5 Common Phrases That You May Not Know Are Totally Racist

Some words and phrases we use are actually racist - such as "no can do" and "long time no see."

We have heard certain words and phrases that people use everyday like it’s no big deal. However, some of these are actually offensive to certain people – without us knowing it.

The words we speak have a long history and because we are largely unaware of their origins, we may be already saying something racist and still be clueless about it. So in order to avoid saying stuff that may turn out to be offensive to people of certain races, read up on these terms and phrases and how they came to be used commonly.


Meriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “thug” as “a violent criminal.” It did not specify a certain race or ethnicity. So by definition, even a white person can be called a thug. But through the years, it has been mostly used in relation to people of color.

Recently, the term has been used to describe protesters of the Black Lives Matter movement and Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black male who was shot by a Hispanic community watch coordinator.

In comparison, you will hardly find any references to white people as thugs, from the media or just anyone else.

Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman said in 2014 that the use of the word thug bothers him because “it seems like it’s an accepted way of calling somebody the N-word now. It’s like everybody else said the N-word and then they say ‘thug’ and that’s fine. It kind of takes me aback and it’s kind of disappointing because they know.”

No Can Do

“No can do” originally became popular in ridiculing Chinese immigrants, according to the Oxford Dictionary. Today, the phrase is widely used in the English language as an abbreviated version of saying “I can’t do it.”

But “No can do” is actually an imitation of Chinese Pidgin English and dates back to mid-19th to early-20th centuries. This was the time when Westerners were openly racist towards the Chinese.

Long Time No See

What we usually use harmlessly to address people we haven’t seen in a long time was actually used before to make fun of Native Americans. According to Oxford Dictionary, the phrase “Long time no see” was originally meant as a humorous interpretation of a Native American greeting, used after a prolonged separation.

The earliest citation recorded in the dictionary originated from W.F. Drannan’s 1901 book, Thirty-One Years on Plains, which stated: ‘When we rode up to him [sc. an American Indian] he said: ‘Good mornin. Long time no see you’.”

The Peanut Gallery

We all know that the Peanut Gallery is used in reference to a group of people who mocks or criticize another person but historically, the term has painful and racist roots.

The “peanut gallery” pertains to the the cheapest section of the theater, usually the balconies where the worst seats are – and this was where the black people are allowed to sit.

The term “peanut” refers to the slave trade, the time when peanuts were introduced to America. So this was used to connect peanuts and black people.


Nowadays, we use the word “uppity” to describe someone who is conceited, stuck up, or pretentious but the term has more racist origins. It was first used by Southerners in America to refer to slaves who act as if they “didn’t know their place.”

By this definition, it means any black person who objects to racism.

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