If you would review the question....

What is the first date of documented usage and attribution of the term "white race" and/or "white races"?

It contains racially charged and unnecessary quotes from Arthur de Gobineau.

The white races are, further, distinguished by an extraordinary attachment to life. They know better...

This question was actually proposed by the user in another form: Who is the first person in the 17th century to describe themselves as a “white” person and who invented the term “white race”? in June of 2018.

The answer by congubongus was pretty clear.

So there is no need to post the Gobineau quote here on EL&U.SE. It is recognized as an extremely racist document written by an extremely ignorant person: however, the OP managed to post it here as a "valid" argument to support an "earliest" usage for the basic research requirement

Moreover, on the suggestion by several commentators that the offensive quote be pared down, I did that. The edit was then rolled back by the OP. For some reason, the user wants the offensive material in there.

I am not the first to make an objection to this user’s posts: "Cheaper by the dozen" phrase origin? on EL&U actually came about as some sort of response to a “repugnant etymology” (sic) in a comment by the user 271314 on Politics.SE

Taking the repugnant comments as noted by agc in the "Cheaper" question: the implication in user 271314's answer to that question, that African-Americans are inbred: and the blatantly racial and unneeded full publication of the Gobineau paragraph in the question, it becomes obvious that there is a pattern. It is insidious, but pervasive in many of the user’s posts: they seem to be racially charged for some reason.

Why does the user need to post this here? Is there some hidden agenda?

  • 3
    Honestly, and this is coming from an extremely verbose man: he writes too much. I didn’t have the patience to wade through his stuff. The first Q you link needs to be edited to removal the irrelevant front matter about his experience on the site and how the answer might apply to law. It doesn’t help motivate the Q or point potential answers in the right direction. With that, it would seem a reasonable SWR to me: at least he showed his own research. The second A you link I think is a lost cause; it’s too long and rambling entirely, and seems to never answer the Q as asked.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 22, 2019 at 0:08
  • 1
    I say all that to focus on what we can effect: editing and voting on (including close and delete voting) the Qs. As users we can’t do anything about another user except flag it with a custom mod message. If you are going to do that, I suggest you quote specific problematic content that is likely to cause offense to a group of people based on race or other protected categories. As it stands, the wall of text prevents me from finding specific passages that indicate we might me dealing with a neo Nazi.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 22, 2019 at 0:10
  • Rather odd interpretation of those two, the answer and the question. What is the opposite of a neo-Nazi? That seems to be what you're remarking. I am hesitant about the "cheaper by the dozen" Q&A you mentioned, but for other reasons: the insistence on unexplained use of revisionist definitions for common phrases and constructions amounted to a set-up, maybe.... The later question seems okay after @DanBron's edit.
    – JEL
    Feb 22, 2019 at 0:26
  • 5
    Having just read the four submissions of this user, I don't think he has veiled anything. Nuance is not his strong suit.
    – ab2
    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:21
  • @ab2, what 4 submissions? I only see 2, 1 answer, 1 question. Am I missing some?
    – JEL
    Feb 22, 2019 at 1:39
  • @JEL Plus the two referenced in the answer of sumelic, below.
    – ab2
    Feb 22, 2019 at 2:43
  • @ab2, I see. Thanks.
    – JEL
    Feb 22, 2019 at 3:04
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    That said, sure, any kind of veiled pattern should be recognized and dealt with so bringing this up on meta is appropriate.
    – Mitch
    Feb 22, 2019 at 13:37
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    "racist"? That is wild speculation. "racist" against whom? Do not self-identify with any "race". Just do not fit into the neat little cubicles that you have constructed in your own mind. "garbage"? Really? So you contend to destroy and censor content because you state that you find the content objectionable? Well, why stop there? The entire history of the United States is one of genocide, atrocity, conquest. There is no "veil". Have no issue with direct communication, or being banned from these SE sites for putting you or anyone else in their place, and setting the record straight. Feb 25, 2019 at 15:08
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    @Cascabel Re "racist" have you ever encountered an actual real "racist"? How would you know? They do not have to tell you their religion. A real racist has to practice their politics and religion. A real "racist' practices domination and mistreatment of persons. An individual does not have to be considered "white" to be a white supremacist. The only "racist"s on this planet are white supremacists, who have the power to practice their religion and politics of domination and mistreatment of certain classes and individuals. Who is this user dominating and mistreating? Feb 25, 2019 at 15:21
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    @guest271314 The garbage I referred to was the Gobineau quote..unless you think it was not racist? Feb 25, 2019 at 15:57
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    I don't know where you are going with the "white Jesus" thing. In the country I live we have a "Black Christ" Feb 25, 2019 at 16:19
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    @JEL I took your advice i.e. paring the Gobineau quote down to just the first sentence. As I suspected would happen, the OP rolled back the edit. I believe my complaint now has more force. Feb 25, 2019 at 16:30
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    You can't have two questions naming and shaming the same user and on the same page (too late to edit and repair the damage). It's, however, quite remarkable that guest271314 hasn't yet resorted to swearing or insults. But I would advise you both to refrain from making further comments, we are adults and we can make up our own minds as to who is "right" or "wrong". This isn't a boxing ring. There's been a deep misunderstanding and it's time you both took some deep breaths. (Comment Reposted)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 25, 2019 at 20:41
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    @guest271314, your 'cheaper by the dozen' answer has now been undeleted. As I said before, the answer is interesting and informative (so I upvoted, and voted to undelete), but not entirely to the point. Regarding "to the point", I did uncover some material that may have a bearing. See my most recent comment on your answer recommending further research, if possible.
    – JEL
    Feb 25, 2019 at 21:46

4 Answers 4


It doesn't actually matter if if the user is a Neo-Nazi. Or the opposite of one, whatever that is. The only thing that matters is the content in the user's contributions. It would be better to say what's wrong with the posts, instead of the poster.

The question, although it contains a quote from a racist source, looks OK. The quote is needed as research for the question, so it shouldn't be removed. (Paring it down might be OK.) It's not a good attempt to find the earliest use, but not everyone is good at etymology. (There are people I know that wouldn't be able to do etymological research if I gave them instructions.)

Of course, asking English questions about controversial, vulgar, and just unpleasant things is OK as long as it's done in a respectful, clinical tone (and the question seems good on this).

Something good certainly came of it: a good answer by someone who knows how to do etymology.

The linked answer has problems (I won't go into too much depth; many of them were already mentioned somewhere, either in the comments, in chat, or somewhere under this very question on meta). However, since the question itself was spawned because of something the user said, it ironically makes it worthwhile to keep the answer.

The Dick Gregory quote is a bit explicit, but it might be "the one and only source of the meaning of that phrase" to quote the answer (though I see no mention of the word "cheaper" in the video).

The part that talks about "anglophiles/englophiles" is both unrelated to the issue at hand and also accusatory, so that part justifies removal.

The remainder of the answer doesn't seem offensive, although it doesn't always do a good job of regulating its tone (which again is supposed to be clinical).

  • "The part that talks about "anglophiles/englophiles" is both unrelated to the issue at hand and also accusatory, so that part justifies removal." That part is related to the question. It is institutional white supremacy by way of western academia. And no, does not "justify" censorship. Do the rendition of the image of the mythical "Jesus the Christ" creature, or Serapis, an amalgamation of Osiris and Apis having "light skin tone" "justify" destruction of those images throughout the planet? Feb 25, 2019 at 15:54
  • Hi Laurel...if you could check out the revised question, you will see there was no actual need to post the Gobineau quote. The user was doing an end-run on the site requirements. Feb 25, 2019 at 18:19
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    @guest271314 The question was about "cheaper by the dozen", not "anglophiles/englophiles" nor western academia nor Jesus nor any other phrase. All the answer really needed was a quote of "cheaper by the dozen" being used to refer to slaves from around that time and something that makes it being used in that manner special over, say, people just using the same phrase they would for anything else they were buying. (It's not censorship; it's just good writing to get to the point, without potentially insulting your audience needlessly.)
    – Laurel Mod
    Feb 25, 2019 at 18:42
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    @Cascabel I'm not quite sure what you mean. If you're talking about the History post, the answer says: 'For the precise term "white races" and "white race"...we would need to proceed from the 17th century to the 19th century where the terms appear in An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races'. None of the other primary sources on that page contain the word "race(s)" at all.
    – Laurel Mod
    Feb 25, 2019 at 18:48
  • Please see the answer by congusbongus before that self-answer. There was a quote from OED. If the question is qualified because they are looking for primary source, I am wondering about the motivation. ...and why did the user feel the need to roll back the reduced quote? Feb 25, 2019 at 18:58
  • @Laurel Any question about so-called "black" people in the western hemisphere necessarily is about so-called "western" institutions and myths. The English passed laws in the U.S. which forbade so-called "negroes" from reading, writing; practicing their culture; playing drums; speaking their native tongues; evidenced by the fact few if any so-called "African Americans" or "blacks" in the U.S. speak the native tongue of their ancestors - they were forced to speak limited amounts of the bastard equivocal language "english"; a culmination of native Albion tongues; Roman; Norman; etc. conquest. Feb 26, 2019 at 1:12
  • @JJJ Because they are legal fictions. They do not exist unless an individual gives them life by denoting them as anything other than the fictions they are. "race" is not defined by Public Law in the U.S. "Black" has a very ambiguous definition per the U.S. Census Bureau, if accepted as anything other than pure intentional confusion, essentially states that there is more than one "black" race re "black racial groups of Africa". In the U.S. they are not "ethnicities" they are frauds. Germany and France do not have "races" and Germany does not officially have any "black" citizens or residents. Feb 26, 2019 at 16:37
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    @JJJ, the link to the question is now a 404.
    – JEL
    Feb 26, 2019 at 19:21

Word and phrase origin questions are interesting for a number of reasons, including their inherent complexity. "Cheaper by the dozen" demonstrates how hard it is to construct a satisfactory origin story. First, we have the mystery of why dozen itself caught on instead of some term for a group of ten (say, dixet). Then we need to determine whether "by the dozen" was a set phrase before "cheaper by the dozen" became one—because if so, the addition of cheaper doesn't seem an especially earth-shaking development. Then we need to figure out when "cheaper by the dozen" began to appear in written English—and in what context.

Having done all that, we have still dealt only with the written record. What about oral traditions concerning the phrase's origin? This is where the question and one of the answers posted on the main site come into sharper focus. They seem to argue for an origin story for "cheaper by the dozen" rooted in the U.S. slave trade of the 1800s that is based primarily on oral tradition. That is, citations to explicit written evidence go back no farther than Dick Gregory in the 1960s or 1970s, although some later writers echo and amplify his analysis.

I tend to be skeptical of folk etymologies—not because they are inherently devoid of any truth, but because they tend to be too neat and convenient in reducing a messy history of usage to one simple point of origin. Nevertheless, we are stuck with the reality that most slang and many idioms originated in spoken English and only later were assimilated into written English. It is thus problematic to depend on written English for definitive proof of a phrase's origin, especially if the phrase is obscene, profane, or otherwise offensive, or if its origin goes to an unsavory past that polite company would not wish to acknowledge.

So in weighing the merits of an oral-tradition-based claim regarding a phrase's origin, you have to balance the possibility that written acknowledgment of the origin may have been suppressed for various reasons against unsentimental consideration of what actually appears in the written record. An origin story that claims usage going back to 1840 in a particular context is not refuted by an absence of any mention in print of that usage in the relevant context until 1966—but it is subject to reasonable doubt for that reason.

A case in point is the phrase "cheap dozen[s]," which site participants mentioned several times in the course of the "cheaper by the dozen" discussion as a peripheral term in the context of nineteenth-century slave auctions. I searched Google Books and Elephind for instances of this phrase in the context of selling enslaved human beings in a group of 12 at a discount and couldn't find any reference to such sales from earlier than 1974—in Middleton Harris, The Black Book, cited in Lisa Green, African American English: A Linguistic Introduction (2002):

On some accounts, the term dozens was used to refer to the ill or old slaves who were sold in groups of twelve (Harris 1974).

The earliest explicit use of "cheap dozen" that I’ve been able to find in this context is from Mona Lisa Saloy, Still Laughing to Keep from Crying (1990), quoted in Uncle John's New & Improved Funniest Ever (2018):

The Dozens has its origins in the slave trade of New Orleans, where deformed slaves—punished with dismemberment for disobedience—were grouped in lots of a "cheap dozen" for sale to slave owners. For a Black to be sold as part of the "dozens" was the lowest blow possible.

So again we have a term with a claimed origin that is more than a century older than the first (known to me) print instance of it.

I don't know how professional historians appraise the legitimacy of factual claims rooted in oral history; but in the context of word and phrase origins, I think we are on far solider grounds when we focus on identifying support for such claims in the written record—the older the better, in the case of actual usage.

For this reason, I was very pleased when the poster who had provided a largely oral-tradition-based answer to the question about "cheaper by the dozen" followed up a day or two later with a question about the earliest occurrence in written English of the phrase "white race[s]" in the context of racial theory. This is an area where EL&U participants can offer potentially useful information: not in propounding some claimed oral tradition that ties race-focused thought in English to the origin story in Heimskringla, but in identifying when and where early instances of the phrase in question appear in the written record.

  • 1
    @Cascabel: A week ago, piqued by the earlier question about "cheaper by the dozen," I actually wrote an entire answer to a nonexistent question: "What is the origin of the phrase, 'cheap dozen[s]'?" It's off-point, obviously. But all of the relevant references to the slavery-related print discussions of "cheap dozen[s]"—like all the relevant references to slavery-related print discussions of "cheaper by the dozen"—came from sources in the 1970s and later that qualify as Afrocentric revisionist history. I suspect that neo-nazi apologists tend not to gravitate toward these sorts of analyses. ...
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 24, 2019 at 3:11
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    ...My answer above assumed the site participant whose posts you were objecting to was likewise approaching the subject from that perspective. But that's only a guess—and it certainly took me off on a tangent about reliance on real or supposed oral traditions rather than on the published record. In the context of your posted concerns here, however, my entire answer may be irrelevant, in which case the sensible thing to do would be to delete it. Thanks for your honest feedback.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 24, 2019 at 3:29
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    @Cascabel: I don't deny that radical left-wing and radical right-wing beliefs in many respects seem to merge at the horizon. Nor do I deny that people with bad intentions can seriously misuse neutral and valid research. But I still have some faith that facts are the ultimate medium of exchange in the intellectual marketplace and that that market as a whole is capable of distinguishing between counterfeit and real currency. I thought that both the "cheaper by the dozen" and "white race" questions drew at least one sober, factual answer each. The rest is up to us.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 24, 2019 at 3:43
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    @Cascabel: I think that I've understood your criticism of Gobineau's vilification of people of (recent) African descent all along, and I understand why you find it disturbing. However, I don't see any prospect of a satisfactory resolution to the questions you ask at the end of your revised post—"Why does the user need to post this here? Is there some hidden agenda?"—regardless of how you clearly you make your point. Those are open-ended questions that no one here is in a position to answer definitively, perhaps not even the original poster. Ultimately they just invite speculative responses...
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 25, 2019 at 19:45
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    ...In my opinion, the question "When did 'white race[s]' first appear in an English-language text in the context of white (or other race) supremacist thought?" is on-topic at EL&U. On the other hand, I don't think that lengthy quotations from material that readers may find repugnant are necessary to frame the question. So perhaps a more fruitful question to ask might be "What recourse do site participants have when a poster rolls back attempts to edit out offensive and only tangentially relevant contextual material from an arguably relevant historical quotation?"
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 25, 2019 at 19:46
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    This would also be a fine answer on "Cheaper by the dozen", it addresses the question's neglected folkloric issues perfectly, and would greatly clarify the scope of that question.
    – agc
    Feb 26, 2019 at 8:34
  • @agc Agree. Consider the Americana Betsy Ross flag "According to the traditional account, the original flag was made in June 1776, when a small committee – including George Washington, Robert Morris and relative George Ross – visited Betsy and discussed the need for a new American flag." compare Grand Union Flag; East India Company Flags Feb 26, 2019 at 9:05
  • @agc Brief notes re above "Elihu Yale (5 April 1649 – 8 July 1721) was a British merchant, slave trader, President of the East India Company settlement in Fort St. George, at Madras, and a benefactor of the Collegiate School in the Colony of Connecticut, which in 1718 was renamed Yale College in his honour.1" Elihu Yale Feb 26, 2019 at 9:27
  • @agc "Elihu, founded in 1903, is the fourth oldest senior society at Yale University, New Haven, CT. ...similar to Skull and Bones...favors privacy over secrecy. Elihu is likely the first society to tap an undergraduate from an ethnic minority – Henry Roe Cloud, a Native American who graduated in 1910 – and one of Yale's first black female undergraduates, in keeping with its contemporary reputation for diversity.[5] It was the third of the above-ground societies to tap women. It takes its name from Elihu Yale.[6]" Elihu (secret society) Feb 26, 2019 at 9:29
  • @agc "Sigma Pi Phi fraternity was formed in 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by a group of six African American professional men... The fraternity is often referred to as the Boule, which in fraternity parlance means "a council of noblemen".", "In summary, Minton wanted to create an organization which would partake, in his own words, of "the tenets of Skull and Bones at Yale and Phi Beta Kappa," see How is Phi Beta Kappa and Skull and Bones historically connected to Sigma Pi Phi fraternity also known as the Boulé? Feb 26, 2019 at 9:35

If the excerpt used to support a question or answer is exceedingly vulgar, racist or otherwise offensive, but not gratuitous, it would make sense to put a fig leaf over it so that people can choose whether to be exposed to it. We can enclose it in spoiler blocks, or trim the length of the excerpt and link to the fuller context from somewhere else.


Why does the user need to post this here? Is there some hidden agenda?

  1. It's a question about the earliest usage of a specific term X in a specific sense Y. The quote in question provides the earliest usage that the OP knew of. This is generally the best practice, since if the OP used some later instance X+n, an answer might post the known X usage, (which the OP already knew about), rather than an X-n usage which is the thing required.

    Granted, an OP who wished to avoid alarming sensitive users might ask for an earliest usage excepting usages pertaining to some offensive subject Z. But when the offensive subject Z is racism, and the term X exclusively pertains to Z, there's no possible way to ask or answer the question.

  2. There's no hidden agenda on Guest271314's part, and that supposition at best implies having deeply misunderstood the question. Guest271314 is a scholar interested in the origins of racism, particularly in US, European and African history, and the ensuing impacts of that history which still persist. In one way or another racism harms everyone, and we should applaud (not suppress) attempts to better understand it.

  • @JEL "Guest271314 was using at least one standard term, "prisoners of war", with a nonstandard sense" Who are you referring to as "standard" and "nonstandard"? Who decides if a term is "standard" or "nonstandard"? You? According to whom? Feb 27, 2019 at 4:43
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    @guest271314, call it what you will. In my experience, using "prisoner of war" in the sense of "slaves acquired by way of war" without making apparent in the context what sense is intended, is misleading. You're welcome to disagree.
    – JEL
    Feb 27, 2019 at 4:57
  • @JEL For Example, people and institutions who self-identify as "Jew" or "Jewish" assert to essential own the terms "anti-Semite" and "anti-Semiticism" and challenge any individual who points out that Semitic is language group, not exclusively comprised of people or institutions who self-identify as "Jew" or "Jewish" political class. Is it "standard" for western academia to not challenge that equivocation? The U.S. Census defines "Black or African American" as "A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa." by fiat inventing more than one fictional "black" "race". Feb 27, 2019 at 4:59
  • @JEL It is not "misleading" at all. Every one of those individuals were captured by war waged against them specifically by Christendom (Romanus Pontifex; Dum Diversas, et al.), and European and Arab and African powers. John Hawkins accounts substantiate that fact. Those persons were captured by private and nation-state military expeditions; intentional, deliberate acts of war. The term "slave" is not applicable in that context. None of those persons did not fight back to defend their sovereignty and freedom against invading armies before being captured as POW's in wars waged against them. Feb 27, 2019 at 5:05
  • @JEL "There is no theory (in any discipline) of the number of black racial groups in Africa, so precision or even reasonable approximation is impossible. Directive 15 is not based on science, so you'd just get bloviative answers ranging from 1 to 1000 (maybe more). The rationale behind the wording is to exclude white South Africans and North African Arab / Berber people, who are slotted elsewhere -- also to exclude non-African blacks from India etc." What is the precise number of black racial groups of Africa? [closed] Maximization of confusion Feb 27, 2019 at 7:41

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