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I was criticized the other day for using this word. It never occurred to me that it was offensive, but Wikipedia says it "may" be derogatory. Given Vancouver's hockey team, I tend to think it's benign, but I wouldn't want to get William Shatner angry. Please help me oot.

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Just because a professional sports team uses a name doesn't make it inoffensive. See: Washington Redskins. –  Sam Apr 29 '11 at 5:04
    
Related: What does 'mothercanuckers' mean? –  RegDwigнt Apr 29 '11 at 10:34
    
@Sam However there is a difference because Canuck describes those on the team, while Redskin describes a minority not particularly represented on the team. See Alain's answer. –  BBischof Apr 30 '11 at 3:46
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@BB, that was kind of my point. Just because the players may not be offended by it, doesn't mean that someone, somewhere isn't. –  Sam Apr 30 '11 at 4:22
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+1 for spelling "out" the way Canadians pronounce it. –  T.E.D. Jun 25 '12 at 21:13

7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The reason why Canuck could be perceived as offensive is because it is a slang term for a nationality.

But as you know there are many sports in which Canadian teams have elected to call themselves the "Canucks". The most famous is the Vancouver Hockey team but the rugby national team is also called the Canucks.

Since sport is very much an activity based on group pride, Canuck is probably not an insult.

It's all a matter of circumstances, context and tone. I don't mind being addressed at as Froggy as long as it's not used in an offensive way or in a formal occasion.

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Addressed as "Froggy"...? –  muntoo Jun 25 '12 at 22:42
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@muntoo, please see here. The excerpt that says "The French custom of eating frog legs is the source of the English use of the derogatory nickname "frogs" for French people". See also this. –  Alain Pannetier Φ Jun 26 '12 at 5:49
    
I've never heard of a Canadian taking offense at Canuck, but I would never call you Froggy. –  JAM Oct 3 '12 at 13:18

Like any other "possibly derogatory" expression - it's up to the person you meet if he/she finds it offensive. It doesn't come down to grammar and use as much, but more to the feelings and background of the receiver.

You will come across words that people find offensive, and then you know not to use that word again in the same situation. No rules since there are feelings involved - and there are no rules on feelings.

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But there are certain words that are widely accepted as offensive and there is always a reason for that, if not a rule. –  z7sg Ѫ Apr 29 '11 at 11:18

I'm Canadian, and I don't think of the word Canuck as offensive and don't know of anyone who does think so. I haven't surveyed the population, however.

It is perfectly possible to offend someone by calling them a Canuck or Canadian (or any nationality, in fact) if you simultaneously equate that nationality with something offensive. In that sense you'd be insulting the entire nation generally, and the person in question specifically, for being a member of that nation. But I don't think that's intrinsic to the word Canuck.

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Difficult to see how calling someone Canadian is derogatory –  mgb Apr 29 '11 at 13:30

Sometimes it matters if the user of the word is a member of the group described. I would think "Canuck" used by one Canadian of another might be perceived as less offensive than the same word used by a non-Canadian. I know that, since I am Caucasian, I am pretty much forbidden "the n-word" when speaking of certain non-Caucasians, whereas those same non-Caucasians make freer use of the word when speaking among themselves.

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People don't tend to appreciate the term Canuck — Canadians almost never refer to each other as Canucks, much in the same way that Americans don't call themselves Yanks on a frequent basis (to my knowledge).

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I've never heard of Canuck being offensive. We have the Vancouver Canucks, the Crazy Canucks (ski jumping) and comic book hero Captain Canuck. I'm proud to be a Canuck.

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If one Canadian calls another a "Canuck" that is alright but it is not alright if an American or someone else calls us that because it is used as an insult most of the time. If you are American and call someone a Canuck in Toronto or Montreal, you'd better be a brave person!

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