Recently a CNN talking head got his undies in a bundle because some guy called him "Fredo", which is apparently a bad thing to call someone of Italian heritage, as in the dim-witted brother of the Corleone family.
I know the big slur words not to say, which since I never used them (N, C, F, words) isn't really much of a lifestyle change. But occasionally there are words that I might use and not realize they are bad. But good luck explaining that to someone offended by the word in these days of instant and easy offense. I once wrote a column and referred to some Canadian as a Canuck. I then received a letter to the editor from a truck driver from Canada who said that was offensive. I didn't know that, and still am not sure of that. Not enough anyway than I refrain from using the word, as if I actually ever have reason to use it much anyway.
But this Fredo thing, which the dude said is the equivalent of the N-word to Italian-Americans (I doubt it), got me thinking. What would be the equivalent of the Fredo word or N word to Norwegians?
Seriously, what could you call a Norwegian-American that referenced his past that would even get him to raise an eyebrow? Lefse licker? Lutefisk breath?
I'm fifth generation South Dakotan. And I'm 100-percent Norwegian heritage. Both sides of my family tree are littered with Oles, Olafs and Olavs. I don't know what you could call me, referencing my heritage, that would offend me.
Seriously, Norwegians write joke books about Norwegians and sell them to non-Norwegians. We tell Ole and Lena jokes that imply we are stupid. I suppose the groups most offended would say we aren't offended because we haven't been a marginalized group. We haven't been enslaved or discriminated against like many minorities. Fair enough.
The point I'm making out of this, though, is that regardless of the wrongs done to you or your ancestors, maybe if everybody wasn't so easily insulted people would be less likely to insult you.
Because what's the point of insults? Why does anyone call anyone else a name? It's to put them down, lessen them, make them feel inferior. But if it doesn't work, doesn't get a rise out of you, doesn't make you feel inferior, what's the point of doing it? I'm not saying it would happen over night, but when an idiot discovers that what they are saying doesn't affect you, he'll probably give up eventually. If enough idiots give up, imagine the world we might live in.
In my job, I get yelled at weekly on the phone from out-of-staters. Called every name in the book. I laugh at them, joke with them, and so on. Mostly I try to remain calm, and that infuriates them more. If I took personally what everyone said, I'd be a total basket case and probably be taking it out on those around me too. It's definitely easier said than done, and I can't honestly say nobody's never gotten under my skin. Fortunately, few know what buttons to push. But, then again, I'm a stoic, unemotional, dumb Norwegian. If you don't have that going for you, it might be more difficult. Give it a try. Might work.
In the meantime, have you heard the one about Ole and Lena driving to Minneapolis?
At Luverne, Ole put his hand on Lena's knee. She smiled.
At Mankato, he slid his hand up a couple more inches. Lena smiled more.
At Minneapolis, Ole moved his hand onto her thigh.
Lena said: "Ole, you can go further if you want."
So he drove to Duluth.