"Guido" Isn't an Ethnic Slur

October 12, 2010

Usually, "anti-defamation" stuff comes from whiny democrats, so I was surprised to find this article by Fox News republican Tommy De Seno. Apparently, he was at the boardwalk in New Jersey one day and saw an amusement stand with a game called "Shoot the Guido". It offended him, even more so when he discovered that the guy running it was Italian too. He argues that there's a double standard because there could never be a game called "Shoot the nigger", "Shoot the spic", "Shoot the chink" or "Shoot the kike".

But his entire premise is false. "Guido" isn't an ethnic slur like those others. First of all, it originated among Italians, not as a derogatory name used against them by outsiders; and secondly, it describes a youth subculture within an ethnic group, not the ethnic group itself, and different ethnicities can and do join in. So whereas a game like "Shoot the chink" would equate to "Shoot the Chinese person", "Shoot the Guido" does not equate to "Shoot the Italian person"; it's more like "Shoot the chav" or "Shoot the cholo" (all really fun-sounding games). An equivalent to De Seno's examples would be "Shoot the wop", and no amusement stand would ever have a game like that.

He then takes aim at MTV for enforcing Guido stereotypes, and manages to work in Mafia stereotypes too (blaming HBO for The Sopranos, a critical darling created by an Italian-American). But his anger is misdirected. He should be targeting the source: the Guido subculture itself. Cancelling shows like Jersey Shore won't make Guidos go away. Shooting them would, and pretending to shoot them might be the next best thing, because it conveys very strong disdain. The fact that a game like "Shoot the Guido" exists, and that it's run by a NJ Italian, is encouraging, not offensive.

Time Magazine recently ran an article about the whole Guido controversy, and it contains some informative history that refutes De Seno's nonsense:

There's no date stamp on when the term Guido came into play, but [sociology professor at City University of New York/Queensborough Donald] Tricarico theorizes that it very well may have originated as an insult from within the Italian-American community, conferring inferior status on immigrants who are "just off the boat." It clearly references non-assimilation in its use of a name more at home in the old homeland. In fact, in different locales, the same slur isn't Guido: in Chicago the term is "Mario" and in Toronto it goes by "Gino." Guido is far less offensive, among Italian-Americans, than another G word, which is also used in the names of countries in equatorial west Africa.


"It's a way to be a part of popular culture for kids who aren't invited to the party," Tricarico says. "It is defiant. It's identity politics," he explains. "It's a cultural movement, but it's about consumption, not ethnicity."

"'Guido' has become the name of a lifestyle,"
says Fred Gardaphè, Distinguished Professor of Italian American Studies at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College. "Guido itself is not a derogatory name." He explains its origins from a stereotype: "It's a real handsome, uneducated kid who gets by on his charm and his looks and doesn't really have much going for him." But, says Gardaphè, the wave of negative response to Jersey Shore come from what he calls "irony deficiency" in the Italian-American community. These peacocking kids, he says, come from a long history of exaggerated characterizations in Italian culture.

"The major key to Italian-American culture is something called 'bella figura,'" says Gardaphè. "It basically means, to put on a show so people don't know the real you. If you're poor, you make them think you're rich. If you're rich, you make them think you're poor." For an immigrant people emerging from a history of foreign conquerors and a lack of a nation-state (till 1870), says Gardaphè, "It's all about protection."

Caryn Brooks. "Italian Americans and the 'G' Word: Embrace or Reject?". Time Magazine, December 2009.


Caudium said...

I disagree. "Guido" is still associated with Italians. There are Italians that may not dress in Kappa gear in sneakers, blowout hairdo, gold chains, and listening to Euro/Dance hits and still get called guido. I still believe it's moreso the physical looks, nuances, and facial features that determine the label. In such, "guido" is more of a thinly veiled euphemism for "wop" etc.

Though this article does say one thing: Italians on average have very thick skin. And can tolerate racism applied to them much better than other ethnic groups.

Italianthro said...

Stop talking nonsense.

Caudium said...

I expected something better from you, Italianthro.

You know, you are so preoccupied with the public's perception of the racial status of Italians, that you fail to realize that anything negative that is attributed to them - but not to Whites in general - reveals a strength in them (the Italians, I mean).

Remember when "Just American" joined your forum and called it something to the effect of a "haven for guidos"? He did this without viewing pictures of any of the Italian posters. To many, Italian=Guido. And you may disagree with Just American and call him a troll, idiot, etc. But I believe that his viewpoint bespeaks of what the avearge American thinks.

If you could drop your racial fixations for but a minute, you'd realize that what I say is moreso a compliment to Italians than some sort of negative slur.

Italianthro said...

I'm not going to waste my time responding to your absurd "beliefs", much less your amateur psychoanalysis. This blog post is about whether or not "Guido" is a slur equivalent to "nigger" etc. Obviously, it isn't, as I've plainly demonstrated with a logical argument based in fact that's backed up by evidence from two experts. All you've done is give your opinions that are based on nothing and unsupported by any evidence.

And your latest example is equally absurd. Just American is completely non-bigoted and anti-racist, to the point where he annoys me with his race-denial and mockery of anthropology. If you pay attention to the context, he was responding to the ethnocentric bragging of Crimson Guard and DVX MEA LUX, which is a big part of Guido culture.

Caudium said...

Italianthro said: "the ethnocentric bragging of Crimson Guard and DVX MEA LUX, which is a big part of Guido culture."

^^ Well, I'm glad you said it and not me.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious where there is evidence that "guido" originated from Italians? To me it seems like a derisive word for Italians along the lines of guinea, wop, etc. I'm Italian and the word has always irritated me when it is applied to Italians in general as opposed to a certain type of individual embracing a way of dress, lifestyle, etc.

Crimson Guard said...

Caudium, I think RR was just stating a fact or what he perceived to be a fact, but I think you took a shot at me with using that the way you did. LOL

I get the impression you're much too preoccupied about what some lowforeheads on other Anthropology/Racialist forums think of me and I dont think you want Italians to be "white", or if they are "white" its not in the same equal sense as being British /Irish . And I think you want Italian Americans to somehow feel ashamed of who they are or be in the same social class or league as Latinos and Blacks just because they experienced bigotry and ethnocentrism.

I make no qualms about my strong personality and charisma. Chalk it up to the Sicilian fault of hubris. So as far as my "bragging" is concerned, I back up everything with facts so my "ethnocentrism" I'm glad it bothers them because it proves them wrong 100% of the time.

"Guido" is a throwaway term, if some Italian or someone else uses it can be playful or it can be dig of some kind but it normally defines a specific sub-culture today which is metrosexual/club goer or some wanna-be youth that thinks he's connected to the Mafia and gangster culture in the sense you have with a Chav or wigger. Neither of which is the general Italian-American youth, not by a long shot.

I think you want the the average American definition of an Italian-American to be either abnormally stupiditly bigoted or your being deliberately obtuse. I think you get much of your views from random morons wrapped up in their own little world(mind and basement)on race forums or TV programs. Also you seem to think some no body in dirtwater USA is the epitome of modern America and somehow representative of the general populace in every state in the Union, and the general mainstream US mindset as if Madison Grant has a bearing on "White America" today.

Actually the only really important part of the USA is the North East, which is strongly Italian or Italian influenced culturally.

Otherwise if being a "Guido" is somehow generic shorthand for Italian American then that would imply them being: handsome, prideful, honest, brave, well-spoken, educated, resourceful, intelligent, good sense of humor and nature, artistically and musically talented, self-reliant, friendly, street and business savvy, hardworker & successful, in the middle and upper middle class, politically influential, having style and class, attitude,culturally aware and informative, love of food(Italian), well dressed, macho and body proud( which is most Italian American youth anyway so that pertains to the "Embrace part of this article I had posted on AS.

When I read Luigi Bazini's book "The Italians" he's so right, because we have a certain look and personality, its in our DNA. I think he wrote a wonderful and very authentic book and I relate to it as does must real Italian-Americans because we love our culture and history you can call it Ethnocentric, but at length it doesn't stop us from being American in fact it makes us more American because we made a great many contributions to this great nation since its foundation.

Italianthro said...

My point is that besides Guido "style" there's also an attitude that revolves around ethnic pride and boasting. And there are people who don't like that sort of thing because they equate it with nationalism or even supremacy. So when they use "Guido" in that context, it's sort of like calling someone an "Italian chauvinist".

Anonymous said...

I'm from Staten Island and am very familiar with the Guido 'culture'. Italianthro and Crimson Guard have it right; Caudium (with all due respect) seems like maybe he's been too politically corrected or been through some 'whiteness studies' propoganda.
Guido definitely isn't an ethnic slur. Most Italians (in my experience) dislike guidos, and not all guidos are Italian.

I'm probably a bit older than most here but when I was growing up what made a guido a guido had almost nothing to do with being self consciously Italian (everybody was Italian) but how you dressed and whether you listened to 'disco'/dance music (guido) or rock. The opposite of a guido was a 'critter', someone who preferred metal/rock to 'disco' or 'dance music'. It never had any deep sociological significance; it was silly teen stuff. Guido culture probably derived more from 70s teens trying to act like Travolta in 'Saturday Night Fever' than some deep connection to some aspect of 'Itaian-ness'. It's really pretty silly; people are trying to make something deeper than it is.

Crimson Guard made a very prudent observation when said Caudium seems like he doesn't want Italians to be white. Yeah, there's a lot of “I want us to bw a victim group too!” going around in these weird, PC times. It's... weird.

Great forum, Italianthro!

Anonymous said...

I am an Italian-American and I consider guido an ethnic slur. Whether you are a tank-topped, gel haired young Italian or a Puccini-loving, Medical Doctor Italian, either way, you are an Italian. If someone calls you a guido, it is an insult. Yes, I'm not fond of the guido culture either, but to put a "Shoot the Guido" game on a boardwalk is humiliating to Italian Americans and is inappropriate.

Caudium said...

Thank you, brother (anonymous)

Finally someone with gray matter chimes in.

Italianthro said...

Too bad you don't have any gray matter, Caudium. The anonymous commenter whose ass you're kissing is just repeating the same unsupported nonsense that this blog post and its academic sources refute, and that you spouted almost a year ago. Go back and re-read my second reply to you. It shut you up then, maybe this time it'll stick.

Caudium said...

Ask 20 on the street what ethnic group they most associate "Guido" with. Believe me, it will be Italians.



Besides, "guido" could well be used as a euphemism so that people can get away with using racist epithets without being seen as committing a hate crime.

Caudium said...

Oh....and by the way, Racial Reality don't misrepresent your argument by saying that you used "Academic" sources.

LOL. Academic my ass!! Man, you just lied through your teeth there. You ought to apologize me for that. As a blogger that aims to be taken seriously, your posts should have a more objective value.

Italianthro said...

Are you completely illiterate? The issue is not what ethnic group "Guido" is most associated with. We already know that. The issue is whether or not it's a derogatory epithet on the same level as "nigger", "kike" etc., which it isn't. What you believe it "could be used as" is of no relevance whatsoever.

And the academic sources are Donald Tricarico (sociology professor at City University of New York/Queensborough) and Fred Gardaphè (professor of Italian American Studies at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College). Imbecile.

Stop wasting my time with your nonsense, and making me repeat things that were settled a year ago.

Caudium said...

From a grassroots level, this is what the general consensus is, you dummy:


Italianthro said...

"Grassroots consensus"? That's just a handful of online nobodies who are as clueless as you are. Instead of embarrassing yourself by showing how bankrupt your argument is, you should be apologizing for falsely (and stupidly) accusing me of lying.

Caudium said...

You are such a jerk.

My very first comment more or less just conveyed that "guido is more affiliated with Italians than any other ethnic group".

However, NOW you're saying that is NOT the issue. So why the hell did you reply to my first comment with the rude and terse: "Stop talking nonsense."??

What? A year ago the fact that "guido" was associated with Itals WAS the issue, but now it's not?

You cannot keep your arguments consistent. As well, as a visitor on your blog I am your guest. You should treat your guests more politely than the way you have.

Italianthro said...

Learn how to read. "Guido" being associated mostly with Italians was NEVER the issue. The point of your first comment a year ago was: "In such, 'guido' is more of a thinly veiled euphemism for 'wop' etc." That's totally false and disproven by the blog post and its academic sources.

And coming back here after a year to imply that everyone who doesn't agree with your unsupported nonsense has no brain (and also to falsely accuse me of lying) isn't exactly polite. You get treated the way you treat others. As a guest here, you've overstayed your welcome...by about a year.

Caudium said...

It's very obvious that the authors of that academic paper - which you are treating as Gospel - haven't taken Semantic Shifts into account. And the disclosure of their methodology leaves much to be desired.

Not good. Not good.

Italianthro said...

It's very obvious that you have no argument or evidence, and that you're completely lost. There is no "academic paper" and thus no need to "disclose methodology". There are explanations given by two independent academics from the fields of Sociology and Italian American Studies who've researched the origin and meaning of "Guido" extensively and know what they're talking about...unlike you and your pals at Yahoo Answers.

I already warned you to stop wasting my time. Don't make me say it again.

Caudium said...

Oh? It wasn't an academic, peer-reviewed sociological case study?

This makes the entire matter much easier. The article is crap, for lack of a better word. Thank you.

Italianthro said...

Your opinion is crap. Stop spamming my blog. This is your final warning.

Tom Verso said...

No discussion of Guido is complete without the following:
i-Italy.org Special Section on Guido: http://www.i-italy.org/sections/specials/society/guido-italian-american-youth-style; and especially the thought provoking:

Guido Italian/American Youth and Identity Politics, Edited by Letizia Airos & Ottorino Cappelli – Bordighera Press}