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This Dutch Treat is Racist Posted by on Jun 6, 2016 in Culture, Dutch Language, food, History, News

At least, so they say! Today, I have a rather controversial post for you. It is about “chocolate-coated marshmallow treats”, as Wikipedia likes to call them.

I am talking about these things:

Buys Zoenen

Negerzoen and its origins

What is controversial about them? In the Netherlands and Germany, they are known as Negerzoenen or Negerküsse, which literally translates to “Nigger Kisses” or “Negro Kisses”. The treat came originally from Denmark, around 200 years ago, and spread from there to the rest of Europe. The modern  and in many countries an equivalent term was used. Not always though: in Austria, for example, they are known as Schwedenbomben (Swedish Bombs). Obviously, 200 years ago, there was not much controversy about the “N-word”. Especially not in Europe. Even today, the sensitivity that is associated with the word in the United States is in no way comparable to Europe.

The reason for this sensitivity in the United States is historical; much like the holocaust and Nazi Germany is sensitive in Europe, and much less sensitive in the United States.

Change of name

The name was changed in France and Germany anyway, and an interests organization sent a letter to Buys to also consider changing the name. This would explain why only 10 years ago in 2006, the main and oldest manufacturer of these treats in the Netherlands, Banketbakkerij Buys (confectioner Buys) simply changed the name of their product to Zoenen (Kisses). But some people contest that, and say that it was just a marketing stunt of Buys so they would get attention for their product. Changing the name itself was also met with controversy, much like the Zwarte Pietendebat in recent years: it is ridiculous to change the name, because “it has always been called that way”, they think.

But why were they called this way? Where did that name come from?

Origin of the name 

One Buys spokesperson said this: “Iemand die een negerzoen eet, krijgt bruine lippen en als die een ander een kus geeft, is dat een kus van een neger. Maar dat weet ik alleen uit de overlevering.” (Somebody that eats a negro kiss, gets bwon lips and if that person gives another a kiss, then that is the kiss of a negro. But I only know that from lore.)

The German manufacturer Dickmann’s has a different explanation (Dickmann’s could be a controversial name too. Literally “Fat Man’s”. It is the name of the founder, though!).  The modern kind that they make – the same kind made in the Netherlands – is from France. The whipped egg-white cream in the Zoen is also called Baiser, which is from France. And in French, baiser also means “to kiss”. So from there, they took the name Kuss. Since it was dipped in chocolate, one could have also called it Schokokuss (German for “Chocolate Kiss”, as they call it today), but, as Dickmann’s explains, the color reminded of black people, and so they called them Negerkuss.

Het mag niet meer!

Ever since they changed it, people started refraining from using the word negerzoen. When I bought a package the other day, the kassamedewerkster (cashier) also “accidentally” said negerzoen (it was actually one of the packages of Buys Zoenen!). She then quickly added: “Oh ja, dat mag niet meer!” (Oh right, that is not allowed anymore!) But legally, you can still say negerzoenen, it is just not really politically correct…

 

What do you think, is negerzoen an acceptable name? Or was the name change a good idea? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me a message on Facebook!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, and I am half Dutch and half German. I was on exchange in the United States, and I really enjoyed that year! So in that sense, I kind of have three nationalities... I love all of them!


Comments:

  1. Melissa:

    Yes, here in the U.S. I think most people (Donald Trump notwithstanding) would find those terms offensive. Just because something has “always been called that” doesn’t make it right. (My dad used to call Brazil nuts “n****r toes” but that doesn’t mean I have to perpetuate that. And by the way, he wasn’t knowingly a racist but unfortunately just went along with a term that was common for his generation and time.)

    I don’t like the term “politically correct,” myself. Being politically INCORRECT on purpose is just an excuse for being a jerk, in my opinion. What this world needs is civility and I’m afraid that is in short supply these days.

  2. kassis:

    I understand this is a sensitive subject, but the german word Neger never had the dismissive and objectionable associations that english speakers have with variations of the n word. it simply means black person, or shall we say, dark skinned person of African descent.

    • Sten:

      @kassis True. But apparently there are groups that feel offended by the term also in Germany, and so companies follow suit.