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Re: Mighty WHITE... Kipling

Posted by SR on February 24, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Mighty WHITE posted by Barney on February 24, 2004

: : : : : : : : Somewhere along the line I heard a phrase, "that's mighty wide of you." Now, I'm probably just naive, but I only had a vague notion that this was considered crass. Then I heard someone mention that they were quite offended when they heard a white person use the phrase...the offended party was black, by the way. Or, uhh...should I say African American? Anyway, is there some deeper, more sinister meaning to this phrase, or is it cultural slang that "shouldn't" be tossed around by those of another culture? Thanks!

: : : : : : : I'm sure you mean "mighty white." I've read the phrase, never heard it spoken. Just missed it, I guess. According to the OED the meaning of "white" here is "Honourable; square-dealing." It says the usage is originally from the U.S., and cites it from 1877 on. It also cross-refers to "White man (orig. U.S. slang) A man of honourable character (such as was conventionally associated with one of European extraction)." Citations from 1883, 1887. I'm not sure what is meant by cultural slang, but this could be an example. The people using these phrases with these meanings, at least in the literature I have read, were not race-baiters, and had, as far as I can tell, no sinister intent. But one does detect a certain bias, and I can quite understand that blacks find such language demeaning and offensive. If someone today is still talking like that, he or she must be an elderly person using an idiom learned long ago, and means by it nothing more (or less) than "decent." Am I wrong? SS

: : : : : : My opinion, yes, you are wrong.
: : : : : : The phrase is now used by mean spirited racists.
: : : : : : It is usually said with that sick little grin followed by a wink and then I can smell the air of evilness as it fills with hatred and intolerance, 2 of the most offensive odors I can encounter.

: : : : : Hello Bruce: I am an old white woman who lives in the deep south. I don't use that expression myself but I have heard it used all my life. Believe it or not, I don't think it was intended to be racist. My Momma used to say: "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance." But I totally agree with you, it ought to be dropped from usage because it certainly COULD be interpreted as malicious and racist. Fran.

: : : : It implies the superiority of white people. That's white of you. You're acting like a white person which is superior to the way a black person would act. It is along the same lines as "That's Christian of you."

: : : Nobody with a grain of sense or a modicum of sensitivity would have EVER said this in a situation where it could have been interpreted as meanimg anytnimg other than "decent". But I've had my conscience tweaked by this forum. If ever I hear it used again, I'll enlighten the speaker!

: : My dad grew up almost exclusively among WASPs (but not rich ones), and was an inveterate and sincere church-grower. When he wished to comment on someone who seemed to be of admirable character he would speak of him as "a fine Christian gentleman." Occasionally he would quite unselfconsciously say this of people he knew to be Jewish. He believed in his religion, but did not consider it a barrier between himself and other upright people. SS

: Here in the UK 'Mighty White' is a variety of sliced bread and we never give it a second thought: what's to become of us? See:

: We have discussed the language of Kipling's Gunga Din previously, and the one description that always jumps out at me, even while singing the song on stage is:
"An' for all 'is dirty 'ide,
'E was white, clear white, inside
When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!"