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I'm translating a fantasy novel into English. In the story there are a bunch of races. Among them, there are mixed-race people. "Pure races" mock mixed-race people and usually refer to them as 'mongrels'. Now, taking into consideration that this word is also used to describe dogs that live on the streets, would it be awkward for humans?

I picked this word intentionally to bring a bad connotation to mind; I want the reader to feel how prejudiced the races are. The original word is "mestiço" in Portuguese.

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    You can use the term, but be prepared for hate mail. The word is highly pejorative and offensive to many.
    – Rob_Ster
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 16:50
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    Can you post the original word? It would be okay to do this for half breeds like half-orc, half-human, but I would stray far away from using it to describe any type of human. Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 16:55
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    Do the "Pure races" get called inbred or pedigree in return?
    – Pam
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 17:08
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    I think Mudbloods is taken.
    – jimm101
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 17:36
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    @EduardoGalvãoJunior You should edit and put your findings in your question, otherwise the is (re) closable as 'Please do research first'
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 21:58

3 Answers 3

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As @Green Grasso Holm said in her answer, mongrel can be used for a person. But, as many others commented, it is an extremely offensive term when applied to a person. (And it is an insult to many mixed breed dogs, who tend to be every bit as intelligent and fine in character as purebreds.)

As long as you make it absolutely clear that this is a offensive term used by a racist society or by the bad guys in your story, you may get away with it.

I wondered if Mr. Spock, half human and half Vulcan, was ever called a mongrel in Star Trek, so I asked on Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange: Was Spock ever called a mongrel in a Star Trek TV episode or movie?

The answer by @Buzz is No, although Spock was called a half-breed in three episodes. According to a comment by @wcullen, Spock was referred to as a mongrel in a non-canon novel Shocks of Adversity, but non-canon doesn't count among Star Trek aficionados. Finally, there was an interview with Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, in which he calls Spock a mongrel, but the wording is ambiguous and Nimoy may possibly be saying that Vulcans regarded Spock as a mongrel. Or not.

I've gone into all this detail on Spock because he is the most famous mixed-species person in all of science fiction, perhaps in all literature, and standards were much more lax when Star Trek came out. So the conclusion is:

As far as the English goes, you can use it, but be careful if you do use it.

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  • Your answer does not make it clear to the NNS involved that for native English speakers "half-breed" is racist slur when used in relation to humans, or is used by people who are so inherently racist that they don't realise that it's a slur. [That doesn't include NNS]. Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 0:14
  • Worth pointing out that the term (half breed) was used by the author of the question, but it was recently edited out.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 5:12
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It's a perfect word to describe a person of mixed origins if you intend for it to be pejorative.

Merriam Webster mentions its applicability to persons. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mongrel

1 : an individual resulting from the interbreeding of diverse breeds (see breed 1) or strains (see strain 1); especially : one of unknown ancestry She owns several dogs, one of which is a mongrel.

2 : a cross between types of persons or things.

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    It needs to be noted that its use in this sense is extremely offensive.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 16:53
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    Exactly... I singled it out precisely to convey a bad idea. Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 18:07
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    @HotLicks Quite right. And it is only slightly less offensive to refer to "half-breeds". The polite term to use in this day and age is "a person of mixed race".
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 22:26
  • @HotLicks In the context, I think that is the intention.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 23:47
  • @WS2 I disagree. I find half-breed to be even more offensive and aggressive than mongrel. Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 1:30
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I know, coming from the British Isles, after invasions from Anglos, Saxons, Normans and and Danes - to names a few. I don't regard myself as pure bred as I see the the Welsh - pure Britons to or the Scots or Bretons. I regard myself as a mongrel as an assimilation of mixed race. My Serbian wife and her family, however, despite the communist influence consider themselves as pure Serbian, despite the fact that the family come from Croatia and Bosnia. Mongrel is a proud badge to wear. . . .and it means we can celebrate all feasts, anywhere. But I still reserve the right to take the piss out of the Church of exclusivity. I love the feast of 25th December, a mixture is pagans and god bothered new year and the Orthodox festivals as well - I get pissed to them all and really love Chinese New Year because it's on a different date Evey year. ...a kind of random bonus. . ...I can't wait for Ramadan to end. . . that's a really good piss up

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    Although quite interesting, I am not sure this over-sharing answers the Q... Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 19:57
  • Seems like you're saying "yes"? You've buried the lede and provide no supporting evidence. If you have the time, please improve the answer. Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 16:46

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