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German Teen Stunned After American Slams Her For Using Word That Sounds Like ‘N-Word’

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For someone who has never been outside of their country, it can be easy to forget that every country has its own culture and expectations.

Those differences can cause a lot of trouble when visiting another country for the first time, admitted the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor karol171 was surprised when she was criticized for her word choice at a social gathering.

But once she realized what the concern was, the Original Poster (OP) questioned if she was actually in the wrong.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for telling someone it’s not my fault they don’t understand that other languages exist?”

The OP was recently on a video call with friends.

“I ([Female] 18) am from Germany and did an exchange year in the US.”

“I’m back home now and I was face-timing an American friend while hanging out with my German friends.”

“The friend had his girlfriend over. I don’t know her very well, they started dating after I already left the US, but she always seemed nice.”

A misunderstanding occurred during the call.

“Anyway, one of my friends called me ‘digga’ while talking to me.”

“That term comes from the word ‘dicker,’ which roughly translates to ‘the fat one,’ but in German, you say you’re ‘d**k’ with someone if you’re close to them.”

“So it’s basically the German term for ‘buddy.’

“My friend’s girlfriend said, ‘Excuse me?'”

“I didn’t know what she meant because we were mid-conversation, and we use ‘digga’ a lot here, and it didn’t even occur to me that that’s what her problem was.”

The OP tried to explain.

“I was a little confused and she said that she didn’t think she heard correctly, but that it sounded like someone said the n-word.”

“Oh yeah, then it hit me. I explained to her that we didn’t, and that there’s a German word that is admittedly similar to the n-word, but that it is not related to it in any other way.”

“She was upset and told me that it’s not an excuse and that it sounds like the n-word, therefore we should not be using it.”

“My American friend, as well as my German friends, were all quiet. My German friends laughed a little in a ‘WTF?’ kind of way.”

The OP and the girlfriend did not agree.

“I told her that it’s not a big deal.”

“She said it was and that it’s really inappropriate and insulting (she’s White, and we all are, btw (by the way)).”

“So I said that it’s not my fault she doesn’t understand English is in fact not the only language existing and that not everything is centered around America.”

“She said, ‘Oh wow,’ leaned back, and got onto her phone, grinning and ignoring us, so my friend quickly said bye and hung up.”

The friends didn’t come to a solution.

“My German friends think it’s really funny.”

“But my American friend texted me that I need to be more careful because the n-word has a very strong meaning in the US and ‘digga’ is so similar to it.”

“He thinks that as someone who lived in the US for a while, I need to accommodate to its customs.”

“He is also mad because I insulted his girlfriend, although I don’t feel I did.”

“I’m wondering, though, if I’m wrong about the word?”

“Maybe I am the a**hole here?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some thought the friend and girlfriend were overreacting.

“As someone who lives in the USA I think that the friend and his girlfriend were being dumb. Just because a word has a similar sound doesn’t make it bad.”

‘You don’t see Tigger from Winnie the Pooh getting black listed just due to his name.”

“Plus it’s dumb to police other languages.”

“NTA”Temporary-Judge-6664

“Honestly as an American, it’s so irritating. It makes me ashamed to live here.”

“NTA, OP. I feel like the girlfriend is trying to be a ‘hip anti-racist’ while in fact being xenophobic against the German culture and language.”

“As a POC (Person of Color), I wouldn’t find insult in a word in another language that SOUNDS like a derogatory English word if the meanings were different. I’d only find offense if it’s another derogatory word.”UnalteredCube

“I’m Black woman who loathes use of the n-word.”

“I have Chinese friends and there is a word in Chinese that means like/thing/that one (corrected) which sounds just like the n-word without the hard r at the end. And you can imagine how often that is used in conversations.”

“I’ve never once thought about telling them, ‘Don’t use your language’s word,’ because that’s f**kin ridiculous.”

“That GF was on her ‘I’m a woke White woman being an ally’ lofty cloud and needs to get a grip.”Hilary_13

Others agreed and said misunderstandings can happen.

“I saw one of those ‘compiled from Twitter’ articles. Someone tweeted at Crayola something like, ‘How dare you write awful things on your black crayons!'”

“Crayola tweeted back very politely saying, ‘Thanks for giving us the chance to clarify. Our crayons teach kids the names of colors in 3 languages. ‘N*gro’ is Spanish for ‘Black.””EinsTwo

“One of my Spanish teachers in high school had a similar story. One of her first years of teaching, it was the day she was teaching colors to a Spanish 1 class.”

“One of her students got up and left the class without a word. This student went straight to the office and declared she was dropping the class because the teacher was racist. Because the teacher had taught them the words for black – n*gro/a.”

“Anyway OP, definitely NTA. She was hopping up on her soapbox and wasn’t mature enough to admit it when she realized she was wrong.”R_Sapphire

“In one of my local girl groups some chick was freaking out about a book she found on Amazon and was demanding that we launch a letter writing campaign to the publisher.”

“It was a book of traditional Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies from Niger.”

“She didn’t know that Niger was not only a country but a major river in Africa. It was peak White saviourism combined with North American centrism.”TheRestForTheWicked

The OP was thoroughly confused by what happened, and the subReddit agreed it was for good reason. It’s important to be sensitive to derogatory terms, but it’s also important to understand that different countries have different languages. An occasional overlap or rhyme is bound to happen.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.