A very "political" question

I have been wondering why “name-calling” means “the use of abusive or insulting language”. Why do you think calling names has got such a meaning? Does the word “name” refer to “malicious” nicknames or something like that?

If my memory serves me correctly, I might haveI come upon this word in such news articles like this:
“The ninth Republican presidential debate was in many ways the nastiest of the campaign, complete with raised voices, name calling, and criticism of family members Saturday night in South Carolina.”
Republican debate: Raised voices, name calling and personal attacks

Do you think that a hyphen is needed between name and calling? There was a hyphen when I consulted an on-line dictionary.

Calling each other by given names is not common in offices in Japan. So I am a little confused if you call me “Yutaka”. But I have been a little accustomed to it. You may call me “Yutaka”. Some people who know Japanese names kindly call me “Yutaka-san”, and I feel at home. (“San” is pronounced like the “sun” in the sky. Not like “san” in San Francisco.)

In Japanese, the first name is surname and the second is given name. Our prime minister’s name is Abe Shinzo(安倍晋三). In this case, Shinzo is his given name. In speaking in English, some people call themselves in the order of surname first and given name second: Abe Shinzo, and others do in the order given name and surname: Shinzo Abe, adopting the English style.

“Xi Jinping (… Chinese: 习近平[習 近平]; born 15 June 1953) is a Chinese politician currently serving as the 7th President of the People’s Republic of China, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.”–Wikipedia

I suppose that Chinese people prefer the order “surname[Xi], given name[Jinping]” in English. Mao Zedong [毛 沢東] is also Mao Zedong in English.

“Give a dog a bad name and hang him.”

This is an English proverb.
The following description in Wikipedia is interesting:
“The observation is due to negativity bias – that people are apt to think poorly of others on weak evidence. This is then reinforced by confirmation bias as people give more weight to evidence that supports a preconception than evidence which contradicts it.”–Wikipedia

Does name-calling mean giving a person a bad name?

Calling name doesn’t mean calling people by their name but naming them with insulting alias. As far as I understand it.


Thank you for your explanation, Combiendemarins.

Name-calling is the act of insulting others with descriptions and word choices that have negative connotations. It is not, “Hello, Mr. Smith.” Or, “Hi, Freddy!” (A nickname)

In fact, when we talk about graduation ceremonies, where they read off every student’s names, we say that it’s the moment where they are “calling the names”, a phrase with a very different context than “name-calling.” A person calling off the names of a roster in class is someone reading a list. Name-calling, with hyphen, is specifically making insults, using physical descriptors or animal names to insult others.

“Name-calling”, with the hyphen, is a stand-in verb for “denigrating others.”

It’s euphemistic, because it signifies “insult-hurling”, rather than something innocuous or positive, like “calling people by their first names” or “calling him/her by his/her last name” or “giving everybody nicknames.”

I think it necessarily came to be a euphemism for “insulting others,” because calling someone ‘insulting’ or ‘malicious’, during the debate, is going to come across as an act of name-calling itself.
Example: Have you ever seen someone throw down some serious ethnic slurs, and then watch how they react when someone responds and calls them “racist”? (Labeling them with a noun. It doesn’t end pretty…)

The euphemisms “make the medicine go down.” It also is why it is much better to describe their actions with verbs, or to characterize their behavior than their dignity as a person. Rather than labeling, saying: “You’re stereotyping people”, or “you’re using unacceptable language” gets the message across. (another euphemism: Unacceptable language doesn’t mean “you forgot an apostrophe” or “please re-edit this sloppy paper to include better grammar”, it means “you just said words that are a deep insult and a fireable offense.”).

Unacceptable language is a phrase we use when we want to say, “they used the strongest words our language has got, and didn’t use them for good.” Roseanne and Samantha Bee’s tweets this week would qualify: so “unacceptable” were they that for their consequences, millions of dollars of tv show was cancelled, and advertisement money revoked. “The society did not accept them; their employers shunned them” is what we signify by that normally tepid, soft word like “unacceptable.”

That’s why we also rely on euphemisms, and verbs like “name-calling” in these situation, rather than nouns/adjectives which would feel like labels of someone’s permanent identity. The verb describes the behavior, without partaking in it ourselves in response, and doesn’t stoop (which means “drop down a level”) to the act of name-calling the person in return.

Pretty much, yes. “Name-calling” (I prefer the hyphen) means attacking/labeling/insulting/otherwise addressing someone with an insulting way of describing them. It’s about calling someone a “bad name.” This is especially so if this is all a party or parties are doing to one another.

For example:

“John McCain is a dummy.”
“Rosie O’Donnell is a fat pig.”
“Donald Trump is a Nazi.”
“Congressman Barney Frank is a f*ggot.”
“Mike Pence is a homophone.”

These are examples of name-calling.

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If we use the word “Nazi” in the phrase “Donald Trump is a Nazi” in order to refer to “someone who has an opinion that is different than my own”(Urban Dictionary), it might be a good example of meanigless name-calling. I agree.

How about this: “Donald Trump is a bully”?
In my opinion, he is a bully because he has constantly “bullied” his “rivals” in his life in order to distract criticism of him.

In the USA name-calling means to call someone out of their name or you call them something that is not their given name. It always means to say something nasty or hurtful. When someone does use name calling we say they are using a name, but it’s really not a name, rather, it’s a word that is meant to be mean and emotionally damaging. words like stupid, slut, idiot, loser, moron are all “names” used in name-calling. Although in today’s political climate a new “name calling” thing is to call someone a Trump or Trumper so I guess then a name is used, but using an actual name is a very infrequent occurrence.
It is a term that is like an idiom. The words name and calling can not be looked at nor defined individually. It is a closed set of words with one meaning, to say something that is not nice and is unwelcome.
I am not sure when this phrase began.
I think it could also be confused with a nick-name, which could be nice or mean. If a person has a given name (this means to a USA person the name your parents gave you at birth) that can be shortened like, Elisabeth has a nickname of Beth, this is considered nice. we also call these pet names. They are meant to be nice and loving ways to speak to another person.
Sometimes we are given nick-names that we do not like. Example, a fat man can have a nick-name of Tiny. It is given to him to tease him and belittle him. sometimes people get used to being called this not nice name and end up embracing it.

I know, it’s weird.
Hope I helped :slight_smile:

P.S. the hyphen is not “needed” for regular text. More formal text yes, but in regular conversation your meaning with or without the hyphen will be understood by an English speaker.

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