JOHN DERBYSHIRE: So Now “Picnic” And “Good Morning” Are Racist?
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[Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively on]

In common with most sensible people, I believe that public funding for higher education in the United States, including student-loan support, should be strictly limited to mathematics and the real sciences—physics, chemistry, biology, and a few borderline areas like linguistics.

If you want to study law, accounting, business, journalism, education, history, classics, English, theology, or anything ending in the word ”studies,” fine: finance it yourself or find private sponsors.

(In fact if you want to study non-scientific professional subjects like law or accounting, do it the way Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, and a former girlfriend of mine did: by apprenticeship. In the case of accounting and my girlfriend, the key term in my native Britain fifty years ago was ”articled clerk,” but perhaps the terminology has moved on since then, if the system is still in use at all.)

I get regular support for this opinion from an excellent website called The College Fix. Not that they want to stop government funding of non-rigorous disciplines—I don’t know their position on that—but the news items they post about academia fortify my own position.

And I don’t agree with them about everything—I don’t agree with anyone about everything—but when I go to that website there’s a higher-than-average probability that I’ll come away either helpless with laughter or weeping with despair at the folly and lunacy running wild in our universities.

This recent posting was a weeper, not a laugher. I’ll just give you the first couple of paragraphs of the story:

A scheduled ”picnic” sponsored by the University of Nevada Las Vegas law school’s Environmental Law Society has been renamed ”Lunch by the Lake” due to ”diversity and inclusion” concerns.

According to a memo obtained by Libs of TikTok, the law group informed members that the word ”picnic” has ”historical and offensive connotations,” and apologized for ”any harm or discomfort” caused by its use.

 UNLV law school apologizes for using word ‘picnic,’ changes it to ‘Lunch by the Lake,’ by Dave Huber, October 7, 2023

If you follow the propaganda efforts of our Anti-white Establishment, you will know that this canceling of the word ”picnic” isn’t new. The College Fix tracks it back at least three years, but it was actually debunked as long ago as twenty years about, actually by the Black History Bulletin: Anatomy of an Untruth: The Controversy Over ”Picnic” and the True Cause of Lynching, by Yohuru R. Williams, July 2002.

The theory was, and apparently still is, that ”picnic” is an old word for a lynching party, with the second syllable I suppose an abbreviated form of <bleep>.

Leaving aside the fact that lynchees were frequently white—in the year 1950 exactly half of them were and overall about 27% (1,297out of 4,743 from 1882 to 1968 according to the Tuskegee Institute)—this is nonsense.

My Oxford English Dictionary gives the first appearance of the word ”picnic” as being in a French etymological treatise of 1692, where it’s spelt p-i-q-u-e—n-i-q-u-e.

Right after Pickwickian

The first English usage is in one of Lord Chesterfield’s letters to his son, dated 1748. Not a gap-toothed likkered-up noose-wielding cracker in sight there.

In the 21st-century U.S.A. we should not, of course, expect a university Law School to keep a copy of the OED on its bookshelves. That would be White Supremacist.

Having read that College Fix story, I consoled myself with the thought that the barbarian assault on our language surely couldn’t get any worse.

That was naïve of me. Browsing Twitter, I came across this little gem of negative-two-standard-deviations-IQ idiocy. The young lady here wants us to know that the common greeting ”Good morning!” is actually racist abuse.


Transcript: It was really a mockery toward black slaves. And they’re makin’ fun of what they did to they people when someone was hung, killed, or sold off to a different plantation. So that was they way of being funny. ”Did you have a good mourning? Did you have a good cry about that person’s death? Did you have a good cry about your daughter being tooken away from you and sold off somewhere else? Did you have a good cry of your brother being hung yesterday?” That was they way of being funny. Good morning, everyone.

I await enlightenment on the true meaning of secret insults like ”Goodnight,” ”How ya doin’?” and ”Happy Halloween.”

Stories like that one of course leave me in a state of despair, as they should.

There can be grains of comfort or amusement even in despair, though.

My grain of amusement here was recalling a different spin I got on ”Good morning” when I was teaching English at a college in China forty years ago.

Chatting with some young male students out of class, they told me that when they started to learn English, they memorized the words ”Good morning” by using a Chinese approximation: 狗 逮 貓 娘 (gŏu dăi māo niáng), ”dog catches cat lady.”

This information came with some snickering from the students.

Apparently ”dog catches cat lady” has some salacious flavor to Chinese ears, or at any rate to young-adult-male Chinese ears.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire’s writings at can do so here.



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