Reverse graffito/graffiti

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Mon Apr 1 20:03:34 UTC 2013

With the "B" written backwards, of course.

This brief exchange got me wondering whether the term "racist" necessarily implies "offensive."

By calling the joke "racist," I did not especially intend to mean that it is offensive--or offensive to any particular degree.  (Nearly any joke is going to be more or less offensive to somebody; that's the nature of wit!)--or that the telling of the joke is an act of racism.  I just meant that the joke is based on certain assumptions that might be termed racist:  That Atlanta is exclusively (or at least preponderantly) an African American locale, that black children play with different kinds of toys from white children, that potential black customers of a toy store might not be able to comprehend a non-Ebonic company name like "Toys-R-Us."

Our students would probably term it a "racial" joke, which may somehow be a more accurate designation, however inelegant.


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of W Brewer [brewerwa at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Saturday, March 30, 2013 10:28 AM
Subject:      Re: Reverse graffito/graffiti

I recorded We "B" Toys (op.cit.1987), apocryphal franchise in the Watts
area of Los Angeles. Heard only, so spelling is mine. Maybe times have
changed, but it didn't seem offensive back then.

On Sat, Mar 30, 2013 at 9:26 PM, Charles C Doyle <cdoyle at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> Off the topic, but the mention of "Toys-R-Us" spin-offs is an occasion to
> record a racist "language" joke heard in "white" parts of Georgia:  There's
> a new toy-store chain opening in Atlanta:  We-B-Toys.
> --Charlie
> ________________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of W
> Brewer
> Poster:       W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Reverse graffito/graffiti
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Well, not exactly a case of reverse graffito in sensu stricto, but similar,
> was the solution of a retail chain store in Nevada & Southern California in
> the '70s. LAMPS R US changed its name to LAMPS PLUS, in the wake of
> litigation by Toys R Us. I wrote it up in American Speech 62:177-180
> (1987).

The American Dialect Society -

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