News and Commentary

‘Asian Carp’ Renamed Because, You Know, That’s An ‘Ethnic Slur’
Koi carp in pond, close-up,
Sot/Getty Images

The Asian carp, brought to North America in the 1970s to eat algae in aquaculture ponds, is considered an invasive species that has been causing issues in the Mississippi river and reportedly migrating toward Lake Michigan.

But some think the name is just mean, like calling the virus that causes COVID-19 the Wuhan Virus after the city in China where it first emerged.

So the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to rename the fish to simply “invasive carp.”

“We wanted to move away from any terms that cast Asian culture and people in a negative light,” Charlie Wooley, director of the Great Lakes Regional Office for the service, told The Associated Press.

The AP told a little story about how the name change came about.

Minnesota state Sen. Foung Hawj was never a fan of the “Asian carp” label commonly applied to four imported fish species that are wreaking havoc in the U.S. heartland, infesting numerous rivers and bearing down on the Great Lakes.

But the last straw came when an Asian business delegation arriving at the Minneapolis airport encountered a sign reading “Kill Asian Carp.” It was a well-intentioned plea to prevent spread of the invasive fish. But the message was off-putting to the visitors.

Turns out Hawj’s feelings were shared by the wildlife service, which quietly changed the species name in April. “The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, representing agencies in the U.S. and Canada that are trying to contain the carp, will do likewise Aug. 2,” Wooley told the AP.

Like the invasive carp, the Word Police are everywhere, swarming over language like gypsy moths. Wait, hang on, scratch that. Can’t call them that — it’s an “ethnic slur.” Earlier this month, the Entomological Society of America, which oversees the common names of insects, dropped the name for the moth, as well as the gypsy ant.

“It’s an ethnic slur to begin with that’s been rejected by the Romani people a long time ago,” society president Michelle S. Smith told the AP. “Second, nobody wants to be associated with a harmful invasive pest.”

“The society is taking a hard look at some of the more than 2,000 common insect names to remove derogatory and geographically inaccurate ones. About 20 years ago, a committee of fish experts renamed the jewfish into the goliath grouper,” the news agency reported.

The Society urged everyone to get involved. “By participating in the Better Common Names Project and helping to change problematic common names of insects, you will help ensure that insect common names are respectful, inclusive, and descriptive of the insect. Using better common names will increase the effectiveness of communication with the public, enhance the reputation of entomology and entomologists, build a more inclusive discipline, and reduce harm to our members and non-members alike,” they said on their website in a post headlined “Better Common Names Project.”

Social media, of course, had a field day with the name change for the invasive fish. “Black coffee is next,” one Twitter user said, according to the New York Post. “Chinese food, Mexican food, white lies, brown sugar, calling ships her.”

“1980: dungeons and dragons is going to turn the kids into Satanists,” another user said. “2021: Asian carp will turn the kids into racists.”

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