Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Offf* (for Offens*, Offer*, etc.)

I was watching one of those "judge shows" on TV the other day and the defendant (who looked remarkably like Lena Dunham) had been brought up on charges that her insensitive (and supposedly racist) remark to a coworker had resulted in harm to said coworker. The plaintiff testified that she had come in to work one day wearing a "fabulous African ensemble" and the Hannah Horvath-lookalike had commented: "Cute look! It's very Aunt Jemima of you..." Despite the fact that she apologized for her politically incorrect faux pas, it appears that her office foe would not be un-dissed and shoved her into a chair (a thing neither bosses nor judges tend to look too kindly upon). After appealing to the judge ("Did you ever have stupid stuff fall out of your mouth?"), the woman insisted she hadn't meant to be offensive and had actually thought that her coworker looked beautiful, but the black woman was having none of it. After the verdict, as they stood in the hall, she again offered: "I apologize. I hope we can work things out." The other woman replied: "You know what you did is wrong. I don't think I can ever forgive you." It was a small "culture wars" moment of sorts, I thought, as well as a template for a potential new episode of Girls, prompting me to check out the Wikipedia page on Aunt Jemima. (Oddly enough, one of the other characters on Girls is played by the pale-faced actress Jemima Kirke, and described by Wikipedia as being "a bohemian and unpredictable world-traveler with an attitude problem.") I was both offended and somewhat smugly gratified to find 34 cases of Offf* in OhioLINK, and 955 in WorldCat.

(Jemima's Wedding Day: Cake Walk," Martin Saxx, words by Jere O'Halloran, sheet music cover, 1899, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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