Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Inappropriate Vanity Plate?

Some people don't understand the military.

I read this and thought it was funny:
In what is being disputed as a matter of taste over a matter of law, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles revoked a former U.S. Army sergeant’s choice of vanity license plate letters, saying that the seven-letter series "ICUHAJI" is an affront to American citizens of Arab descent.

The letters spell a derogatory phrase sometimes used by service members.
Let me start by saying that "Haji" isn't derogatory, but I'll come back to that name in a minute.

It isn't uncommon in the army to give a name to the "opposition".  Watch any WWII movie and you'll hear the Brits referring to the Germans as "Jerries", as in Jerry the German.  When I was in Germany we referred to Germans collectively as "Herman"--"Herman doesn't like Pershing missiles".  When we faced the Soviet Union, we would refer to their people as "Ivan".  These aren't derogatory, they're just part of the language--a slang, if you will.

Haji was a dark-skinned character on the old Johnny Quest cartoon.  He wore a turban so was probably Indian, but his darker skin was probably enough to draw the comparison to Middle Easterners.  Now I'm not saying that it's the height of intellectualism to use Haji as a synecdoche for anyone from the Middle East, but neither is it derogatory.

The "legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee" quoted in the article is an idiot.  He made the point that ICUJEW might be considered inappropriate--did the army sergeant's plate read ICUMUSLIM or ICUMOHAMMED?  Would ICUIVAN be considered inappropriate?  Gawd I hate professional victims.


MasonPiper said...

not only that but it refers to a Muslim that has made the Haj or pilgrimage to Mecca

Darren said...

I'm familiar with the "Hajj" theory and don't accept it. Once you know soldiers you know that the Johnny Quest explanation is far more obvious.