We’re still trying to decide what Sen. George Allen meant when he called University of Virginia student S.R. Sidarth “Macaca” during a recent stump speech. Maybe he meant to say “macaw,” a bird with gaily-colored plumage? Or “Macarena,” the ’90s dance craze popularized by the band Los Del Rio?
Or did he mean to say that Sidarth was farkakte, a Yiddish word that loosely translates as “shitty”? Yeah, I’d think it was shitty too if I were running for Senate and my asshole opponent sent someone around to videotape every casual slur I made. Our readers were all over this last night and this morning. Read what they came up with after the jump:
The first time I heard the George Allen quip I thought he was riffing on the Hesse novel ‘Siddartha’. Our intrepid reporter’s last name might recall the title of the book…. He may have also meant to refer to Mr. Sidarth as ‘Mandinka’. Knowledge of this term would require familiarity with the film ‘Roots’ or the song stylings of Sinead O’Conner.
S.R. Sidarth as LeVar Burton?
First, there’s a town called Makaka in South Africa and one in the Congo as well. Based on this, I reckoned it was a Swahili or Bantu word, and Googled appropriately. Granted, there weren’t many results, but here’s what I found. Check out this page and do a search on “makaka.” The senence to the left is the English translation, and it appears to mean “brother.” Look at the sentence above it, and the only difference is the word meaning “sister,” which is “madada.” While the literal meaning is inocuous, I’d tend to think it’s used in a diminutive or derogatory form, maybe like how a plantation owner might call all his hands by the same sorta-friendly-yet-not-quite name — or the way “Boy” is used in the famous “As Time Goes By” scene in Casablanca.
According to U Michigan Museum of Zoology, macaca is a group of monkeys that includes the “crab eating macaque.” Boy, I wish we had them here in the US-of-A! If you spotted one, you could yell, “Hey! There’s a crab eating macaque!”
I speak Hindi and Urdu and it’s definatley not a word in either language. However my two first languages are Portuguese and English, and I can tell you with certainty that Macaca means “Monkey” in Portuguese, a female monkey to be precise, so I assume the Senator meant “Macaco”, a male monkey. In my experience, one of the most well known Portuguese words in the U.S. Hope that helps.
So, either he was referring to Geordi LaForge, Sinead O’Connor, a town in South Africa, a Swahili or Bantu word, a crab-eating macaque, or the Portuguese translation of monkey. All just as plausible as the official explanation of Allen butchering the word “mohawk,” I guess. Maybe we’re ascribing more cultural literacy to George Allen than he deserves. More on this later.