Someone just asked a question about the difference between Creoles and Mulattos. A user commented some objection on grounds of racism, and the question disappeared within a few minutes of the post.

I don't know how the question was deleted, whether it was by the one who asked or in some other way. But it seems like a terror of words for races, and I just think that it is a pity. There was nothing offensive in the post. The words are now sort of old-fashioned, but still familiar enough to make curiosity about them unsurprising. Lots of people proudly identify as Creole, the word is used a lot especially in connection with food and language, and it's weird that we're not to consider the words precisely.

What would be wrong in allowing a discussion of the words?

[edit: here's a link to the question; only visible if you have 10k reputation.]

  • 1
    Creole and Mulatto are not even races. How can non-race-specific words be racist? Both words are used to describe people that could be multiple races...
    – Hank
    Sep 19, 2017 at 15:22
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    The question was deleted by its author. It's available to 10k+ users. Hopefully you'll be able to see the comments too.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Sep 19, 2017 at 15:23
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    The word mulatto to describe a bi-racial person is considered pretty offensive by lots of people. For one thing, it is derived from mule, so it's at best extremely unflattering. However, questions about word meanings are on-topic even if the words are offensive, but the discussion needs to be constructive. Sep 19, 2017 at 15:28
  • 1
    That said, once the OP edited their question to include definitions for both words, the question boiled down to "what's the difference between pencils and pens? Pencil: a writing tool using graphite to make lines, pen: a writing tool using ink to make lines" ... not exactly a useful question IMO Sep 19, 2017 at 15:31
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    @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 Oh, so now I see they're offensive terms, but aren't we allowed to ask about the terms here?
    – NVZ Mod
    Sep 19, 2017 at 15:32
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    Questions about offensive terms can be on topic, yes. Sep 19, 2017 at 15:33
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    I don't see the objection to racism; I can better see the objection to the question as trivial. But I don't agree that it's trivial; I think it's an interesting pair of words, and (further down in my opinion) the words are evocative in ways that the definition at MW failed to capture.
    – Chaim
    Sep 19, 2017 at 16:15
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    The substantive part of the body of the question (after editing) consists of this: " As far as I understood, Creole = A European descendent born in another country. Mulatto = A offspring of purely white and black parents. Example, mulatto people from Brazil." Those are not the meanings that I associate with the two terms, but I haven't looked them up recently to see whether my understanding is idiosyncratic or supported by dictionary or ethnographic usage. I think the posted question may well be worth researching, but I don't think that the OP has cited any research yet (an EL&U requirement).
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 19, 2017 at 16:25
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    It wasn't a very good question, because of so little research but I don't see how it was racially offensive. (Creole can also mean a language.) Calling someone a mulatto would be racially offensive, but the question was not. There was a group of words used to describe various racial mixtures (e.g., quadroon, octoroon) -- it makes no sense to have all such words off limits no matter how the question is phrased.
    – ab2
    Sep 19, 2017 at 16:28
  • Perhaps I should clarify that according to US racial definitions of the nineteenth century and later, I believe, mulatto was a designation of racial proportion in a person's "blood": mulatto referred to a person whose ancestry was one-half European and one-half African; quadroon referred to a person whose ancestry was three-quarters European and one-quarter African; and octoroon referred to a person whose ancestry was seven-eighths European and one-eighth African. Under such a proportion-based system, the offspring of two half-European/half-African parents would also be deemed mulatto.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 19, 2017 at 16:31
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    Please do not discuss potential answers to the question here. Meta is about the merits of the question itself.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Sep 19, 2017 at 16:59
  • Those of us talking here seem to approve of the question, but the author deleted it (I'm told), perhaps because of the gauntlet of racism flung down. Is anything to be done? (And by the way, when I clicked the link supplied by @Andrew Leach♦, I did not see the deleted question.)
    – Chaim
    Sep 19, 2017 at 17:07
  • @Chaim Sorry: added the 10k+ part to that comment.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Sep 19, 2017 at 17:09
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    @AndrewLeach: Please feel free to delete my second comment if you feel that it was an attempt to discuss potential answers to the question. My intention was not to do that but to demonstrate that the OP's understanding of the terms in question is by no means the only superficially reasonable one possible. Other understandings exist, which is why actually researching the question is especially appropriate. Again, I haven't done any research on the question (yet), and I certainly wouldn't propose the understanding that I posed as a counterpoint to the OP's as an actual and legitimate answer.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 19, 2017 at 17:53

2 Answers 2


It seems that the order of events was the question was posted, a comment was made on it that said it was racist, the author deleted it themselves.

Also possibly, around the same time, the question was flagged and the question then marked by a mod as rude or abusive.

Taboo, pejorative, and offensive words are fair game on ELU, but as MrShiny mentioned, the question still needs to be constructive.

My reading of the question (original and edited, before deletion) was that is was asking earnestly (i.e. constructively) about the difference between two words.

It is my opinion that:

  • both words are innocuous when mentioned in quotes. (by analogy, the word 'fat' is innocuous, but nobody likes being called that)
  • I don't recognize any pejorative meaning with one word, and the other may be pejorative but just old-fashioned.
  • if someone flagged it as offensive, then we must presume they are indeed offended. However, I think the words can be discussed, at a distance, without offense.
  • the question, as is, could be easily answered by a dictionary look-up. If more than that is desired then the OP needs to elaborate/clarify.

That is, if undeleted (which I see no problem with but also based on offense I see no problem keeping it deleted), it should be closed.

  • 5
    I think it should be undeleted as not rude or offensive and, then, if not improved by the OP, closed as showing inadequate research.
    – ab2
    Sep 19, 2017 at 20:23
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    @ab2 just voted and undeleted
    – Mitch
    Sep 19, 2017 at 22:18
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    The question is on hold now because "Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic." I am not sure where the racist element comes in, but it is a lousy question regardless. Sep 21, 2017 at 7:10
  • @RoaringFish 'creole' is most commonly used nowadays in the most innocuous of fashions to label a kind of cuisine from Lousiana or a language that looks like it developed recently from the mixture of two or more languages. But it used to be used as a label for people of mixed parentage, like 'mulatto', 'mestizo', 'half-breed', and those have a tendency to be used disparagingly and so in the direction of being racist. Even though the words may be used derogatorily, it is ELU suggested policy to allow discussion of those words and their usage.
    – Mitch
    Sep 28, 2017 at 14:50

I reviewed the post history. I believe it is true to say:

There is nothing wrong with asking about offensive words. You can verify that by searching the site for questions about offensive words.

The question was flagged, but not for being offensive. The question was flagged for rude comments.

The question was flagged offensive. Rude and otherwise unnecessary comments were deleted, but not the question itself. The question was deleted by the author. The author did not give a reason.


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