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I was watching the latest episodes of The X-Files a couple of weeks ago and in one of the episode a middle aged white man driving down the road in Texas stares at a Mid Eastern/Asian guy at a traffic stop and says:

Looks like we got a visitor. A little brownie. Are we in the wrong country then? Huh?

So in the above situation, does the word brownie have the same implication as the N-Word? I did do some research on this subject albeit on the Internet only, but could not find any authoritative source that helps me to compare and consequently figure out the implication.

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  • In Britain a Brownie is a junior Girl Guide, the female equivalent of a cub-scout. They wear brown dresses, on which they sew all their achievement badges. And they look very sweet.
    – WS2
    May 2, 2016 at 20:06
  • 3
    @WS2 - Same in the US. But traditionally, words such as "brownie", "blackie", and "darkie" have been used refer to dark-skinned people from several racial groups. At one time the terms were considered to be "polite" (when compared to the "N word"), but they've been classed as pejoratives for over 50 years now. ("Brownie" was not a common one when I was growing up, but I suspect it was common in the US Southwest where it would have referred to Mexicans and South Americans.)
    – Hot Licks
    May 2, 2016 at 21:29
  • I believe this former question on the use of coloured is relevant.
    – WS2
    May 3, 2016 at 6:10
  • And this on the RAF's most famous dog may be of interest.
    – WS2
    May 3, 2016 at 6:19

2 Answers 2

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No, it does not. In this context, "brownie" is clearly intended as a racial slur referring to skin color, but the word can also be used in a number of perfectly innocent ways:

None of these usages are treated as tainted by association - one need not use circumlocutions when asking for a chocolate brownie at a bakery, for instance. By contrast, "nigger" is treated as highly offensive, to the extent that even some unrelated words that sound similar (e.g, "niggardly") are often avoided.

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  • And it's been a long time since I heard someone refer to a Brazil nut as a "nigger toe".
    – Hot Licks
    May 2, 2016 at 21:31
  • @Hot Licks, Sadly, I heard this just the other day...
    – DyingIsFun
    May 3, 2016 at 1:39
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The same implication, but weaker. The X-files writers wish to shock the audience, but Fox's standards won't allow it, so the writers settle for the tepid "brownie". In 1948, similar publishing standards obliged Norman Mailer to alter The Naked and the Dead; that WWII novel's expletive-prone soldiers thus use the ad hoc near-swear "fug".

Movie and cable-TV writers suffer a kindred dramatic weakness: addiction to hyperbolic swearing and its saccharine gravitas. To promote a routine studio potboiler up from PG or G, scripts are marinated in salty wordages. Whenever these productions air on broadcast TV, where FCC standards apply, that language is replaced with sound-alikes, at times so carelessly that it's comedic gold. Only in the edited for broadcast television version of Lethal Weapon does Mel Gibson growl "We bury the funsters!"

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  • I think these claims require evidence if they are to be believed.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 8, 2023 at 14:59

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