On name changes and accidental racism

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Today I’m here to talk about one of the characters from my book. He is a Frimbian alien, meaning he is toad-like, slimy, has spawn, loves to eat moss and assorted bugs, etc. He shows up in one scene, and is referred to later on in the book — his purpose is partially to move the plot forward, but mostly just there to make the reader laugh and go, “Ew, slimy alien! Gross!”

His name is Minister Gook.

Now, I chose the name because I thought it sounded amusing. Any word with an “oo” sound is fun, so I stuck some consonants on either end and called it a day. And everything was fine, until a friend bought my book, read it, and noted that the word “gook” is actually a derogatory term toward people of Korean descent.

Well, crud.

Obviously, I hadn’t intended my little toad-alien’s name to be a racist slur. It was just a silly-sounding word I’d put together, because apparently I’m really not up on my racist terminology. Yay me? Anyway, a couple of people have mentioned it since the book was published, but no one gave me a hard time about it — it was more of an FYI, as in hey, did you know you were accidentally racist?

Now, I’m planning on re-releasing Imminent Danger in a few months with a shiny new cover. I’ll also be going through the book and making a few minor text edits — adding/deleting commas and such. One thing I’m thinking of doing is changing Minister Gook’s name, because I really don’t want to offend anyone. But then I thought: is it actually offensive? After all, if you Google the word, another definition comes up as well: any sticky, greasy, or slimy substance.

So the questions I put to you are:

  • Should I change Minister Gook’s name when I re-release my book?
  • If you’ve read the book, did his name strike you as rude/inappropriate, or was it just an amusing-sounding name?

Thanks in advance for any and all input!


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Categories: Writing | Tags: | 29 Comments

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29 thoughts on “On name changes and accidental racism

  1. What about Glook or Blugh, or Blurber, or Sminey. I have no idea if those are “bad” words but they sound gross.

    • All excellent suggestions! I’m sure I can come up with a suitably disgusting name — I guess I was just trying to figure out if I *need* to change the name. Which I’m about 85% sure I do 🙂

  2. I’d probably change it to be safe. I’m with you on not knowing a lot of racist terminology. I guess unintentional slips happen.

  3. I associate “gook” with the war in Viet Nam. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice the name when I read your book, so I wouldn’t have noticed if it changed. As long as you’re rereleasing an edited version you might as well change it. I like “Glook”.

    • Glook’s good! Yeah, I figure that I might as well change it — no sense in worrying about offending people if I’m re-releasing it. Good call 🙂

  4. I didn’t even notice it, but if people are mentioning it, I’d change it.

    That comic thing… so perfect!

    • Yeah, the vast majority of people didn’t notice it either, but a couple sadly did mention it. And it’s good that they brought it up now!

  5. Oh dear, Michelle the accidental racist… I’m sorry, I just can’t stop laughing at the absurdity of the situation! Still, since people apparently recognize the word (it was news to me, yea us), I’d change it. Glook or Goop, I guess. 🙂

    • Hahaha I know, right? When my friend told me, I was like … really? Are you sure? I didn’t actually believe him that it was a derogatory word, so I had to Google it before I’d take his word for it. Will probably change it — Glook is good! The L gives it a slimy feel, I think.

  6. David Emprimo

    Change it to “Glook” and blame the original “mistake” on the typesetter. Then delete this post to destroy the “paper” trail. 😉

  7. Yes, change it. That word is comparable to the N word. Trust me, I know, I’m Asian.

  8. I would have read it as rhyming with “book,” not “duke,” which is the vowel sound of the slur. But yeah, when non-Asian people say that word in reference to an Asian person, it’s pretty nasty.

    • Eek. See, you learn something every day! I’ll change it, and I’ll have to Google it so I make sure I’m not accidentally offending anyone, lol.

  9. Tough call. But if you were going to make edits anyway and it’s a minor character than I’d probably change it.

  10. Jimena C

    When I first encountered Gook’s name I kind of misread it, and “Minister Gook” ended up being “Minister Good”, which was really amusing becasue Gook was anything but “good”. Anyway, as I seriously doubt others will misread the name, maybe you should change it.

    • Yeah, probably a good plan 🙂 Minister Good, eh? That’s very interesting! It’s certainly an ironic name … although I think I’ll stick with something slimy sounding, like Glook.

  11. I dunno. I might have thought every mention of Minister Gook made not even the slightest reference to anything even remotely Korean you could leave it but if you want to keep well away from the fence, maybe change it.
    Roll a coin or toss some dice. 🙂

  12. I honestly hadn’t noticed at all–it took reading your whole post to realize what the problem was. I guess I am also not up-to-date on my racial slur terminology? But probably to be safe it wouldn’t hurt to change it, if you don’t mind. I like the aforementioned ‘Glook’, just because it still evokes the same images, and is close to the original, but isn’t the same as the racially-sensitive one.

    • That’s probably what I’ll go with. And yeah, I get the feeling it isn’t an oft-used term anymore, which is why I’d never heard of it. But older readers will certainly recognize it, so better to be safe than sorry!

      • That’s what I figure! Especially since you’re going in to do some edits anyway. Just another reason my original-edition copy will be even MORE special!!

  13. As you’re making changes anyway, I would err on the side of caution and make the change. Safer in the long run. Glook sounds like a good compromise 🙂

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