Sunday, August 12, 2018

Gypped Again... How common is the use of pejorative exonyms to describe cheating, swindling, and stealing, in New Zealand?

Several pejorative terms (expressing contempt or disapproval) related to race or ethnicity, are used to describe variously; cheating, swindling or stealing. These include the terms ‘Gypped’, ‘Jewed’, and ‘Niggered’. These terms are commonly used, despite the growing awareness of their etymology and the systemic and cultural discrimination from which they arose and still form a part.

Example: Gipped for 'ripped off' on the Rock FM website

Gypped is the past participle of the verb ‘Gyp’ itself derived from the exonym ‘Gypsy’. Gypsy, in turn, is derived from Egyptian, as Romani people were mistakenly believed to have originated from and travelled out of Egypt and into Europe. Similarly, Jewed is the past participle for the verb ‘to Jew’, and Niggered derives from the term nigger, a pejorative exonym derived from Negro.
The aim of this article is to compare the use of the pejorative exonym Gypped with the similar exonyms Jewed and Niggered.

To evaluate the common usage and relative acceptance of the terms, Gypped, Niggered, and Jewed were searched independently using a Google search in incognito mode to eliminate any past search bias. Further searches were conducted for .nz sites, i.e., sites registered in New Zealand.
In addition, returned google search results for New Zealand sites were qualitatively analysed and grouped into three categories; reference, casual use (inadvertent racism), and over racism.

Example: New Zealand Forestry Minister  Shane Jones used the term 'gypped' to describe forestry workers being ripped off. 

An online search returns the following numbers of page results: Gypped, 255000; Jewed, 195000; and Niggered, 78500. When the search is restricted to all domains ending in .nz the results are: Gypped, 1240; Jewed 468; and Niggered 5. Google returns 94 search results for Gypped, 45 for Jewed, and 5 for Niggered in its initial returns (with all duplicates and similar pages omitted) for .nz domains.
Of these results, 97%, 96%, and 20% were considered to be casual, inadvertent racism for Gypped, Jewed, and Niggered respectively. Reference sites accounted for 3% and 40% for Gypped and Niggered, with no reference results for Jewed. Overtly racist use accounted for 4% of results for Jewed and 40% for niggered. (Figures 1 and 2.)

Figure 1. Google search returns by term and use

Figure 2. Percent use type by term

Overall, these results show that the prevalence of use of Gypsy is far more common than either Jewed or Niggered. It is likely that this use is a function of ‘casual’ racism and is inadvertent rather than explicit. Conversely, the use of Niggered, as would be expected, is predominantly overtly racist.

The high prevalence of use of the term Gypped in particular, and it’s seemingly common, casual usage suggests that people do not understand the etymology of the word, nor its potential for harm. The use of terms that describe adverse human behaviours in reference to a race are societally harmful and promote discrimination, even if latent, against minorities. 
The Romani, in particular, have been victims of persistent discrimination and persecution for their entire history and the prevalence of use of the term Gypped shows clearly that education which provides for greater awareness of the potential harm arising from the casual use of this term is warranted.

Of course, this only provides a ‘snapshot’ of the common use of these pejoratives, online, in New Zealand. Use of terms online is likely to be comparable to their common use. 


The use of the term Gypped is more common in New Zealand websites when compared to similar pejoratives. This common use shows that education on the appropriateness and acceptability of racially derived terms, especially Gypped and Gypsy is warranted. 

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We're Being 'Gypped' by New Zealand Broadcasters

A good friend of mine recently complained to a media network about a popular radio show host using the term 'gypped' to describe how she was ripped off. I didn't hear the piece in question but it does fit within an extremely common and casual use of what can only be described as an extremely racist word.
The response she received was unsatisfactory at best.
Some of the rebuttal points raised by the broadcaster were that they did not consider it a breach of the broadcasting standards. This is a common defence; that the term doesn't really denigrate anyone or discriminate. I mean, do Romani people really even exist? Or are they like Unicorns?

Standard 6 of the Broadcasting Standards States:
Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.
I think it's clear to any reasonable person that the use of the term ‘gypped’ falls well within the definition above. It is commonly accepted that the term gypped (or gipped or jipped) comes from Gypsy, itself a pejorative exonym for the Romani people. 

Gypsy (Gyp, Gip, Gyppo) comes from the mistaken belief that the comparatively dark- skinned Romani originated in Egypt. Hence, Egyptian became 'Gyptian' and 'Gypsy'. As such, this exonym has a very similar etymological progression as ‘Indian’ in reference to Native Americans, which, I’m sure you would agree is not an acceptable term. 
The exonym noun has been further ‘verbised’ and taken to mean ‘cheated’ or ‘swindled’. To create and continue to propagate an association between nefarious behaviour and criminality and people of a distinct ethnicity falls squarely within the mandate of the standard above. It is discrimination and encourages further discrimination by perpetuating the stereotype of Romani as cheats, swindler, and thieves. So, in an objective sense, it is clearly a denigration of Romani, and discriminatory. 
It is also highly offensive considering the systemic and systematic oppression that the Romani have endured for around 1000 years since the diaspora from northern India. They have been criminalised by race, forbidden in many places from owning land, one of the reasons many remained nomadic and persecuted, killed (for example, 25-50% of Europe's Romani population were killed in the Porajmos or Holocaust and many had been victims of periodic pogroms in eastern Europe), and Romanichal (English and Scottish Romani) were rounded up and sent to the Americas as slaves. This discrimination still occurs in more latent ways. Romani are the largest ethnic minority in Europe and bear some of the worst socio-economic statistics in the Union. For example, while 17% of Europe’s population overall is considered at risk of poverty, 80% of Roma face the same risk. Romani still suffer systematic, societal, and individual persecution, especially in Europe, but also in other countries like the US, Australia, and here in New Zealand. Testament to this casual persecution and ostracization is the loss of language, and traditional names and customs, which is why many of the Romani population in countries like New Zealand, descended from Romanichal forebears have distinctly ‘normal’ surnames like Cooper, Lee, or in the case of my own lineage ‘Smith’, the most English of names, taken to avoid persecution. 

Discrimination itself, for the purposes of Broadcasting standards, is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment. ‘Denigration’ is defined as devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community.

To associate an entire race with criminality, theft, and cheating absolutely encourages discrimination against Romani. It is clear that whenever someone uses the term ‘gypped’ they denigrate each and every person of Romani heritage, even if that denigration is due to ignorance. 

But does 'Gypped' actually refer to Romani?

There has been some debate on the etymology of the term. 
But to my knowledge, this is a fringe debate. With the exception of a few right-wing sites and message boards, this debate is considered to be obfuscation and self-justification for the use of a patently bigotted term. In other words, this obfuscation is also a means to explain away casual racism.

Even if there is a debate on the exact etymology (which I believe to be false in any event), this does not change the common association of the term with a stereotype of Romani as cunning tricksters and thieves. 

The etymological association with the term ‘gyp’ used at Cambridge and Durham is a further obfuscation. These are thought to have  a Greek origin or perhaps a French (relating to old French ‘jupeau’ meaning servant), (1)  but these pertain to a different word and usage. 
The Etymology Dictionary discusses this difference; with the University slang derived from Greek gyps “vulture” in reference to servants, and the word in association with fraudulent action and cheating deriving from Gypsy's abbreviated form Gip, Gyp. (2) 
While several prominent dictionaries do not provide an etymology for the term, Collins dictionary, and Wiktionary state that it is most likely to be a back-formation from Gypsy, (3-5) and the Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the word is probably short for gypsy. (6) Furthermore, according to the principal etymologist at the Oxford English Dictionary, there is scholarly consensus that the word is a racial slur. (7)

There is an undeniable common recognition in the grey and mainstream literature that this is, in fact, a racist term, for example:

That the term is used without malice is not a credible excuse. Casual racism is part of the problem, not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. 

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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Is Fish Oil worthless? Thoughts on Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease

By Cliff Harvey PhD (c)

A recent Cochrane Database review by Abdelhamid et al, (1) has received a lot of media and mainstream attention.
This review included 79 randomised controlled trials (RCTs)—29 with a low risk of bias according to the researchers—and most of the studies focussed on trials including omega-3 supplements (as compared to omega-3 intake from foods) either fish oil (containing the long-chain omega-3 fats DHA and EPA), or vegetable derived alpha-linolenic acid.
The researchers concluded that “Moderate- and high-quality evidence suggests that increasing EPA and DHA has little or no effect on mortality or cardiovascular health”.

Not surprisingly, this has led many in the media and mainstream to conclude that fish oil supplementation is ‘worthless’. However, it must be remembered that this review was strictly in relation to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the utility of fish oil for the quality of life outcomes or the adjunctive treatment or prevention of other illnesses has not been addressed by this latest study. There might also be nuances within this review that should be further addressed. Overall, because it is the most recent review (at the time of writing), and with the general agreement that Cochrane reviews are the ‘gold standard’ for reviews, perhaps it is timely to re-evaluate the role of fish oil in the prevention of cardiovascular events and mortality. It should be noted though that differing methodologies and biases (often implicit) of researchers can yield differing results, especially with respect to inclusion and exclusion criteria used, and interpretation of significance should also be approached with some caution.

Overall, the review showed no effect on all-cause mortality (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.03) from fish oil supplementation. However, consistent with the existing reviews, it did show a significant effect improving important cardiometabolic health markers such as triglycerides ( (Mean Difference (MD) −0.24 mmol/L, 95% CI −0.31 to −0.16, I2 = 48%) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) (MD 0.02 mmol/L, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.04, P = 0.03, I2 = 48%).

Figure 1. Funnel plot of comparison: 1 High vs low LCn3 omega-3 fats (primary outcomes), outcome: 1.1 All-cause mortality (overall) – LCn3. Abdelhamid AS, Brown TJ, Brainard JS, Biswas P, Thorpe GC, Moore HJ, et al.

There are many well-designed trials which show a range of other benefits from fish oil supplementation and to review these would be beyond the scope of the present article (a search of the academic literature shows around 220,000 results from a search for “fish oil supplementation”).
There are also many systematic reviews which show benefit from randomised trials, for health conditions and markers of cardiometabolic health. In fact, the study by Abdelhamid and colleagues contrasts with earlier reviews that suggested benefits for cardiovascular health and mortality by Wang et al, (2) (and which also showed significant effects on all-cause mortality) and by Leon et al, (3) which showed a significant reduction in deaths from cardiac causes but no significant effect on all-cause mortality.
A trend towards improved mortality outcomes in the critically ill has also been shown ( relative risk [RR], 0.71; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.49–1.04), (4) along with reduced infectious complications  in patients receiving fish oil (relative risk 0.49, 95% confidence interval 0.26–0.93, P = 0.03). (5) Significant reductions in infection in the critically ill have also been shown in a review of intravenous fish oil formulas. (6)
A 2000 review on the effects of fish oil in diabetes showed a clinically meaningful and statistically significant improvement on triglyceride (TG) levels (-0.56 mmol/l [95% CI -0.71 to -0.41]) over a mean time-frame of 12-weeks, from fish oil supplementation. (7) Reductions in TG (− 0.34 mmol/L, [95% CI: − 0.41 to − 0.27]), have also been demonstrated in a review by  Eslick and colleagues. (8) In a review of 13 RCTs Compared with the control group, serum TG and total cholesterol levels in the fish oil group were reduced by 0.23 mmol/L (95% CI, −0.31 to −0.14, p <0.01) and 0.12 mmol/L (95% CI, −0.23 to −0.01, p =0.03), respectively. HDL-c levels were increased by 0.20 mmol/L (95% CI, 0.01 to 0.40, p <0.01). (9) These are significant findings as, out of all the commonly measured markers for cardiovascular risk, triglycerides have the strongest association with cardiovascular disease. (10-12) Reductions in relative risk for both cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality are seen at < 1.02 mmol/L TG,(12) and so, reductions of ~ 0.5 mmol/L are highly clinically significant.

There is also a significant effect of fish oil supplementation on blood pressure in hypertensive patients (> 140/85), of 2.56 mmHg and 1.47 mmHg (systolic and diastolic pressure respectively). (13) This is a similar reduction as observed for drastic reductions in sodium, which, while often recommended, can have deleterious effects for other causes of mortality, especially in those with pre-existing heart disease, in which mortality can actually be worsened with sodium reduction. (14) Thus, fish oil might be a safer approach to reducing blood pressure than the current recommendation to reduce salt intake.
Reviews also suggest a significant, positive role for fish oil supplementation at doses > 1000 mg for improved heart rate variability (15) (a marker of lifestyle or fatigue induced systemic stress) and improved cardiac function and reduced markers of inflammation in heart failure patients. (16, 17)
Although a meta-analysis of 17 studies with 672 participants showed no overall effect on insulin sensitivity, it did show a highly significant improvement in insulin sensitivity in those suffering at least one symptom of metabolic disorder (Standard Mean Difference [SMD] 0.53, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.88, p < 0.001). (18) There is a rising incidence of metabolic disorder and insulin resistance, with high rates of undiagnosed metabolic disorder, and supplementation with fish oil, based on these results, is prudent.
Fish oil was found to reduce the risk of relapse in Crohn’s Disease (RR 0.77; 95% CI 0.61 to 0.98). Although there is some debate as to whether this is a clinically meaningful result, I posit that it is actually quite a strong effect, notwithstanding that there needs to be more homogeneous research of a higher quality overall for the use of fish oil in CD. (19)
Maternal or childhood fish oil use might also reduce the risk of asthma (RR 0.71; 95% CI 0.52 to 0.96). (20) While the maternal use of fish oil supplements improves birth weight and reduces the risk of early preterm delivery. (21)
In haemodialysis patients, there was a reduction in cardiovascular events (RR 0.41; 95% CI 0.26-0.66) in the fish oil group vs placebo. Fish oil also significantly decreased the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) score (weighted mean difference [WMD] −11.91; 95% CI −15.88 to −7.95), and the important inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein (CRP), and triglycerides (TG) [(SMD) (95 %CI)] were −0.56 (−0.89 to −0.23); −0.36 (−0.63 to −0.09), and −0.41 (−0.68 to −0.14), respectively]. (22)

The latest review by Abdelhamid and colleagues’ casts doubt upon the earlier studies and reviews showing improved cardiac and all-cause mortality in association with increased fish oil intake. However, there may still be a small effect trend towards improved outcomes and there is a significant effect demonstrated on markers of cardiometabolic health, in particular, TG and HDL-c. Other reviews show, in contrast to the latest Cochrane review, improved mortality outcomes associated with fish oil supplementation, and similar improvements in TG and HDL-c. So, overall, we might consider there to be a positive effect on cardiometabolic health.
Improvements in mood, blood lipids in diabetes, reductions in blood pressure, improvements in insulin sensitivity in metabolic disorder, possible benefits for Crohn’s Disease, other inflammatory disorders, and improved pregnancy outcomes, along with discernible improvements in various outcomes for the critically unwell, all suggest a multitude of benefits for health overall from fish oil supplementation. Effect sizes for any given outcome may be small, but when taken together, benefits from fish oil could, in fact, be very strong.

Conflict of interest
Cliff Harvey has provided consultancy services to Melrose Health, a manufacturer of food products, some of which contain fish oil.

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1.            Abdelhamid AS, Brown TJ, Brainard JS, Biswas P, Thorpe GC, Moore HJ, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018(7).
2.            Wang C, Harris WS, Chung M, Lichtenstein AH, Balk EM, Kupelnick B, et al. n−3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not α-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006;84(1):5-17.
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4.            Manzanares W, Dhaliwal R, Jurewitsch B, Stapleton RD, Jeejeebhoy KN, Heyland DK. Parenteral Fish Oil Lipid Emulsions in the Critically Ill. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. 2014;38(1):20-8.
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8.            Eslick GD, Howe PRC, Smith C, Priest R, Bensoussan A. Benefits of fish oil supplementation in hyperlipidemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Cardiology. 2009;136(1):4-16.
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10.         Ravnskov U, Diamond DM, Hama R, Hamazaki T, Hammarskjold B, Hynes N, et al. Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review. BMJ open. 2016;6(6):e010401.
11.         Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Cooper SM, Davies B, Sculthorpe N, DiNicolantonio JJ, et al. Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Open Heart. 2015;2(1).
12.         Liu J, Zeng F-F, Liu Z-M, Zhang C-X, Ling W-h, Chen Y-M. Effects of blood triglycerides on cardiovascular and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 61 prospective studies. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2013;12(1):159.
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16.         Xin W, Wei W, Li X. Effects of fish oil supplementation on cardiac function in chronic heart failure: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Heart. 2012;98(22):1620-5.
17.         Xin W, Wei W, Li X. Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory markers in chronic heart failure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders. 2012;12(1):77.
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19.         Turner D, Shah PS, Steinhart AH, Zlotkin S, Griffiths AM. Maintenance of remission in inflammatory bowel disease using omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil): A systematic review and meta-analyses. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. 2011;17(1):336-45.
20.         Yang H, Xun P, He K. Fish and Fish Oil Intake in Relation to Risk of Asthma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PloS one. 2013;8(11):e80048.
21.         Chen B, Ji X, Zhang L, Hou Z, Li C, Tong Y. Fish oil supplementation improves pregnancy outcomes and size of the newborn: a meta-analysis of 21 randomized controlled trials. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine. 2016;29(12):2017-27.
22.         He L, Li M-s, Lin M, Zhao T-y, Gao P. Effect of fish oil supplement in maintenance hemodialysis patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis of published randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2016;72(2):129-39.