4

I'd like you to ask if it's ok to use the word "coon" as part of a company name? The website isn't related to racoons at all, but has a racoon head in the logo. Will it offend visitors? As a foreigner I don't get all the finer points of the English language.

  • Well, I got the point. Seems like naming a company that way is definitely bad idea. When I came up with that name, I didn't meant anything racist. Thanks everyone for answers! – zozed Oct 9 '13 at 20:57
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    Well, you better hurry up and register the domain "gadgetraccoon.com" before some joker beats you to it and wants you to fork out a pile of cash to get it from him. I just checked and it isn't registered yet. – Cyberherbalist Oct 9 '13 at 23:41
  • I have a Maine Coon cat. She is a very adorable and sticky cat. She is also a huge and heavy cat who wants to be hugged frequently. – Blessed Geek Oct 10 '13 at 2:23
  • UK or US company, or international? – user303030 Jun 4 at 13:10
10

Probably the most sensible thing to do in this situation if you want a racoon-themed corporate identity would be to keep the "ra" in "racoon".

The word "coon" is in fact highly offensive to black folks in the USA, and there are frankly a lot of people here who have never seen a real-live racoon and never heard the word "coon" used in any way other than an insult to black folks.

There are indeed other (non-black) folks, particularly those who enjoy hunting, who will say "coon" to refer to the animal and mean nothing racial by it at all. However, for general public consumption, it should really be avoided.

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    Whereas I didn’t know until my late teens that coon had racial connotations, because I grew up in an area where raccoons are common. And I still get funny looks when saying I haven’t done something in a coon’s age. – Jon Purdy Oct 9 '13 at 20:00
7

Despite the election of an African-American President, race continues to be a very sensitive issue in the US. History of slavery and ongoing discrimination against African-Americans and many other groups make the use of any term that is considered ethnically offensive or insensitive a source of concern.

There has even been a movement to sanitize Mark Twain's work to remove the use of the term we euphemistically call the N-word. Many in the literary community have resisted the change to an important historical work and point to both the usage at the time and Mr. Twain's overall thoughtful approach to racial issues.

There is even a current controversy concerning the long standing name of a professional football team, the Redskins. There are arguments on both sides, but clearly some people are offended and upset.

Even though the word coon has a somewhat common non-offensive meaning, some people (and not a negligible number) will take offense to a new, non-historic coinage.

If you do not want to offend, do not use it.

  • thanks for such substantial reply. I'll keep that in mind. – zozed Oct 9 '13 at 15:37
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Growing up, I always heard the animal referred to as a "raccoon." I believe "coon" was used almost exclusively as a racial slur. But then, my childhood was pretty suburban. I can imagine I might use the word "coon" if I ever have occasion to discuss the hunting of raccoons ("That's one heck of a coon dog.") or if I were asked to perform a condescending impression of a country bumpkin ("Mama's cookin' coon for supper!"), but otherwise I don't think I'd normally use coon in place of raccoon. That said, combining "coon" as a suffix with another term, as you are proposing, may remove the negative connotation. At least I've never heard the racial slur used that way. To me, GadgetCoon sounds like a subspecies of raccoon.

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    Davy Crockett is well-known for wearing a "coonskin cap", and I've never heard it referred to as a "racoon skin cap." Just sayin'. – Cyberherbalist Oct 9 '13 at 18:03
  • Coon as a shortened vesion of raccoon was not unintelligible, but it would have sounded affected and out of place. Which is partly why a boy wearing a coonskin cap is a more amusing than a boy wearing buckskin boots. – tosh Oct 9 '13 at 18:57
1

Coon: "American English" a Raccoon

Coon: A very offensive word for a black person.

So, despite the first one it shouldn't but the second one could be offensive!

1

If you have a racoon logo I don't think it would be inherently offensive to anyone. Perhaps write it as 'coon in the logo with the apostrophe helping to indicate that it's short for racoon. I don't know if you can tell us the exact name, but if we know the whole context it might help to be more certain about our advice.

  • Thanks for fast reply, Tom. For example, company name is GadgetCoon, so the Gadget'Coon will fix misunderstanding, right? By the way, not sure about the apostrophe before capital letter. – zozed Oct 9 '13 at 15:29
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    I didn't downvote this, and I agree that if a racoon is featured in the logo then they might get away with Coon in the name... but what does the apostrophe do for it? I strongly disagree that the apostrophe fixes anything at all. If anything, it actually calls attention to the "Coon" element. zozed, when it comes to product and company names, there is a lot more leeway when it comes to odd spellings and letter casing. An apostrophe before a capital letter is no problem in this case -- but I still disagree with Tom Swifty on the use of the apostrophe. Nice user name, though, Tom. – Cyberherbalist Oct 9 '13 at 16:13
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    If you aren't very very careful with how things are represented, the racoon logo could get you into even more trouble. – T.E.D. Oct 9 '13 at 18:00
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    What? Don't you like racoons, @T.E.D.? – Cyberherbalist Oct 9 '13 at 18:11
0

When it comes to offensive or near-offensive names, it seems that we have become a bunch of hypersensitive neurotics.

GadgetCoon with a racoon logo would seem to me at least to be perfectly OK, but I am not a black person.

We have the big companies SurveyMonkey and MailChimp, and both chimp and monkey have been used in the past as pejoratives directed at persons of the black race in the USA. These two companies have exactly as much to be with chimps and monkeys as GadgetCoon has to do with racoons, but I have never heard of anyone getting riled up at them for their names.

I suggest that GadgetCoon is probably OK as a company name.

Edited to Add: I consulted with my black friend who is from the South, and he couldn't see anything wrong with it, though he thought there were those who might.

I suggest that a racoon logo is pretty cool, and there doesn't seem to be a particular reason to shorten "Racoon" to "Coon". In my personal opinion, "GadgetRacoon" sounds better than "GadgetCoon" anyway, and doesn't punch anyone's buttons.

ETA: would the downvoter care to comment about his/her downvote?

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    This is where the racial uniformity on this site can really bite us. I'm not AA either, so I can't completely refute this. However, I spent enough time with real-life AA's that I learned AAVE fairly well. You could be right, but all my instincts on this one are saying its a really bad idea. – T.E.D. Oct 9 '13 at 17:33
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    Well, I just now consulted with a good friend of mine who is "AA", and he said that with a racoon in the logo and a clear purpose that had nothing to do with racism, it would not offend him, although he agreed that there were those who would take an extremist view. He is from the southern US, where the term "coon" was a common pejorative, so he has a useful perspective. Why not call the company GadgetRacoon and avoid the issue entirely? – Cyberherbalist Oct 9 '13 at 18:00
  • A great idea, clearly indicitive of a true genius! (That's my standard response when someone says something I already said in one of my answers. :-) ) – T.E.D. Oct 9 '13 at 18:02
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    one good reason not to call it GadgetRacoon is that the normal spelling is Raccoon (though Racoon has been used by a majority of the contributors on this page). Of course you don't have to have a correctly spelt word in your company name, and you can buy up both GadgetRacoon.com and GadgetRaccoon.com, but it would be better to have a name that won't constantly be misspelt. – RoundTower Oct 9 '13 at 21:14
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    @TrevorD - "African Americans". I know its not a unique acronym, but this was a comment and I figured everyone would be able to get it from context (particularly with the AAVE after it). Sorry if you were confused. – T.E.D. Oct 9 '13 at 23:11
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There is a famous cheese in Australia called "Coon". A few years ago someone objected to this name, not realising it referred to a "Doctor Coon", the founder of the company.

Case dismissed.

-1

If your website has nothing to do with raccoons, why have a raccoon head as a logo or even on the site? Unless the company founder's name is "Coon", why encourage problems with no good cause to do so? The easiest answer would be avoid the problem altogether and get rid of the raccoon and find a better company name.

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    So...because using a part of the name might be offensive to some, they should completely ditch the raccoon logo? If the question about coon hadn't been asked, would you have leapt to "coon" from raccoon? -1. – JohnP Oct 9 '13 at 22:32

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