General Question

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

Where did some of these associations/stereotypes come from?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (1002 points ) April 27th, 2014

Just a random list of things I wondered about:

- Why were apples given to teachers? (is it from the old rhyme “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and you’d hope your teacher would never get sick?)

-Also, in addition to that, why are worms usually depicted as coming out of the apple?

-Why are cops mocked as always lounging around in a donut store? (mostly in cartoons and such)

-Why were Asians given the slur “yellow”? Why that color?

-Why are witches always depicted with brooms? Where did the association of brooms and witches come from?

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13 Answers

bolwerk's avatar

#1: I’ll just take a stab at it, might be way off: it’s an easy thing for a kid to give, and always was even in the days before processed foods like candies. Apples are also in season when the school year starts in the USA.

#2: worms like sweets, and they spoil harvests. Apples are also symbols of lust, and worms are phalli. There could be a Freudian appeal!

#3: this one is probably pretty accurate. Police on patrol are not highly supervised and can get away with goofing around. What’s more, in many places there is little going on anyway. They can’t drink on the job, however. Diners and doughnut shops are fair game, however.

#4: Asians have yellow-tinted skin. It’s not a slur. It’s not literal either; blacks aren’t literally black. Whites aren’t literally white.

#5: my best guess is they are associated with crones (basically older women who are past childbearing age) in folklore.

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

@bolwerk I thought calling someone who’s Asian yellow was a slur, if not then somewhat demeaning. At least in my circle of friends it was treated that way. When we watched the old Pink Panther movies, Clouseau refers to Cato as his “yellow friend”, and my friends would be like “Wow, so racist back then”

bolwerk's avatar

@ScottyMcGeester: I don’t know if you should call someone that, and I agree it could be used to be rude (sort of like calling a Native American the red man might be kind of rude), but it’s a way of describing certain skin tones of East Asian peoples.

weeveeship's avatar

My guess:

1. In the past, in agricultural societies, teachers aren’t paid very much. So, a child bringing some produce from the child’s family’s farm is a sign of gratitude and also helps out the teacher. The apple becomes a symbol of produce that a child might bring (possibly because its red color makes it immediately identifiable as a symbol and its small size makes it credible that a child could actually carry it).

2. Because worms actually do eat apples and other fruits.

3. Simpsons

4. Racism

5. Mode of transportation. Brooms aren’t expensive, so credible that witches might have one.

kritiper's avatar

It has to do with color, of sorts, when describing people.
Caucasians are “white,” Negros are “black,’” American Indians are “red,” certain Asians are “yellow,” Arabic/Mediterranean people are “bronze,” and so on. It isn’t racist, really, just unknowing/uncaring people trying to describe other people by their skin tone.

bolwerk's avatar

@kritiper is right. It’s probably more archaic than strictly racist. But any of those labels could be used with a sneer.

zenvelo's avatar

3. Because donut shops are often open all night, and a cop on patrol at 3 in the morning would get a donut and a cup of coffee. (Remember 7–11 used to close at 11 p.m.? Yeah, I didn’t think you’d remember.)

4. Calling Chinese and Japanese (and other Asians) “yellow” was used pejoratively. It did come from a more golden hued skin tone compared to pale Northern Europeans, but yellow as a color also carries a lot of baggage, like supposedly sneaky and cowardly, and therefore underhanded. That’s why white media (like WR Hearst) used to warn against the “yellow peril”

5. A few centuries ago, any old woman who lived on her own who might have a cat was suspected of witchcraft, And most of them had a broom for tidying up the house. So a crone with a broom and a cat became a stereotype for a witch.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I recently noticed at all the banks in my area are located within one block of a Dunkin Donuts. I wonder if banks decided to build near a donut shop for “extra protection” or just a lucky coincidence. Either way it’s pretty funny.

JLeslie's avatar

My guesses are:

Apples are in season during much of the school year. Back in the day of farms and less industrialization an apple was a practical gift for a student to bring. Apples hold up well in cool temperatures, they can stay good for a couple months. Easy to eat, assuming you have good teeth.

Worms do wind up in apples sometimes. It probably happened much more ften a long time ago. Now farmers probably spray trees with pesticide to keep worms and other pests away. Maybe there is a particular worm atrracted to apples, that I don’t know for sure.

Probably donut shops were one of the original stores open very early in the morning or even all night and cops working late could get some food.

Because Asians have a yellowish undertone, and other colors were probably taken already. It seems white is still acceptable, but all other “color” terms have gone the way of being not very PC.

The broom I once heard was a way for women to put drugs to get hi inside of themselves. I have no idea if there is any truth to it. No idea if it is true that is why witches are depicted on broomsticks or if it could be a rumor since people made up had all sorts of things about witches, or if they did use broom stick for that purpose. Seems risky. Splinters in the girly parts doesn’t sound good. Of course anything close to sexual would make the witches even less Godly, so maybe there is some truth to the broom being a phallic symbol.

LostInParadise's avatar

With regard to 3, it is not unusual for all night diners and donut shops to provide coffee and donuts to policeman free of charge. The amounts of money involved hardly make this a form of corruption, more a way of showing appreciation and maintaining good relations.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

In the old days (as in Little House on the Prairie), any child could stop at the orchard and pick a beautiful apple to take to their teacher. We had apple trees when I was a kid, and it is hard to find a nice, perfect apple with no worms, even though we used pesticides. Worms just love apples.

When I was a kid, people were white, black, red and yellow. It is a relative term as I am not white, any more than an oriental person is yellow. I don’t look like Casper the Ghost. Native Americans don’t look red to me, but I guess their skin is ruddier than mine. No one was called brown. Just white, black, red and yellow.

Witches – a long time ago, one of the common witches spells was to be able to sprinkle a potion onto an inanimate object to make it fly. I guess a broom looked easier to ride than a stove or a washing machine. Or maybe it was because witches were thought to use a large stick (staff) for stirring their potions, as a walking stick, so maybe it started out with them flying around on that, and then went to a broom from there. ???

RocketGuy's avatar

#4 – yep, my skin has a yellowish tint if I have not been exposed to enough sunlight.

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