On Mongoloids and other Hoosier Terms

Easter week found the Bean and I travelling to Illinois to meet his extended family. Apparently everybody except the Bean, his mom, his dad, and his little brother live within about a twenty-mile radius of each other. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about meeting everybody all at once, but luckily, I brought my favorite little distractor: The Dragonmonkey.

Holding him in front of me like an adorable, wiggly little talisman, I managed to make it through all the introductions without my usual idiocies. I got along with everybody I met, and managed to not inadvertently insult anybody during my entire stay. Frankly, I think that’s a first for me.

Ayways, my new extended family are a bunch of Hoosiers, and proud of it. Urbandictionary defines hoosiers as:

St. Louis Meaning: white trash of the worst kind. Also used as an adjective to describe anything several notches below your own perceived sophistication. Dates back to a strike that occurred in St. Louis in the 30’s. During this strike, scab workers from Indiana were brought in to fill in for strikers. The pejorative term hoosier stems from the St. Louis workers’ lack of appreciation for this. Noun: Rob: Man, I didn’t like that bar. Mike: Yeah, it’s full of hoosiers.

Honestly, the way my new family tossed that word around, I figured it wasn’t nearly as bad of a meaning as that. I’ve been around several white-trash families in my time, and they weren’t even remotely close to white-trash. Still, whatever floats their boat; if that’s what they want to be called, who am I to stop them?

At any rate, I do have a funny story from that trip. The whole family, as can be expected, are Cardinals fans, and none more so than the Dragonmonkey’s great-grandparents. While I’m only a mediocre baseball fan at best (I enjoy watching the games live, but find it boring on tv) Great-Grandma Bean actually made watching the game rather fun. She kept up a lively commentary from her chair, ridiculing the players and offering insight into their personal habits.

“Oh, I hate this guy. Everytime he takes a swing, he has to readjust his gloves. It drives me crazy!”

And, sure enough, the guy would go up to the plate, take a swing, step back from the plate and readjust his gloves. After only two times of seeing him up at bat, I was going just as crazy as she was.

Go up to the plate.

Swing.

Miss.

Step back from the plate.

Rest bat against his legs.

Unstrap glove, pull on tighter, strap, unstrap, strap.

Repeat with other glove.

Pick, up bat.

Position himself at the plate again.

Swing.

Miss.

REPEAT.

Anyhow, despite the fact that she had me all twitchy and unfomfortable now that I was noticing everybody’s annoying habits, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the game.

“Oh, this man,” Great-Grandma Bean would say in disgust. “THIS guy has to lick his right shoulder every time he bats.” Fascinated, I would lean forward in my chair, and sure enough, the batter would take a quick lick at his shoulder, and then settle in for the pitch.

All was going well, right up until Albert Pujols came up to bat.

“Oh, this man,” Great-Grandma Bean said, shaking her head sadly. “He and his poor wife have a Mongoloid child.”

SAY WHAT? The game forgotten, I turned my head to stare at her in shock, mouth gaping slightly. Did she really just say mongoloid? Then came the kicker. My wonderful, innocent husband, The Bean, turned her to her in confusion and asked, “They adopted?”

Trying to get his attention discreetly, I flapped my fingers at him. To no avail.

Great Grandma Bean: “No, no. MONGOLOID.”

The Bean (in further confusion): “From Mongolia, right? Mongolian?”

Great Grandma Bean (for the win): “No, no. MONGOLOID. You know. Slitty-eyed,” and I swear, at that point, she put her fingers up to her eyes and pulled them back like a child making fun of an Asian. “With the funny puffy-looking face.” She put her hands back down, and shook her head. “So sad. Their other children are normal, but they have that one poor mongoloid child.”

The whole time she was talking, I’m flapping my fingers, and twitching in my chair, and wincing through her entire explanation. The Bean still looked confused, and opened his mouth to ask another question. I couldn’t stand it any longer, and burst out loudly, “DOWN SYNDROME. They have a DOWN SYNDROME child.” I looked at him pointedly, in that we-are-soooo-gonna-have-a-talk-later stare. He looked back at me in confusion, gesturing “What?” with his hands. As far as he was concerned, here he was, having an innocent discussion with his grandma, and then I start getting all pissy. L-A-T-E-R, I mouthed back at him, and gestured for him to drop the discussion.

Thankfully, at that point, Great-Grandpa Bean came into the room, and started making plans to get his car washed. Scooting over to The Bean, I whispered into his ear, “Mongoloid is a really horrible, really derogatory term for someone with Down Syndrome. Don’t EVER use it in public. I didn’t think anybody still did.” The Bean nodded in understanding, and we both settled back in our seats to watch the game.

That is, right up until Great-Grandpa Bean said, “You know, on second thought, I think I am going to go have the car washed today after all. That nice, COLORED man down on the corner always does such a good job.”

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I know one little DragonMonkey who is never going to visit that side of the family without me along to chaperone and do damage control.