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The most recent Dinosaur Comics:

The mouseover title: "sorry to any jabronis reading this who didn't know yet that they were jabronis. honestly though that's such a jabroni situation to find yourself in"

The OED's proposed etymology for jabroni:

Origin uncertain. Perhaps < Italian regional (Milan) giambone ham (19th cent.); with the assumed semantic development compare ham n.1 5.
In later specific use in wrestling, the β. forms are perhaps reinforced by association with jobber in similar use.

And the OED's sense, which adds the time span 1917-1997 to the background of Ryan North's explanation:

U.S. slang and colloquial (derogatory, often used mockingly).  A stupid, objectionable, or ridiculous man; a loser, a knuckle-head. In Italian-American contexts often applied to newly arrived immigrants. In recent use also applied spec. to a professional wrestler who deliberately or habitually loses.

I can't think of other English "pejorative words" that start as names for a kind of food, except for nut [update: and also fruit]– no doubt readers will be able to add many more. Other pejorative epithets that don't have their "origins in something racist or otherwise hurtful" often start as figurative applications of animal names: louse, leech, slug, goose, donkey, pig, sheep, cow, … And others start out as puns on the names of everyday objects, like wingnut.

Of course "pejorative words" are by their nature intended to be hurtful, even if their base etymology doesn't start with reference to inappropriately deprecated groups. And in many cases, the initial reference is to an appropriately deprecated group, e.g. thug, which according to Wiktionary is

From Hindi ठग (ṭhagswindler, fraud, cheat), from Ashokan Prakrit *- (*ṭhagg-), from Sanskrit स्थग (sthagacunning, fraudulent, to cover, to conceal) hence स्थगति (sthagatihe/she/it covers, he/she/it conceals), from Proto-Indo-Aryan *stʰagáti, from Proto-Indo-European *(s)teg- (to cover with a roof).

Thuggee was an Indian network of secret fraternities who were engaged in murdering and robbing travellers and known for strangling their victims, operating from the 17th century (possibly as early as 13th century) to the 19th century. During British Imperial rule of India, many Indian words passed into common English, and in 1810 thug referred to members of these Indian gangs. The sense was adopted more generally as "ruffian, cutthroat" by 1839.

Or ruffian, for which the OED has

< Middle French ruffian, rufian, ruffien, rufien (French (now literary or archaic) ruffian , rufian , rufien ) (noun) pander, pimp (early 14th cent.), lecher, degenerate, bawd (end of the 14th cent.), general term of abuse (1449), (adjective) bawdy (1496 of the Devil), probably < Italian ruffiano pander, pimp (1st half of the 13th cent.), flatterer, one who ingratiates himself (a1468; also regional (north.) roffiano , rofian ), further etymology uncertain and disputed: […] The English word has been influenced semantically and formally by association throughout its history with rough adj.

Among other recent pejorative epithets of non-hurtful origin are terms used for followers of QAnon, most of which seem to be punning references to everyday inanimate objects: Qballs, Qtips, Quornflakes, …  I'm not sure whether Qberts should be regarded as of hurtful origin or not.



  1. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 7:38 am

    So in this vein, may I propose "Qanonical", as in "Quanonical fact" — anything asserted to be a fact by Qanon and his/her/its acolytes ?

  2. Peter Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 7:54 am

    I can't think of any other "pejorative words" that start as names for a kind of food.

    A couple of fruits spring to mind.

    lemon, OED definition 1b:

    A person with a tart or snappy disposition (quot. 1863). More usually (slang), a simpleton, a loser; a person easily deluded or taken advantage of (see also quot. 1950).

    melon, OED definition 4a:

    slang Chiefly Australian and New Zealand. An ignorant, naive, or foolish person.

  3. Peter Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 7:56 am

    PS I should have looked more closely at the OED citations for the first one, because one of the examples includes another foodstuff:

    1950 E. Partridge Slang To-day & Yesterday (ed. 3) iii. 313 If she is unpopular, she is a pill, a pickle, a lemon.

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 7:57 am

    +:= tripe, OED definition 2b:

    Applied opprobriously or contemptuously to a person; also bag of tripe.

  5. MattF said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 8:00 am

    Well, it’s pejorative if you’re the otherwise innocent letter ‘Q’.

  6. Dick Margulis said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 8:33 am


    It may be most familiar to a lot of us from All in the Family, which began its run in 1971, but the Google ngram viewer shows it starting quite a bit earlier.

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 8:40 am

    +:= liver, OED definition 5Bb:

    lily-livered adj. white-livered, cowardly. lily-liver n. a ‘lily-livered’ person. lily-liveredly adv.

  8. D-AW said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 8:49 am

    "Fruit" and derivatives /OED (2nd Supplement)/: 8. (a) A dupe, an ‘easy mark’. (b) A homosexual man. slang (originally U.S.). First qt: "1895 W. C. Gore in Inlander Dec. 111 Fruit, one who can be easily deceived."

  9. Krogerfoot said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 9:07 am

    I saw the title of the post and immediately thought “there’s a term that no one in my cohort uses except me, and which I probably picked up from my father” (born 1946 in Baltimore). A moment later I realized I’ve never used jabroni but rather jamoke, and now I’m wondering if it’s a variant of the same word, meaning a man who fails to recognize how ridiculous he is.

    [(myl) Wiktionary says that "Appearing at the end of the 19th century as a blend of java +‎ mocha, by the 1920s it became slang for someone who lacked mental abilities beyond that of a cup of coffee, probably influenced by moke. In the 1960s it also began to be used as slang for male genitalia."

    OED cites moke from 1839 with the original meaning "donkey", and a figurative meaning from 1855 as "a person who is stupid, awkward, or incompetent; a dolt, a fool", along with the "U.S. derogatory (offensive). A black person", from 1847.]

  10. Philip Anderson said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 9:07 am

    I guess fruitcake counts as a derivative of fruit, although I think it’s pejorative sense arose independently.

    I suspect that ‘quornflake’ was modelled on the right-wing insult ‘snowflake’, which is also non-racial in origin.

  11. Krogerfoot said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 9:09 am

    As in “look at this jamoke who doesn’t know how to handle HTML formatting tags”

    [(myl) I closed your <em> tag for you…]

  12. Mark P said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 9:14 am

    I can’t believe you turkeys didn’t think of yourselves.

  13. Marius Doornenbal said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 9:16 am

    Of course the Dutch “pannenkoek” is the best example of a food used as an insult. Former Ajax coach and golden shoe winner Marco van Basten is probably the most famous recipient of this insult.

  14. Ralph J Hickok said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 9:34 am

    I guess I've seen "jabroni" in print a few times but I've never actually heard anyone say it, so I'm not sure that it actually caught on all that well.

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 9:36 am

    Is "snowflake" really a right-wing insult ? Once I learned what it meant, I perceived it as a valid, if intentionally insulting, term for a particular cohort, and I would certainly not consider myself particularly right-wing.

  16. djw said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 9:55 am

    Philip Taylor, yeah, "snowflake" belongs to the right, but I have a hard time considering any term "valid, if . . . .insulting." Insults are pretty much not valid, by definition, I think.

  17. David Marjanović said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 10:00 am

    I can't think of other English "pejorative words" that start as names for a kind of food

    There's the phenomenon, not limited to English, of using words for food as words for nonsense: tripe, baloney

    Qballs, Qtips, Quornflakes, …

    I've seen Qcumbers.

    Is "snowflake" really a right-wing insult ?

    In the US, yes, mostly.

  18. Jake said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 10:15 am

    More recently there's 'gammon' : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gammon_(insult)

  19. Jake said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 10:18 am

    @Phillip Taylor: Re: lily-livered, I'm a little bit concerned that you consider the human liver to be a foodstuff.

  20. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 10:22 am

    "Insults are pretty much not valid, by definition, I think" — Well, leaving aside the issue of whether or not "snowflake" is a valid description of a particular cohort, would you not agree that (for example) the insult "coward", aimed at a soldier who runs away or hides when the rest of his company go over the top, is a valid description ? I would certainly not suggest for one minute that he should then be shot at dawn (pour encouragers les autres), as was sadly the custom during WW I, but it seems a perfectly valid description nonetheless.

  21. Rodger C said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 10:35 am

    The word "coward" is a descriptor, not a word designed as an insult.

  22. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 10:53 am

    Not "designed as" an insult, but frequently used as one nonetheless. If a soldier describes a fellow serviceman as a coward, he is not making a non-judgemental assessment of the man's character, he is using one of the worst insults in a serviceman's vocabulary.

    You sir, are a coward, a mongrel, a loser, a communist and a homosexual.

    from Album Review of "Living with War"

  23. Errol said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 11:14 am

    Calling someone a vegetable can be insulting enough.

  24. Grant Hutchins said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 11:29 am

    I was wondering about “cracker”, but apparently it’s not based on the food.

  25. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 12:02 pm

    (cracker) — and used in the context with which I associate the term ("she's a right cracker !"), most definitely not an insult !

  26. John Walden said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 12:18 pm

    Apples, Bananas and Coconuts are Native Americans, Asians and People of Colour who are one colour on the outside but "white inside".


    I've seen "Vanilla Isis" for Qanon.

  27. Michael Watts said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 12:24 pm

    Apples, Bananas and Coconuts are Native Americans, Asians and People of Colour who are one colour on the outside but "white inside".

    Did you leave off Oreo intentionally?

    Dunce appears to originate as the name of a particular person.

    I tend to agree that the insult "fruitcake" derives from the hated object "fruitcake" and not from the insult "fruit".

  28. Scott P. said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 12:43 pm

    would you not agree that (for example) the insult "coward", aimed at a soldier who runs away or hides when the rest of his company go over the top, is a valid description ?

    The way 'coward' tends to be used in common parlance is to someone infused with a moral failing, who selfishly puts the desire for self-preservation above the welfare of his fellows, as opposed to someone suffering, say, from PTSD, so I'd certainly call it an insult, and wouldn't use it to describe anyone objectively.

  29. John Walden said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 12:50 pm

    Did you leave off Oreo intentionally?b

  30. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 12:53 pm

    Another food-related insult is cream puff, which brings up candy-ass

    Hot dog can be an insult, which I imagine is more an ironic use of complimentary hot than connected with the "food".

    MIchael Watts: I always thought the insult fruitcake came from nutty as a fruitcake. The OED seems to be thinking along the same lines.

  31. John Walden said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 1:00 pm

    That was a slip of the hand!

    I left Oreo off because I didn't really know what it was. I see in that unedifying list which I linked to both Bounty and Choc-ice, with the same meaning. So I get the idea.

    Kraut is still in use, I imagine.

  32. Y said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 1:58 pm

    Derogatory terms based on some stereotypical foods are more comon than general food ones (like nut). To those I can add bean pie, for Black Muslims, which I heard in some 1990s movie.

  33. Haamu said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 2:32 pm

    @Philip Taylor:

    Snowflake as a politicized insult, at least in its 21st-Century incarnation, did indeed first gain traction among the right wing to describe elements of the left. Nowadays, though, you're almost as likely to see it tossed by the left back in the face of the right. Apparently, it's a universal: there are common human tendencies (1) to take offense easily and to see oneself as a victim and (2) to want to accuse others of same. Both transcend political categories.

    So, you might not be particularly right-wing or left-wing yourself, but you might be using the insult in a right-wing way or a left-wing way, depending on who your target "cohort" is and what you're basing your observation on.

    The Wikipedia article on the term, taken with the requisite grain of salt, is actually fairly interesting and plausible. I suspect you would also find this article informative.

    I was surprised to find that this particular insult has been popular for only 5 or 6 years. It feels like it's a lot older. I've forgotten: what's the opposite of recency illusion?

  34. Morten Jonsson said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 2:42 pm


  35. Y said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 2:48 pm

    Green's Dictionary of Slang derives it from Italian slang gabrone, 'cuckold'.

    [(myl) Link here. It's not clear what region or era of Italian slang might be involved.]

  36. Chester Draws said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 3:37 pm

    The word "coward" is a descriptor, not a word designed as an insult.

    But there are many synonyms for coward that deliberately insulting: yellow-belly etc.

    Insults with no racist or similar origins include things like "space cadet" and "headcase".

  37. Haamu said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 3:51 pm

    PS to @Philip Taylor (sorry to pick on you today — your comments were though-provoking):

    As to whether insults in general, or the "snowflake" insult in particular, are or can ever be "valid" depends on what you mean by "insult" and "valid." Earlier commenters may be making assumptions here that don't match yours.

    If "insult" means a deliberate verbal act intended to cause offense, then you could say it was "valid" if you share the original utterer's subjective impression and intent (to cause offense), or at least you endorse their right to cause that offense.

    If, on the other hand, "insult" means a word with a particular objective meaning that can also (incidentally, not necessarily) be used to give offense, then it could be "valid" if it objectively describes the situation.

    I take @djw's comment to mean that he assumes the first meaning of "insult" and the second meaning of "valid": deliberate attempts to give offense are subjective expressions and probably (I'd have to think harder about this) can't be objectively true.

    As to your example of the cowardly soldier, it's initially compelling but weakens on inspection.

    Is "coward" an objective expression? Maybe, but as @Scott P observes, modern ideas about mental and emotional disabilities make that questionable.

    And is "snowflake" analogous to "coward"? It's certainly more recent and more layered: as the 2nd article I link to above points out, it expresses elements of fragility, self-importance, weakness, and self-delusion. If "snowflake" in the social/political sense has any objective meaning, it's probably much more difficult than "coward" to pin down or to communicate reliably.

    And finally (and this is the biggest problem I have), is the example of a single soldier observed in a single incident analogous to an entire "cohort" whose general behavior cannot possibly be observed and can only be assumed?

    If I were to try to improve on @djw's statement, I'd say that generalized insults are never valid, under either meaning of "insult" and either meaning of "valid."

  38. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 4:27 pm

    Yes, I am reasonably certain that I would agree with that last sentiment (« generalized insults are never valid, under either meaning of "insult" and either meaning of 'valid' »), where "generalised" really means the universal quantifier ∀. So to rephrase what I wrote above, "∃ a non-empty set S of members of the so-called "snowflake" generation who manifest some or all of the negative attributes associated with the pejorative use of the word".

  39. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 4:33 pm

    P.S. Sorry, I should have thanked you for the links, which were indeed interesting. They (and the comment including them) were not visible at the time I posted the immediately preceding comment, but they now are and I have followed them with interest.

  40. Joe McClinton said,

    January 30, 2021 @ 8:04 pm

    Another non-ethnically-based pejorative from my home area came into the news recently when native Pittsburgher Seth Meyers called Ted Cruz a "jagoff":

  41. Victor Mair said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 12:16 am

    From the moment I saw the title of this post — a word that I had no clue about — I could not help but think of the word "zamboni". That was a word that I was fascinated by from college days. I knew what it meant, but it sounded funny, and the thing that it designated was the cause of much hilarity among Dartmouth undergrads in those days. Perhaps the same thing was true at other college campuses and hockey arenas. Namely, the zamboni was an ungainly looking machine that came out on the hockey rink and smoothed down the surface of the ice. Now, the machine was, as I said, ungainly in appearance, and the driver took on a kind of mythic stature. So the Dartmouth students would whoop and holler when the zamboni appeared on the ice, with much levity over the machine and its mystifying name. Of course, we didn't have Wikipedia in those days, so there was no way to look it up easily. Instead, we were content just to be all silly over the goofy looking machine with its odd name and the mythic driver doing his job so seriously. Turns out that "zamboni" was the surname of the inventor of the machine.

  42. AG said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 12:43 am

    what about just "flake" as a noun for someone who's forgetful (or the verb for forgetting a rendezvous)? Did that stem from a foodstuff, or … dandruff, or … ?

    a jumble of possible food insults that come to mind:

    ham (actor)
    Weichei (German)
    peach (used ironically)
    wet noodle
    frog (english insult for french)
    rosbif (french insult for english)
    kraut (for german)

  43. AG said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 12:46 am


  44. Robot Therapist said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 8:04 am

    My understanding of "snowflake" is that it's not connected to the pejorative "flaky", but rather refers to the idea that "snowflakes" think they are all unique and special, as it used to be said that, indeed, no two snowflakes are identical.

  45. Rodger C said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 8:51 am

    I sometimes refer to easily offended right-wingers as "flowsnakes." It doesn't seem to have caught on.

  46. Rodger C said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 8:52 am

    Porkchop (for a Puerto Rican).

    Cornpone (for a rural American).

  47. Kennedy said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 11:54 am

    "Milquetoast," for someone bland or boring.

  48. Y said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 2:38 pm

    Milquetoast comes from Caspar Milquetoast, a character created by cartoonist H.T. Webster. Ther recurring gag is that he's intimidated by anything and everything and won't stand up for himself.

  49. Philip Taylor said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 2:56 pm

    Well, that does explain why both people who have suggested the word have spelled it identically. When AG first posted it, I asked myself "why not milktoast ?", but did not bother to pursue the matter. When Kennedy then used exactly the same spelling, I became intrigued. Now I know. Thank you, Y.

  50. Chester Draws said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 3:28 pm

    but rather refers to the idea that "snowflakes" think they are all unique and special,

    Yes, but combined with the fragility of a snowflake — which melts upon contact with anything other than lots of other snowflakes.

  51. DaveK said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 4:11 pm

    No one’s mentioned terms like meathead, muttonhead, melon head, egghead or Mark Twain’s Puddin’ head.

    Also, what about the use of proper names as insults? Insults like Jethro, Gomer and, probably Karen are ethnically based, but what about names like Melvin or Barbie?

  52. Matt N said,

    January 31, 2021 @ 8:25 pm

    Thanks to the Sopranos, I learned not to use the Italian word for "eggplant" in vain.

    As for "pejorative epithets of non-hurtful origins", how about "wingnut"?

  53. Andreas Johansson said,

    February 1, 2021 @ 7:19 am

    I'm vaguely surprised that the "snowflake" insult apparently hasn't been linked to (the alleged phenomenon of) white fragility yet.

  54. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    February 1, 2021 @ 11:15 am


    I had an experience similar to yours, but involving "cidrul'" (cucumber), instead of "jamoke". Another favorite non-ethnic, non-food slur among Italians is "ciucc' / ciucciarill'" (donkey / little donkey). Italian-Americans (in Western Pennsylvania, at least), tend to use "ciucc'" in much the same way as Ashkenazi Jews tend to use "schmuck"., although "ciucc'", at least literally, is less ribald.

    So far, we have: ethnicity, physical characteristic, food, sex, and animals — where else do our pejoratives come from?

  55. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 1, 2021 @ 11:29 am

    To vhm's arguably off-topic comment about "zamboni," I can inform him that both the word and the referent continue to fascinate younger people more than a half-century after his first encounter with them at college. Since the early Nineties there has been a Connecticut-based rock band named the Zambonis, whose gimmick is that all of their songs have lyrics related to ice hockey. I assume they thought of the concept first and then thought that "Zambonis" would be the coolest possible name for an ice-hockey-themed rock band. I've certainly never heard the word used pejoratively, because everyone has positive associations with it. (Their initial popularity led to some negative attention from the trademark lawyers for the manufacturer of the hockey-rink machine, but that apparently got worked out amicably.)


  56. DaveK said,

    February 1, 2021 @ 11:45 am

    @Benjamin F. Orsatti:

    You left out the huge number of insults based on intelligence and on excretion.

  57. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    February 1, 2021 @ 1:23 pm


    How could I have been such a sh*t-for-brains?


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