"Paki" is a racial slur typically referring to people of Pakistani descent, but often indiscriminately directed towards people with perceived origins from the Indian Subcontinent. The slur is used chiefly in the United Kingdom, and is also considered pejorative in Canada.
"Paki" is derived from the exonym Pakistan(i). Unlike other -stan-countries, where the first part of the name typically refers to the indigenous people (e.g. the Tajiks of Tajikistan, Turkmens of Turkmenistan, Afghans of Afghanistan), the name of Pakistan was coined by the Cambridge University's political science student and Muslim nationalist Rahmat Ali, and was published on 28 January 1933 in the pamphlet Now or Never. After coining the name of the nation-state, Ali noticed that there is an acronym formed from the names of the "homelands" of Muslims in northwest India:
- "P" for Punjab
- "A" for Afghania (now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
- "K" for Kashmir
- "S" for Sindh
- "Tan" for Balochistan (thus forming "Pakstan")
The use of the term "Paki" was first recorded in 1964, during a period of increased immigration to the United Kingdom. It has also been directed to people of other South Asian backgrounds, as well as people from other demographics who resemble South Asians. In the 1970s and 1980s, violent gangs opposed to immigration took part in attacks known as "Paki-bashing", which targeted people and premises of any South Asian origin, or any other ethnic minority.
In the 21st century, some younger British Pakistanis have attempted to reclaim the word, drawing parallels to the African American reclamation of the slur "nigger", and the LGBT reclamation of the slur "queer". Peterborough businessman Abdul Rahim, who produces merchandise reclaiming the word, equates it to more socially accepted terms such as "Aussie" and "Kiwi", saying that it is more similar to them than it is to "nigger", as it denotes a nationality and not a biological race. However, other Pakistanis see the word as taboo even among members of their community, due to its historical racist use.
In December 2000, the Advertising Standards Authority published research on attitudes of the British public to pejoratives. It ranked Paki as the tenth most severe pejorative in English, up from 17th three years earlier.
Americans generally are unfamiliar with "paki" as a slur, and U.S. leaders and public figures have occasionally had to apologize for using it. In January 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush said on India–Pakistan relations "We are working hard to convince both the Indians and the Pakis that there's a way to deal with their problems without going to war." After a Pakistani American journalist complained, a White House spokesman made a statement that Bush had respect for Pakistan and its culture. This followed an incident four years earlier, when Clinton White House adviser Sandy Berger had to apologize for referencing "Paks" in public comments. The 2015 American film Jurassic World was attacked satirically by British comedian Guzzy Bear for using "pachys" (pronounced "pakis") as shorthand for Pachycephalosaurus.
Spike Milligan, who was white, played the lead role of Kevin O'Grady in the 1969 BBC sitcom Curry and Chips. O'Grady, half-Irish and half-Pakistani, was taunted with the name "Paki-Paddy"; the show intended to mock bigotry. Following complaints, the BBC edited out use of the word in repeats of the 1980s sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Columnists have perceived this as a way of obscuring the historical truth that the use of such words was commonplace at the time.
In 2009, Prince Harry was publicly admonished and forced by the military to undergo sensitivity training when he was caught on video (taken years before) calling one of his fellow Army recruits "our little paki friend."
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