town of Huntley. When I first came here I was shocked to see Eskimo sweets on the shelves, but I was persuaded to try one, and found them so delicious that I was able to put aside my concerns that they carried racist overtones. I now enjoy a packet of Eskimos every week, and my children are addicted to them.
I have my suspicions that this poster may not be all that he seems:
  • He misspells Nunavut.
  • His name is clearly Welshjerry, not Inuitjerry.
  • He claims to live both in Huntly and on Waiheke.
  • He refers to Huntly as 'beautiful'.
As such, I reject his hypothesis that the lollies are too delicious to be racist.

I could go on - this is without doubt the most hilarious YV I have ever read. I suspect that, because I don't really care about the issue, I can better recognise the innate idiocy of the comments. So much joy from such a stupid story - I'm far too amused to even get angry at why the Herald reported this and then courted its redneck demographic by putting it on "Your Views". To finish up, here is celebrity actor Roger Moore, now ensconced in charming Te Atatu, sharing his two incomprehensible cents:

Roger Moore (Te Atatu South): All i can say if that is all people have to moan about in todays world they must lead a pretty boring life.
It is a lolly for petes sake that has been around for years next thing you will have boeing complaining that jet planes are offensive get a life


  1. Hahaha that was awesome... how dare she find such a little thing offensive??? I find that highly offensive!!!

    Amazing how quick people are to say "I wouldn't care if people said something that was racist towards my race" and then fail to come up with any slur worse than "pakeha". Hmm. That should maybe make you think about whether you can really understand the point of view of a minority culture in a colonised society... or not.

    Personal highlight: Eskimo Pies being referred to as a "NZ Icon" and "long standing tradition". Sounds like Michael "No other city in the world has ever had two names" Laws has been on Your Views.

    On a side note, what about kaffir limes? It's pretty much the equivalent of "nigger lemons" and I've never heard anyone complain about them.

  2. Au contraire, my friend. From the wiki page of the Kaffir Lime:

    The Oxford Companion to Food (ISBN 0-19-211579-0) recommends avoiding the name kaffir lime and instead using makrud lime because kaffir is offensive in some cultures. (For this reason, some South Africans refer to the fruit as K-lime.)

  3. So, I read up on the term Eskimos on Wikipedia after seeing this on the news last night and don't feel like the girl that was interviewed is quite correct with some of her assertions.
    I'm not really prepared to make a big deal out of it, but it does seem to undermine her concerns if she is not actually clued in to the etymology of the term Eskimo. I suppose, she could try her hardest to have her version on wikipedia, but as tends to happen on wikipedia, the faults are ultimately always weeded out.

    In response to gazzaj: see
    I ate these as a kid, though I don't think these are sold anymore under that name...

  4. Also, a list of the worlds worst insults:

  5. One they left off the list was an africaans gem- "Jou pa het nie you ma genaai nie, hey het in haar poes gekak".

    Loosely translated, that means "you father didn't consumate his marriage to your mother, rather he defecated in her genitals", it being iferred that this somehow lead to your conception.

  6. Hahaha Cobra, that was actually the funniest YV of all time. I love the 'fluffy-bonneted little girl' and the confusing concept of what exactly a 'Pakeha-shaped lolly' would look like! :p

  7. I don't want to weigh in too strongly on this one, lest this page descend into 'your views' territory, but it seems that the girl has more of an issue with the name 'Eskimo' than the fact that we're eating delicious marshmallow effigies of her countrymen (and possibly women, I assume the pink ones are ladies?)

    The real question is, why is this news? It seems like the herald has chosen this topic precisely because they know it'll wind people up. Is their role to inform us or to manufacture some kind of conflict?

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Personally, I think we should ask the Packaging Council for their views on this issue.

    Failing that, we need a Chin-Stroking Expert from a Proper University to tell us whether or not we are using racist nomenclature to refer to a confection that's (potentially, allegedly, probably not actually) comprised of processed pig's trotters.

    In the meantime, we will have to flounder aimlessly until we know whether or not this should be added to our big list of apologies.

  10. Is their role to inform us or to manufacture some kind of conflict?

    Which one would sell more newspapers?

  11. Well it wouldn't be hard to get the Packaging Council to weigh in on the issue, since it seems clear to me that Eskimo pies and Eskimo lollies are sold in some form of package, thus making it well within their 'jurisdiction', or at least their perceived domain of comment.

  12. I mainly enjoyed that the complainer is sending a pack to Stephen Harper. International incident to follow, unless he has (and this is a stretch) more important things to do. Maybe we should make delicious 'Canuck' candy or something to really stir the pot.

    PS I googled 'racist terms for Canadians' to try and think of something else besides 'canuck'... thought I'd better abort once I wound up on a white supremacist dictionary of racist insults. At work...

  13. Man, that gives me a great idea.

  14. "Yeah, that's right, Stuart. You love the cone."

    That line is fucking gold. Keep up the good work!

  15. The strange thing is that when I visited Canada a few years ago I heard the term "Eskimo" being used everywhere. I had totally expected to not hear it, but rather hear Inuit. However, Eskimo seemed more common.... even in places where I would have expected otherwise.

    Regarding the issue, well... it is quite hilarious really.

  16. With reference to things being offensive to New Zealand culture, the comment that sometimes comes up from people with little knowledge of New Zealanders is one that questions whether we feel offended being named after a fruit.

  17. The thing that gets me is that Inuit isn't the right term to use. Now I haven't read the Herald article, but either the Canadian in question was misquoted, or she is unaware that inuit isn't the correct term either. Technically there are several aboriginal peoples living north of the artic circle, they include the Inuit but also the First Nations and M├ętis peoples.

    If I call a local first nations person here inuit, I'm gonna get punched. They don't particularily like First Nations either and prefer to be known by what they identify themselves as, so Cree for my local area.

    I figured that eskimo sweets were gonna get called out at some point.

  18. Personally, I love how Bruce f (Te Kuiti) mentions "Australian Coon cheese"; as if "Australian" is the offensive term in that label.

  19. I started to read the etymology page for Eskimo, but got bored after one or two lines so scrolled down to see if there was anything interesting..and.. found this:

    I was really disappointed - I hoped there would be a list of like, I don't know, one million or something. Lame.

  20. Roger Moore really does get to the heart of the matter. Must have taken him ages to come up with such a good parallel example.

    I have to say, this YVs is even funnier after coming through the Editingtheherald filter

  21. I see that this is the point James has been making for a while now - The daily your views subject generally asks one of three probing questions "Are you a racist" or "Should all criminals be hung" and the ultimate "Are our prisons racist enough?"

    I suggest we construct the ultimate 'YV' topic. Something like "Should same-sex immigrant prisoner couples be allowed the right to a lavish homosexual prison-wedding at the taxpayers expense?" Then we just need to leak a falsified report to the paper of a single instance of this happening. BANG! Front page, baby!

  22. I look forward to Garth George's insightful analysis, grounded in a balanced historical context that neatly negotiates the grey areas of intent and culture.

  23. The only way that YV topic could be better would be if one of the grooms in the the lavish homosexual prison wedding was Bailey Kuariki.

  24. @Brad, JP_Rocks: I LOL'd repeatedly.

    Re: the issue. I really feel that this issue is only funny to us because we're on the other side of the world to the vast majority of people who are offended by this term (and it's pretty clear that there is a significant group of people who *are* offended by this term. I think it's suss enough that it ought to be considered too hot to handle.) We wouldn't for a SECOND condone "Horis". Or "Chinks." Or something that was affecting a group of people living here right now. Why are eskimos supposed to get away with it? Because of culture? Awesome, man, apparently my culture is so freakin' fragile that it can't change the name of a lolly. Um, NO. My culture is a HEGEMONY in this country, I think it will survive this!

  25. I'm living in Vancouver and just opened the paper to find an article on this (10th page). The online version has a lot more superfluous detail -
    It's funny that she went on to find out a football team in her own country uses the E word.

  26. I want to vomit.


    Pete's 2:08 link - post of the week!

  28. Nice spotting of the Vancouver article. This really shows the devastating power of 'YV' as this paper has used some of those YV quotes directly to paraphrase the opinion of the entire country. What a boon for the tourism industry!

    I couldn't help but be amused when reading this quote though, from NZ's most famous Inuit

    "But I'm happy because I believe it's a step forward for the people of all the world to recognize the Inuit people as a nation ... we're not just living in igloos anymore."

    It only takes one four-letter word to undermine this paragraph, see if you can spot it!

  29. Would that be "just" by any chance?

  30. Not to get all YV about it, but having looked at the Canadian article, surely she realises the ridiculousness of her condemning NZers for 'picking a candy over someone's human rights' yet blithely cites the opinion of her relatives: "'Oh, stay away from the Edmonton Eskimos [football team]. Don't bring up anything about that,' because they're my grandfather's favourite football team."

    So we have learned: marshmallow treats = less important than human rights; football = more important than human rights.

    Glad we cleared that up (and also established that it is a human right to live free from the existence of vaguely-offensive lollies).

  31. Best blog ever

  32. First off, I love Eskimo lollies. I love em straight outta the packet. The Eskimo lollies has been around probably longer than this woman. Obviously the lollies name is not meant to upset anyone, it is just a term people use.