Rice burner

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T-Mobile's 1985 Corolla Sport GT-S coupé "Poser Mobile" advertisements exploited ethnic stereotypes and stereotypes of customized East Asian cars as failed imitations of "authentic" car culture.[1]

Rice burner is a pejorative term originally applied to Japanese motorcycles and which later expanded to include Japanese cars or any East Asian-made vehicles.[2][3][4][5] Variations include rice rocket, referring most often to Japanese superbikes, rice machine, rice grinder or simply ricer.[3][6][7]

Riced out is an adjective denigrating a badly customized sports compact car, "usually with oversized or ill-matched exterior appointments".[8] Rice boy is a US derogatory term for the driver or builder of an import-car hot rod.[4] The terms may disparage cars or car enthusiasts as imposters or wanna-bes, using cheap modifications to imitate the appearance of high performance.

The term is often defined as offensive or racist stereotyping.[9][10] In some cases, users of the term assert that it is not offensive or racist,[11][12] or else treat the term as a humorous, mild insult rather than a racial slur.[13][14][15]

Early usage 1917 to 1930s[edit]

Examples of "rice burner" used literally, meaning one who burns rice or rice fields, as in stubble burning, date to 1917.[16] In 1935 it appeared in a US newspaper caption in with a racial connotation, disparaging East Asian people.[16]

Korean War early 1950s[edit]

Canadian troops in the Korean War initially referred to the Korean labor and support unit providing their food, water, ammunition and other supplies as "G Company" which was short for the racist slur gook.[12][16] They quickly became known instead as "rice burners," due to the Canadians' admiration for their Korean support unit's demonstrated strength and stamina in carrying 55 lb (25 kg) loads over rough terrain, sometimes in snow and ice.[12] While dehumanizing the Koreans as machines that ran on rice was a form of contempt, it was condescendingly approved by the men serving at the time as an improvement over the word it replaced.[12] Comparably, Alaskan slang for a sled dog is "fish burner," as in a beast of burden that runs on fish.[17][18]

UK 1960s[edit]

"Rice-burner" appeared in the British motorcycling magazine The Motor Cycle in 1966 as a generally disparaging term for Japanese motorcycles.[2]

US 1970s[edit]

By the 1970s, rice burner was a US English slang term for the Vietnamese people during and after the Vietnam War.[16] It was used in the US by "Detroit loyalists" to disparage more economical Japanese competitors of the US car industry during the 1970s energy crisis.[19] It continued to appear in US publications through the 2002 to as a put-down for Japanese and other Asian cars.[16]

UK 1980s[edit]

"The Rice Burner" was a turbocharged Kawasaki Z1000-engined drag-bike, built and raced by North Coventry Kawasaki, a retail motorcycle business in Coventry, England, specializing in turbocharged conversion kits for street and competition machines procured from Jack O'Malley, of Orient Express, New York.[20]

Poser stereotype[edit]

T-Mobile's 2005 "Poser Mobile" parody advertisements created a stereotypical caricature "rice burner" or "boy racer" car as perceived by critics of the import scene, along with such cars' drivers, whose appearance and behavior is comically aspirational and "phony", contrasted with people whose clothing, speech, and cars are more "authentic".[1][21] The video, online and point-of-purchase display ad campaign, created by the Publicis agency's Seattle office, was about the "Poser Mobile Posse", including "Big Spenda Lopez", "The Fee Jones", "25 cent Chang" who are weak imitations of both real hip hop performers and a "real" mobile phone provider.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tanz, Jason (2011), Other People's Property: A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, pp. 179–180, ISBN 978-1608196531
  2. ^ a b
    • Motor Cycle 17 November 1966 pp.674–675 You Say This. "Won't last. ...Many a rice burner will be clapped out within four or five years, but the Tiger 90 would last about 12 years. Paul Ayres, Woking, Surrey". Accessed 4 May 2015
    • Motor Cycle 1 December 1966 pp.740–742 You Say This. "Challenge on. I was interested to see the correspondence regarding the Triumph T90 and the Suzuki Super Six and the challenge issued...Having sold and serviced many Triumphs and Suzukis, I feel qualified to act without bias. Had Paul Ayres (17 November) the experience of both makes, such as comes the way of a dealer with 16 years in the trade, he would not refer to the finest two-fifty motorcycle yet manufactured as a rice burner. K.R. Harris, Aitchanbee Motor Cycles, Harrow Weald, Middlesex." Accessed 4 May 2015
    • Motor Cycle 22 December 1966 pp.834–835 You Say This. "Proof. We do not consider the Suzuki Super Six to be a rice-burner. Indeed, after it has drunk its petrol, it will have little appetite for anything else. A two-fifty which needs a gallon of petrol every 47 miles to travel at 60 mph must be the ultimate in low efficiency. P.J. Worsnop, P. Woollven, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottingham". Accessed 16 June 2015
  3. ^ a b Dictionaries and glossaries:
  4. ^ a b Breitenstein, Jeff; Paiva, Troy (2004), Ultimate Hot Rod Dictionary, MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company, p. 170, ISBN 978-0-7603-1823-2
  5. ^ "You might be a rice rocket jockey if. (Pony Tales).", Mustang Monthly, vol. 25, no. 5, p. 14, May 2002
  6. ^ Matebese, Lerato (19 November 2009), "Driving Impression. Putting Godzilla through its paces", Business Day, Johannesburg, South Africa
  7. ^ Palladino, D. J. (9–16 April 2009), "Formula Racing", Santa Barbara Independent, vol. 23, no. 169, Santa Barbara, California, p. 119
  8. ^ Palmisano, Trey (4 March 2010), "Toyota enthusiast embraces tuner culture", The Washington Examiner, Washington, D.C., archived from the original (HighBeam) on 18 May 2013, retrieved 22 September 2012
  9. ^ Green, Jonathon (2005), Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (2nd ed.), Sterling Publishing Company, p. 1189, ISBN 978-0-304-36636-1
  10. ^ Herbst, Philip (1997), The color of words: an encyclopedic dictionary of ethnic bias in the United States, Intercultural Press, p. 199, ISBN 978-1-877864-97-1
  11. ^ Pierson, Melissa Holbrook (1998), The Perfect Vehicle: What Is It About Motorcycles, W. W. Norton & Company, p. 166, ISBN 0-393-31809-5
  12. ^ a b c d Watson, Brent Byron (2002), "Rice Burners and KATCOMs", Far Eastern tour: the Canadian infantry in Korea, 1950-1953, McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, pp. 65–66, ISBN 978-0-7735-2372-2
  13. ^ Ubinas, Helen (14 March 1999), "Motorcyclists Reclaim Youth With Hog-Wild Week In Florida; [7 Hartford North Final Edition]", The Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, p. A.1
  14. ^ "Spinning 'Rice Burners' Into Gold", The New York Times, New York, N.Y., p. D.10, 26 July 2004, retrieved 9 May 2011
  15. ^ Heald, Bill (15 June 2003), "Bike Speak; The Collected Lingo Of The Road Warrior", The Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, p. 14
  16. ^ a b c d e "Rice burner". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  17. ^ Blevins, Winfred (2001), Dictionary of the American West: over 5,000 terms and expressions from Aarigaa! to Zopilote (2nd ed.), Sasquatch Books, ISBN 978-1-57061-304-3
  18. ^ Gumbel, Andrew (27 August 2003), "Wings of desire; Harley-Davidson, the world's best-known two-wheeled brand, is 100 years old, and celebrating noisily. But is it still the epitome of youthful rebellion - or just a midlife-crisis plaything for the wealthy?", The Independent, London, UK, p. 2.3, retrieved 9 May 2011
  19. ^ Krebs, Michelle (19 October 2001), "Aging With Boomers, The Accord Turns 25", The New York Times, p. F1, retrieved 9 May 2011
  20. ^
    • Motorcycle News 5 May 1982, p.39 "Follow the Rice Burner. Get your own at NCK. GPz550H1 Turbo built and developed for the road by NCK Performance Dept. POA". Accessed 13 January 2020
    • Motorcycle News 3 November 1982, p.32 The Mighty Middleweight. Boost your power — and ego — with a turbo. "Not wanting to be left out of the turbo cult, a Kawasaki dealer in Coverntry is importing kits from America and offering Big K's GP550 with the blower bolted on and ready to go...". Accessed 13 January 2020
  21. ^ Solman, Gregory (31 March 2005), "Publicis' Teen Gang Mugs for T-Mobile", Adweek  – via Gale General OneFile (subscription required)
  22. ^ Light, Claire (27 June 2005), "The "T" in "T-Mobile is for WTF?", Hyphen


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