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. Variations include rice rocket, referring most often to Japanese superbikes, rice machine, rice grinder or simply ricer.
Riced out is an adjective denigrating a badly customized sports compact car, "usually with oversized or ill-matched exterior appointments". Rice boy is a US derogatory term for the driver or builder of an import-car hot rod. The terms may disparage cars or car enthusiasts as imposters, or wanna-bes, using cheap modifications to imitate appearance of high performance.
The term is often defined as offensive or racist stereotyping. In some cases users of the term assert that it is not offensive or racist, or else treat the term as a humorous, mild insult rather than a racial slur.
Early usage 1917 to 1930s
Examples of "rice burner" used literally, meaning one who burns rice or rice fields, as in stubble burning, date to 1917. In 1935 it appeared in a US newspaper caption in with a racial connotation, disparaging East Asian people.
Korean War early 1950s
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. 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. 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. Comparably, Alaskan slang for a sled dog is "fish burner," as in a beast of burden that runs on fish.
By the 1970s, rice burner was a US English slang term for the Vietnamese people during and after the Vietnam War. 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. It continued to appear in US publications through the 2002 to as a put-down for Japanese and other Asian cars.
"The Rice Burner" was a turbocharged Kawasaki Z1000-engined drag-bike, built and raced by North Coventry Kawsaki, a retail motorcycle business in Coventry, England, specialising in turbocharged conversion kits for street and competition machines procured from Jack O'Malley, of Orient Express, New York.
T-Mobile's circa 2005 "Poser Mobile" advertisements created a stereotypical caricature "rice burner" or "boy racer" car as perceived by critics of the import scene, along with such cars' ethnically stereotypical Asian and Latino drivers, whose appearance and behavior is comically aspirational and "phony", contrasted with African-Americans and whites whose clothing, speech, and cars are racially-coded as more "authentic".
- Ah Beng (Singapore/Malaysia)
- antonym: sleeper
- Boy racer (UK term)
- Car tuning
- Import scene
- Street racing
- Tanz, Jason (2011), Other People's Property: A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, pp. 179–180, ISBN 1608196534
- 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
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- 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
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He's a master tuner of Vincents, a defunct and legendary British motorcycle brand – bikes that were the fastest production machines before the era of the Hayabusa and other 'rice burner' 'crotch rockets.'
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. Classic owners from all three areas are invited and you don't have to own a rice burner to compete; there are prizes for best British and European as well as best in show and runners up.
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If nothing else, the cross-generational bonding as they attempt to unravel what happened decades ago provides fertile ground for GTO-friendly dialogue: 'Maybe along the way, you might learn something about real cars,' Ronnie grumbles at one point, referring to Matt's import as a 'rice-burner.'
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Moline races a 'rice burner,' the label applied to the tiny import cars mostly from Japan. His 1992, turbo-charged AMC Eagle Talon was manufactured by Mitsubishi.
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Looking back at the first Datsun trucks and Toyota sedans to arrive in the United States in the late 1950s, it is easy to see why purists bristled at any suggestion that these ungainly Japanese 'rice burners might be collectible some day.
- Miller, John Mark (13 July 2010), "Schools; family; American cars (letters to the editor)", The Charleston Gazette, archived from the original on 24 May 2013, retrieved 22 September 2012,
Editor: This letter is directed at all those people who just had to buy a Japanese car: Laid off? Hungry? Eat your rice burner!
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