Knorr has renamed its gypsy sauce. The bagged product is now to be called "Hungarian-style paprika sauce", while other manufacturers are thinking about "Balkan sauce", "Puszta sauce" or anything else with paprika.
Actually, this is not worth mentioning.
But there was a lot of excitement: what’s wrong with gypsy sauce or gypsy cutlets? Do not say anything at all? Outraged language protectors threw their weight behind grandfathering, sensitive educators insisted that the word "gypsy" was racist and discriminatory and best disappeared from the vocabulary altogether.
Curdandso.de expresses itself in this tricky situation as always completely neutral. This time the editor-in-chief takes over personally, who has learned something with language in the side occupation. It has to be good for something.
At the beginning of every sober consideration is a look at the real: Manufacturers basically name their products according to marketing considerations – names are a calculation with sound and connotation.
Because they are supposed to appeal to buyers, advertising agencies spend a lot of money to come up with names for new products or brands and see how they work.
"Raider is now called Twix – thanks for nix"
However, names are changed again when sales strategists see fit.
This happens, for example, when a product is to be launched internationally and a national name is no longer suitable.
This is what happened to a Mars candy bar, called "Twix," available from the end of the 1960s – though not in Germany.
Here, the candy has only been around since 1976, under a different name.
In 1991, the manufacturer wanted to introduce the international "Twix" in Germany as well, but the clientele did not go along: To this day, no one here has forgotten that the bar is actually called "Raider".
The slogan "Raider is now called Twix", which Mars used in its renaming campaign, has become a byword for empty phrases and much ado about nothing.
Every few years Mars in Germany now makes new editions with limited Raider bars, because, as the company explained, retro products experience a huge hype. This is not a coincidence.
Moor in the shirt and negro kiss
"Schokokuss" is a successful substitute. Or not?
Because especially when names have been around for a long time, consumers insist on the familiar.
They want to call their childhood treats that and nothing else; Negro kiss, Moor in the shirt, Moor’s head, Gypsy cutlet.
In Bavarian country inns, a certain cola-beer mixture can therefore still be ordered as "negro".
Usually this is done with a lot of jeering and jokes about politically correct language.
But are these as well traditional as thoughtless designations completely neutral? Or at least "not meant in a bad way?
And anyway: Is it allowed to name food after marginal groups and their appearance?? Besides the purely commercial decision – new target group, new trends, new name – the question stirs up deep feelings.
Gypsy wagon TV on Youtube
Source: Maro Drom e.V.
The fact that one should not simply stick foreign labels on groups of people is largely a consensus here.
If German Sinti and Roma do not want to be called "gypsies" by others, they should be taken into consideration.
Nevertheless, the situation is not clear, because even among the Sinti and Roma themselves there are different views on the designation "Gypsy".
Unlike the Association of German Sinti and Roma e.V. has, for example, the German Sinti Alliance e.V. nothing against "Gypsy", as long as it is used neutrally and as a group name.
Also a Cologne Sinti association wants to occupy the old name positively and organizes regularly "Gypsy festivals", the own Youtube channel is called "Gypsy Wagon TV".
Abroad, the name is still common in the neutral sense: French "tsiganes", Italian "zingara", Hungarian "ciganyok", the root exists in many languages in Europe.
Another root is Spanish "gitanos" and English "gypsy", also rather unsuspicious.
"Eskimo" goes again
Greenland dweller: Whether this is an Inuit is not known
An unpopular "foreign name" can also turn out to be a neutral collective name in retrospect, as happened with the formerly suspicious "Eskimo.
This term for Arctic ethnic groups has now been cleared of any suspicion of racism, because linguists have proven that "Eskimo" does not have to mean "raw meat eater" in a pejorative way at all.
Also, "Eskimo" is accepted in Alaska as a collective term for Arctic inhabitants, as the Duden notes – but the allegedly politically correct "Inuit" is not.
The evil old Romans
Slaves: a matter of course in ancient Rome
Mohr" in "Mohrenkopf" or "Mohr im Hemd" also has it in it.
Language purifiers understand it as racist, because it allegedly originates from colonialism and reminds of slave trade and the exotic status of deported Africans at German royal courts.
But "Mohr" already existed in Old High German, probably borrowed from the Latin "maurus," black, which the ancient Romans used to call the dark-skinned inhabitants of North Africa.
The term does not originate from the Central European colonial age, but is much older. This supports the position of the language preservationists, who are annoyed by the censorship of the politically correct.
The only stupid thing is that the ancient Romans were of course colonial masters and exploiters of the purest water, selling vast quantities of slaves from defeated peoples, the majority of whom were not dark-skinned, by the way.
With it, which concerns foreign designations and colonialism, again the worried social pedagogues make a point.
Moors really exist
Mauritania, land of the true Moors
But then comes this:
The term "Moors" actually also exists independently of the ancient slave traders, namely for Berber tribes in North Africa.
The word probably originates from one of their languages, possibly from the Phoenician, so completely clarified is not.
In any case, there is still an African country south of Morocco called Mauritania: an Islamic republic whose inhabitants call themselves Mauritanians.
Even today, the upper classes are said to keep slaves there, as can be read at Amnesty International. But that does not belong here.
With the origin of the word, the "Moor" can in any case not be certified as having a clearly discriminatory meaning.
Negro, sweeper, cable carrier
Science blog 2015: Special prize from the editorial team of "Wissenschaft kommuniziert" (Science communicates)
For linguists the word origin does not count for the meaning anyway. The context in which a word occurs is crucial, not a distant root: language usage determines meaning, it shows how the word is used and what connotations resonate with it.
It is quite clear with the now incriminated "Negro".
Germans have had this word in their heads since time immemorial, and more than a few people confidently assure us: "In the Swabian village where I come from, it’s always called that, it’s quite normal there. Neger or Negerle, that was meant nicely!".
It may be that this is how things are in a Swabian village. Linguistic data show, however, that "Negro" has been used since the 19th century. century, "Negro" has been understood as pejorative and used in a derogatory manner.
In modern usage, it has a predominantly negative connotation: The word occurs mainly in connection with contemptuous attributes, including "dirty negro," "stupid negro," "lazy negro," "negro stink" and "negro bitch".
Construction workers, soldiers and film people also speak of "negroes," and often of "bongos." This refers to apprentices, interns and people for menial tasks such as carrying cables, fetching beer or running errands. What a Negro has to do.
Thus, as early as 1999, the Duden noted the negative connotations of the word. Awareness of this has increased since then, and it is now clear that "Negro" is a swear word.
From Sarotti Moor to Sarotti Magician
One of the best-known advertising figures in Germany is the Sarotti Moor
With "Mohr" it looks different.
The Duden also brands "Mohr" as discriminatory, but the word is already faded and old-fashioned.
No one uses it in German anymore to refer to Africans or people with dark skin; at most, it is used in connection with sweets or the names of historic pharmacies and restaurants.
Besides, it appears in Christian customs, where "the Moor" is usually a king, a sage or a saint. It does not exactly disparage people.
There are no pejorative word formations analogous to "negro music" or "vernegern" with "Mohr" either, as Matthias Heine, editor at the WELT, studied German and is an expert on language change, points out.
Nevertheless, as early as 2004, the Sarotti company transformed its Sarotti Moor into a – light-skinned – Sarotti Magician in order to avoid the accusation of cementing racist stereotypes of the black child slave who brings the cocoa.
The negative cliches here are based more on the image in the logo than on the word "Moor": thick lips, large, rolling eyes, officious, clumsy.
This also shows: It is about much more than a word.
Is the gypsy schnitzel a lotterschnitzel?
The Golden Bloggers: nominated as one of the four best food blogs of 2015
With gypsy schnitzel, gypsy skewer and gypsy sauce, the situation is different again.
The Duden also notes here that the word "Gypsy" is perceived as discriminatory, but refers as a source only to the Association of German Sinti and Roma e.V.
In the case of "gypsy schnitzel," however, the language experts concede that the term is only "occasionally understood or used as discriminatory. Also not pejorative per se are many other compounds: Gypsy jazz, Gypsy primate, Gypsy band.
In plain language: the linguistic community by no means always regards "gypsy" and certainly not in the case of schnitzel as something that casts a bad light on – yes, on what?
To the denotate, as linguists would say, that is, to the object that the word denotes? Is the gypsy schnitzel a Lotterschnitzel, an unsteady, thieving, dirty scrap of meat?
Of course not. The negative connotations and stereotypes that "Gypsy" carries for some – not all – do not apply to the schnitzel any more than to the gravy.
From the Brockhaus Kochkunst: according to gypsy style
In fact, "gypsy" in the kitchen is just a technical term from the kitchen language, a classic garnish and preparation method. In 1903 Escoffier called it "à la tzigane", in the style of the gypsies.
Escoffier does not even include paprika, the spice without which a gypsy sauce is unthinkable in Germany. Instead, the sauce a la tzigane consists of veal or beef stock, tomatoes, mushrooms, strips of cooked ham and cured beef tongue, and noble truffles.
This is how the Brockhaus Kochkunst soberly describes it under "Gypsy style, à la Tzigane", as does the Grobe Pellaprat and other standard works.
But nowhere does it say that the recipe is based on kitchen traditions of peoples like the Sinti or the Roma. Hardly anyone knows anything about their cuisine, the recipe for the classic sauce "in the style of the gypsies" is probably an invention from Paris in the 19th century. Twentieth century.
According to the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, the paprika variant, which is so popular in Germany as "Gypsy sauce," did not originate in their cuisine.
In general, flowery names of dishes often have little connection with peoples or places in their components: The classic white basic sauce is called "sauce allemande", German sauce, although it originates from French cuisine. On the other hand, the – also classic – brown sauce is called "espagnole", although the Spanish do not make it at all.
By the way, the great Escoffier quickly renamed the German sauce in 1914, because at the outbreak of the war, something "German-style" was naturally not opportune. Escoffier christened it "sauce parisienne", Parisian sauce. After the war it got its old name again.
Names are smoke and mirrors
With the technical vocabulary from the kitchen language manufacturers and gastronomes wanted to defend themselves in former times, when political sensitivities protested against "gypsy" in combination with "schnitzel" or "sauce".
But first of all, nobody listens to the industry and the experts when it comes to food.
Secondly, for politically conscious language activists, science, technical language or linguistics are not arguments – the word must go, although the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma announced that it was not of first interest to them to eradicate the gypsy sauce. There are more important things.
Third, however, Knorr and others are responding purely to the zeitgeist, and it has changed. A strongly language-sensitive, if rather ignorant clientele may not be lost.
It’s plain marketing. That’s all it’s about, neither the theory of meaning nor the functioning of words and names nor other linguistic arguments.
It’s all about sensations, image and catching customers.
From a technical point of view, it is clear that names, in whatever combination, can have a meaning and a relation to the object, but they do not have to. They function independently, like a label that you stick on and take off again: Names are smoke and mirrors.
Honors with food
A classic: the ice cream named after Prince von Puckler-Muskau.
So, on the one hand, no one can get upset when a manufacturer changes the name of its product to burnish its image or retain customers.
On the other hand, the culinary arts also contribute to the salvation of the gypsy steak.
Because the purpose of traditional food names is often to honor a person or to give a noble touch to the creation: from peach Melba, Tournedos Rossini or Boeuf Stroganoff to Chateaubriand, chicken Marengo or cream cheese Brillat-Savarin.
The kitchen language is teeming with such honorary names. But these simply function as a lexical entry: they tell guests what they are getting.
This also applies to simpler names such as Bavarian cream, Coupe Danmark, Pommes Duchesse or Trout Mullerin : they refer to a specific recipe, but their origin, as with the garnish a la tzigane, often remains in the dark.
Sound and prestige prevail – but food names work even if they are called "nun’s farts" or, like the Italian gnocchi, "strangolapreti" – priest’s strangles: no one is put off by that.