My original question was possibly badly-worded. I do not know how to make it better except to post a new question. If I could, I would delete it, but there are now too many answers to do that.

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

Such as…

“forcing prisoners of war to impregnate their mother, resulting in a "dozen" "cheap" children with severe birth defects.

User 271314 then went on to justify their questionable etymology by posting a heavily-downvoted answer at EL&U.SE which seemed to have little to do with the "Cheaper..." question. (-21, and counting) For some reason, this was awarded the bounty by the OP.

In the “answer” that serves as the supporting argument for the comments which the OP user agc had originally found objectionable, user 271314 manages to convey the idea through their “facts” that African-Americans are inbred, thus continuing the commentary.

Perhaps the question about the origin of the phrase “white races” was a logical jump, but the usage was badly researched, and seems to come from paper-based text. Who on Earth would have a paper-based (or at least PDF) copy of Gobineau’s clearly racist commentary? I edited the quote to remove the excess garbage which had little to with argument. [By the way, each sentence had been laboriously copied by hand, with the little wedgies [>] to make sure all were in block quote.]

In the quote from Gobineau, it is “revealed” that the “white races” are racially superior.

…he claimed that aristocrats were superior to commoners and that they possessed more Aryan genetic traits because of less interbreeding with inferior races.

[EDIT] The question about "first use of the term" white race was actually posted at History.SE about 9 months ago, so the OP was fully aware of the answer. Moreover, they were aware that the first use was long before Gobineau.

Taking the repugnant comments as noted by agc, the overly long and unnecessary implication 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 the user’s posts: all seem to be racially charged for some reason.

>The question is, what is the reason?

As has been noted by Ian Fleming: “'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action'”


"Cheaper by the dozen" phrase origin?


  • 2
    Note that one reason for not deleting "troublesome" answers after they are heavily downvoted is that all the rep loss incurred from downvotes is refunded. Deletion soon after posting by users who have that privilege may be advantageous, though.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Feb 23, 2019 at 20:49
  • 5
    Can you clarify what your question/discussion topic is exactly? The other one said "How do we protect ourselves from this?". The only thing I can pull out here is "What is the reason?". Are you really asking "What should we do about this?" or is it something else?
    – Mitch
    Feb 23, 2019 at 21:48
  • 1
    No problem (also sounds like an awful history). There are so many issues: it's hard to judge, benefit of the doubt, freedom of speech, legitimate research, barely hidden agenda that a public site gives air to, good faith, etc, etc. What would we all do for a question that asks "What is a good word for a person who doesn't believe in cannibalism?" ?
    – Mitch
    Feb 23, 2019 at 22:01
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    I'd think there's a meta-argument, that things of this nature are off-topic because they aren't in good faith, that they're really asking about something political rather than linguistic (and that a defense to the contrary would be replied to by "Limit yourself to the linguistic parts, all the rest is unnecessary".
    – Mitch
    Feb 23, 2019 at 22:03
  • @Cascabel re freedom of speech: we're not an official arbiter of legal decisions but there is a general cultural feeling that people shouldn't arbitrarily shut other people down. But then also, in the US at least, software platforms are being held to some social acceptability standards. Are we the community of visitors here responsible, or just SE, or something more subtle? I think it is an issue.
    – Mitch
    Feb 24, 2019 at 2:12
  • @Cascabel a specific chat channel has the side effect of killing the discussion (no one bothers usually and it somehow discourages actual discussion). The main chat can be chaotic however.
    – Mitch
    Feb 24, 2019 at 2:38
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    The weird (most likely false) 'cheaper by the dozen' etymology is not well written and might be flagged as 'low quality'. The author may be showing behavior consistent with things you've seen ('false flags'). To me it sounds sophomoric. It's very hard to read and so hard to tell if it's use or mention (very important here). But in the end, it's very supportable to flag for inappropriate content (because it is mostly non-linguistic content).
    – Mitch
    Feb 24, 2019 at 2:47
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    This chat under a post on History.se has convinced me this user is anti-white supremacy. Now one could make the argument he started the discussion on Ancient Egyptians to gather arguments from well-researched users in order to go on the Daily Stormer or whatever and repeat those arguments, i.e. your false flag, but then he proceeds to debate every single point raised and get into venomous arguments about them. No, I think this is not white supremacist: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/80838/…
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 24, 2019 at 13:21
  • (I do think the user is fixated on race and racial issues and I do think he’s very angry, but I think the target of his animus is different from the one you hypothesize.)
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 24, 2019 at 13:23
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    @JJJ I use he and his out of a lifetime of habit. No idea the user’s gender and don’t care. Given the traces the user has left, I’d find it surprising if what was deleted was diametrically opposed to the messages remaining. Which is what we’ve been discussing to date.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 24, 2019 at 14:21
  • @JJJ Are you and I now fighting for some reason?
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 24, 2019 at 14:28
  • @JJJ Good, I’m glad. I’m not convinced I’m misled here, and of course we can only make inferences based on available data, though we can lament the data that has been lost. All the data (posts) I’ve seen to date have painted this user as anti-white supremacy (I could make a stronger statement than that but I won’t). The suspensions don’t point in any one direction except “problematic user”, and the pugnaciousness the user has displayed would more than account for that. As Cascabel says, it could be a false flag, but that’s always a possibility, so I treat it as a conclusion of last resort.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 24, 2019 at 14:40
  • "racist"? Really? Do not even identify with any fictitious "race". Feb 25, 2019 at 15:06
  • @Mari-LouA I would delete this post if I could, but I am being warned by the AI that I could lose privileges. I have incorporated the pertinent sections over to the original post. Feb 25, 2019 at 19:58
  • @JJJ "The current suspension on Politics is for repeated violations" How do you and how could you know that statement to be fact? Who told you that? Prove that statement is not an untruth on its face. Feb 26, 2019 at 10:51

5 Answers 5


Like Mitch, I'm confused about what exactly you want to ask here. I don't see why this user's posts would prompt you to open a conversation about what is appropriate for this site.

Based on what I've seen of this user's interactions, they wouldn't be interested in having such a discussion. (Note the reference to "free speech" in guest271314's profile, and the fact that guest271314 has already been suspended from the Politics SE site until Jan 23 '20.)

You don't need to discuss this user with others before taking action on posts that you find objectionable: you can do things like your edit of the user's post on your own initiative. For actions that only mods can do, you can flag. So what is there to discuss?

The motivations of this user are not obvious, and as Laurel said, the user's motivations don't actually matter.

That said, my interpretation of the user's motivations is different from yours, and I guess I'll share it in case it helps to alleviate your concerns that this site is being used by white supremacists to promote racist propaganda.

My read is that the reason guest271314's posts are all racially charged is because guest271314 sees racism and white supremacy as a pervasive feature of American society, and doesn't think that this is a good thing. The quotation of extremely ugly viewpoints is certainly intentional, but doesn't seem to be approving: rather, guest271314 seems to be trying to make the point that the idea of a "white race" originated in racist thought and is inherently racist. I don't see any indication that guest271314 meant for the Gobineau quote to be understood as a "revelation" rather than as the nonsense that it obviously is.

I doubt that guest271314 was trying to convey an idea like "African-Americans are inbred" because in this History SE answer, guest271314 approvingly quotes sources that reject the idea that race can be coherently defined in terms of biological or genetic criteria.

The reference to "birth defects" is part of an answer where guest271314 refers to "horrendous practices of englishmen in the western hemisphere": I'm pretty sure it was intended to be understood as a negative effect of racism, not as a justification for it.

Who on Earth would have a paper-based (or at least PDF) copy of Gobineau’s clearly racist commentary?

Given guest271314's obvious interest in the history of racism and white supremacist ideology, this wouldn't be suprising even if they don't agree with Gobineau. guest271314 also quotes the black comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory.

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    Sorry, but I deleted my short answer to the older question when Cascabel pointed out it was obsolete. But +1 for you. It seems Cascabel has superimposed an ideology onto the user which, appears to be very at odds with the links they posted on theor answer to "cheaper by the dozen".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 24, 2019 at 16:41

Let's look at the links the user posted on his answer, shall we?

Would a racist, a neo Nazi, or/and a white supremacist post any the following:

  1. Link to YouTube video: Gil Scott-Heron, Winter In America, Central Park Summerstage

Gill Scott-Heron was an African-American soul and jazz poet, musician, author who is said to be the godfather of rap. He was likened to Bob Dylan and an active member of the Black Arts Movement during the 1960s and 70s.

  1. Medical Apartheid

    It is a history of medical experimentation on African Americans. From the era of slavery to the present day, this book presents the first full account of black America's mistreatment as unwitting subjects of medical experimentation

  2. Dick Gregory

Gregory was active in the civil rights movement. On October 7, 1963, he came to Selma, Alabama, and spoke for two hours on a public platform two days before the voter registration drive known as "Freedom Day" (October 7, 1963).

In 1964, Gregory became more involved in civil rights activities, activism against the Vietnam War, economic reform, and anti-drug issues. As a part of his activism, he went on several hunger strikes and campaigns in America and overseas. In the early 1970s, he was banned from Australia, where government officials feared he would "...stir up demonstrations against the Vietnam war."

... Gregory ran for President of the United States in 1968 as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party, which had broken off from the Peace and Freedom Party. He garnered 47,097 votes, including one from Hunter S. Thompson...

Never heard of the guy but I found his biography to be fascinating.

  1. YouTube link: The History Of Male Slave Rape (Buck Breaking) And The Word MotherFucker
    Which talks about white slave owners raping black slaves in front of their families and fellow slave workers “…in order to break his spirit, in order to break him down as a man. In order to show dominance against him. In order to show the rest of the black population that ‘This is not your leader. I just made your leader submit to me sexually’”

  2. African American Oral Traditions in Louisiana

    Toasting, a modern and primarily urban form of Black oral lore, has its roots in older traditions like signifying and playing the dozens. A toast is a lengthy, recited narrative or poem describing a series of exploits by a central character. Focusing on the main character's heroic acts and exercises of wit, the toast presents values through actions.[…]
     The African American tradition of dueling rhymes is evident in many oral art forms. Toasting, rapping, signifying and playing the dozens are all demonstrations of verbal skill. Today's rapping is closely related to toasting, which in turn has much in common with signifying, an exhibition of aggressive wit and indirect verbal assault on a victim. Signifying and toasting also share elements of the dozens.
    "The Dozens" are an elaborate insult contest. Rather than insulting an opponent directly, a contestant derides members of the opponent's family, usually his mother. The dozens has its origins in the slave trade of New Orleans where deformed slaves—generally 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.

If these links prove that the user is a veiled racist, of the white supremacist kind, then I'm a misogynist. I have now upvoted his answer because he supported his answer with numerous reliable references, the links were the best part of their answer. I said in a comment, now deleted, that I hoped their answer would not get deleted because of the links. The links are instructive, important and a reminder to everyone the acts of abject cruelty against planation slaves in the past and the acts of racism committed against American blacks which persist to this day.

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  • 1
    Obviated the random downvote. Meta is a weird place.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 24, 2019 at 19:28

For some reason, this was awarded the bounty by the OP.

The question already had enough attention; the sole reason for that bounty was to reward that outspoken answer. The answer remains useful in that it offers recent instances of a peculiar usage and divergent concept of the phrase, which I wouldn't have known of otherwise.

Since the question probably wouldn't have rated so many upvotes without the interesting quote from guest271314, and since his perhaps too rambling answer was not commonly recognized as folkloric, it seemed right to use a surplus to help balance a deficit.

Of course awarding a bounty is not the same thing as accepting an answer.
(While it's not inconceivable that a given centuries old familiar phrase has a sinister secret origin that's been accurately preserved only in oral folklore, it's no less conceivable that a more modern folklore could exaggerate its pedigree.)


Bottom line

I agree with @sumelic’s answer.

The only thing I have to add at this point is I believe this series of Meta-questions is shedding more heat than light.

Let’s focus on what we want to achieve, and the tools at our disposal to effect change.

Concrete action

As non-diamond users, we have a limited selection of concrete actions we can take here. And they’re all focused on posts, not users.

Anyone who wants to can and should vote on the user’s posts here on EL&U. That includes downvoting, delete voting, and close voting. If that doesn’t seem enough, flag the posts. If there’s something objectionable in those walls of text, flag as “offensive”; else flag for mod attention and make a brief but clear point about what you think needs doing.

Which brings us to the diamond mods. They can sanction users. I believe these two meta-questions have brought their attention to this user and his posts, and they can decide what to do about it, if anything.

If that is still not satisfactory, you can bring it to the attention of the CM team with the “contact us” link in the footer. That’s where the buck stops.


I don’t know what further Meta-discussion is going to accomplish.

Now that the issue has been raised, let the community, mods, and CMs do what they think best, and let’s put this discussion to bed.

  • 1
    Thank you. My only intention was to bring it to attention in my own clumsy sort of way. Feb 24, 2019 at 0:00

I think I'm able to write an answer based on your comment:

@JJJ I think there is a problem here...perhaps I am not expressing myself well. I thought most users would catch on to what I was saying...obviously, not.

After reading your two questions, their answers and some other comments I think the 'problem' you have is very similar to the problem I had a month ago (almost exactly to the hour). To summarise, sometimes people don't live up to our (yours, mine, the community, etc.) standards.

Phillip (a mod on Politics.se) had a very good answer which I am not going to repeat. Instead, I am going to repeat his ending, which I think is to the point:

someone is wrong on the internet

image source: xkcd

Final words of advice, do what you have to (downvote, flag, report, whatever you think is appropriate and worth your time) and then, to end my answer to your question about disinformation with a slogan by the Ministry of Information: keep calm and carry on.

  • 1
    Pray, what bullies? Are you suggesting that @guest271314 is a bully or that the users on meta are?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 25, 2019 at 9:32
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    Well, I disagree with you that he is a bully. He may have issues, it's seems likely by their comments, but they are not aggressive, offensive, vulgar, degrading or insulting in any way. Argumentative, yes. Passionate, yes. One sided/biased, yes.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 25, 2019 at 12:11

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