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  D.F.'s Column Archive


September 17, 2007

Beaners Tries to Clean Its Name to be Spic ’n’ Span


Do you know what a beaner is? Someone from Boston? Someone who cans baked beans? Someone who grinds coffee?


I have always tended to associate the term with the latter definition because, in my town, there is a chain known as Beaners Coffee, where more than a few of these columns have been written.


But Beaners Coffee is no more.


Apparently, the word “beaner,” unbeknownst to Beaners Coffee owner Bob Fish, is a racial slur considered offensive to Hispanics, especially Mexicans. The Grand Rapids Press explains, if this is what you call an explanation:


The term "beaner" refers to the variety and amount (sic) of beans used in Mexican dishes and is regarded as a slur to describe people of Hispanic descent.


So let me see if I have this straight: The word “beaner” as a term to describe Mexican dishes is akin to, say, the word “rich” in describing an Italian’s signature alfredo sauce, which might be another way of saying, “All dagos are in the Mafia!”


I see. No I don’t.


Fish explains, because obviously no one could figure this out, that the name Beaners is intended to refer to – I . . . will . . . type . . . slowly . . . so . . . you . . . can . . . understand – coffee beans. Apparently, coffee is made from beans of some sort.


So who complained? Fish says he did not receive any particular boycott threat or anything of that nature, but has heard a stream of people over the years mention to him that the word “beaner” is considered a slur.


Now this is not good news for MicDonald’s. I’d better not catch you cleaning your house with Spic ‘n’ Span. Did you know you can finish your log home with Chink Paint?


And what will become of Black & Decker?


Beaners Coffee will henceforth be known as Biggby’s Coffee. I do not know why. I can understand why Mr. Fish is not going to call his chain Fish Coffee, although to do so brings back fond memories of a fabulous “Twin Peaks” episode. (“You’d never guess!” says Pete Martell. “There was a fish in the percolator!”)


I wonder if it has occurred to Bob Fish that the apparent slur that is the word “beaner” has gotten tremendous publicity among those who were not even aware of it as a result of his decision.


Did you know about this slur? I didn’t. I have Mexican friends. OK. Two Mexican friends. One is six-foot-72 and is about 900 pounds of pure muscle. I think I may call him up and tell him he’s a beaner, and just see what happens.


Don’t blame me! I saw it in the Grand Rapids Press! How bad can it be?


We Krauses are sour krauts, and I suppose if anyone walked up to me and called me that, I would have to stop and think what it even means, since the whole idea of the ethnic slur in common language seems to have faded into oblivion around the time Archie Bunker let loose with all of them on prime time television – and they sort of lost their sting.


These days, anyone who shudders at the utterance of a word, particularly one from the mouth of a big enough buffoon to actually mean it, really needs to get a grip. Until today, a beaner was someone who charged me too much for a cup of coffee. Now it means something it never would have even occurred to me to think.


You’d never guess. There was a slur in the percolator!


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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