State Department: “Rule of Thumb” Refers to Wife Beating



file000668865216The Daily Caller calls it a new frontier in hypersensitivity, I call it an exercise in stupidity.  It is also a complete waste of taxpayer resources, but hey what to expect from a guy whose role is “Chief Diversity Officer” for the State Department.  John M. Robinson explored in his “Diversity Notes” in the most current edition of the State Magazine that certain phrases have hateful pasts.

Such as the name for a beer cocktail called “Black and Tan”:

This year, NIKE, the famous footwear company, celebrated Irish culture and St. Patrick’s Day by introducing a new sneaker in the United States called the Black and Tan. Ah, Black and Tan, the foamy concoction that is half pale ale, half Guinness Stout. What a wonderful celebratory gesture and appreciation for Irish culture. Not!

What the creator failed to account for is the historical context of the Black and Tan. The original Black and Tans were an ad hoc military group that committed atrocities against Irish civilians; the “tan” referred to the khaki of their uniforms. After many apologies following the public relations nightmare that ensued, NIKE recalled the shoe.

I wonder if anyone has complained about the name of the cocktail because I’ve seen it still on the menu of numerous establishments?

Also apparently I’m to be offended by the term “going Dutch.”

Likely you or your colleague meant that each person pays for his or her own meal. The historical meaning: a negative stereotype portraying the Dutch as cheap because they will invite you to a meal but then not pay for it.

I’ve used that term so I guess I offend my own heritage.  He says it portrays the Dutch as cheap… well most of us are cheap!  Actually I prefer the term “frugal.”  Regarding the etymology of the phrase that is one possible root, and it was from the Anglo-Dutch Wars which I don’t think anybody is still bent out of shape over.  Another possibilities is that it from the concept of a Dutch door or is related to Dutch etiquette.  Anyway the term is hardly offensive.

I mean after all do you know how copper wire was invented?  Two Dutchmen fighting over a penny, but I digress.  Then he tackles the phrase “hold down the fort.”

How many times have you or a colleague asked if someone could “hold down the fort?” For example, “Could you hold down the fort while I go to…” You were likely asking someone to watch the office while you go and do something else, but the phrase’s historical connotation to some is negative and racially offensive. To “hold down the fort” originally meant to watch and protect against the vicious Native American intruders. In the territories of the West, Army soldiers or settlers saw the “fort” as their refuge from their perceived “enemy,” the stereotypical “savage” Native American tribes.

Perhaps that is the historical meaning of the phrase.  Does anyone mean it that way now?  Of course not!

Then he tackles the ever controversial phrase “Rule of Thumb.”  Robinson wrote:

This is an acknowledged and generally accepted benchmark. Many women’s rights activists claim this term refers to an antiquated law, whereby the width of a husband’s thumb was the legal size of a switch or rod allowed to beat his wife.  If her bruises were not larger than the width of his thumb, the husband could not be brought to court to answer for his behavior because he had not violated the “rule of thumb.”

I know every female I’ve used this term around has been horribly offended.  I mean really?  Is this what it really means?  UmNo.  It’s not found anywhere in the legal commentaries of Blackstone.  It has never been an English law.

But hey let’s just make up meanings because “this isn’t about their historical validity; instead, it is an opportunity to remember that our choice of wording affects our professional environment.”

Score!  I just love that my taxes keeps this guy employed.

Update: Doug Powers writing at MichelleMalkin.com points out that Robinson has his work cut out for him.

“I know you guys have been holding down the fort,” he [Obama] told a roaring crowd of 15,000 at the St. Pete Times Forum, an arena in downtown in Tampa. “It’s good to be back.”

Somebody better send a memo to President Obama.

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  • Matthew Brady Duckworth

    So most of us aren’t likely offended by these phrases, but there’s nothing wrong with learning about their historical context.  I think it’s quite interesting.  And there are phrases I’ve used in the past that I’ve stopped using – or at least tried to stop using – after learning of their historical meaning.  Some may see that as hypersensitivity.  I see it as being respectful of others.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563714126 Jay Rosene

      The problem is that the history of these phrases offered in the story are wrong. The etymologies offered are nothing more than urban myths. Any cultural outrage is false outrage and should not be encouraged. Hold (down) the fort is a British phrase. Rule of thumb never had anything to do with beating anyone but rather measuring objects. Going Dutch is a reference to dutch doors… you know the two piece barn doors that are split in half? Handicap has nothing to do with begging. It originated as a sports term for… well… handicap. Leveling the field by limiting the stronger opponent or adding advantage to the weaker opponent. In golf you lose strokes, in horse racing weights are added.

    • BigRed962

       It’s not about us “not being respectful”, it’s about others DEMANDING changes in our culture, phrases, etc, and just wish to feel like an “injured party” (so as to complain, sue, etc).

      There were some women years ago that sued an airline because the flight attendants did an “eenie meenie miny moe” rhyme to get everyone seated.  (because of it’s origins 100+ years ago).

      Get over it people – do something CONSTRUCTIVE in your lives rather than finding something to complain about all the time.

  • Just Saying

    Dig a little into the origin of all of these examples and they aren’t quite what is reported.  Hold the fort predates Western frontier army forts.  Black and tan is a drink and a dog.  Rule of thumb is a form of measurement by estimation.  Dutch are proud of being Dutch and going Dutch refers to many things except being cheap.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      You’re right “going Dutch” means being frugal :)  Thanks for your comments.  I didn’t have time to research all of the meanings, but I thought what Mr. Robinson wrote was nonsense.

  • BigRed962

    The PC police are out in force again.
    It is getting impossible to say anything that won’t “insult” SOMEBODY…GET OVER IT…I DON”T GIVE A RAT’S @$$ ANYMORE.

    While some individual words should not be stated, I am not going to
    stop using such (general meaning) phrases just because of why/how they
    originated 100′s of years ago.

    No one TODAY was around back THEN! And today, none of us are IMPLYING anything derogatory by saying today.

    It is just some blowhards bloviating…because they have to find SOMETHING to complain about (probably because they are incapable – or handicapped – at doing any real work)
     

  • BigRed962

    One thing that I have found…the folks who complain the most about these phrases, are typically folks who aren’t the best workers, nor most educated.  They just want to complain and/or get some sort of “handout/freebie/lawsuit”.  I won’t promote, hire, even do business with such people – they are generally just drags on society.

    to these folks…pull up your bootstraps (oh no,who did I just offend with that?) and make something of yourselves.

  • varodder

    from wikipedia: “The term is thought to originate with wood workers who used the width of their thumbs (i.e., inches) rather than rulers for measuring things, cementing its modern use as an imprecise yet reliable and convenient standard.[2] This sense of thumb as a unit of measure also appears in Dutch, in which the word for thumb, duim, also means inch.[3] The use of a single word or cognate for “inch” and “thumb” is common in many other Indo-European languages, for example, French: pouce inch/thumb; Italian: pollice inch/thumb; Spanish: pulgada inch, pulgar thumb;Portuguese: polegada inch, polegar thumb; Swedish: tum inch, tumme thumb; Sanskrit: angulam inch, anguli finger; Slovak: palec, Slovene: palec inch/thumb, Czech: palec inch/thumb.”