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#1
Old 06-05-2017, 08:04 PM
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Origin of "Jungle Fever"?

Most people know the term, jungle fever, to mean attraction between black and white people. But where does this term come from? On it's face, it doesn't really make sense. What is it about a jungle that helps explain black/white sexual attraction? I don't get it. Hence the question.
#2
Old 06-05-2017, 08:07 PM
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Disparaging term, monkeys come from the jungle.
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#3
Old 06-05-2017, 08:10 PM
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I always assumed it was a racial slur in the sense that "Black people come from the jungle because they are subhuman monkeys" way that bigots like to use.
#4
Old 06-05-2017, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
Disparaging term, monkeys come from the jungle.
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Originally Posted by snfaulkner View Post
I always assumed it was a racial slur in the sense that "Black people come from the jungle because they are subhuman monkeys" way that bigots like to use.
Ahhhh, thank you! Ignorance fought, I had no idea.
#5
Old 06-05-2017, 08:17 PM
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I think it has something to do with "The Law of the Jungle," as opposed to civilized society. You can sleep with anyone you want, and without the benefit of clergy. The "Law of the Jungle" is also cited when in crisis situations, people steal food from other people, or break other laws of society, because society has broken down due to the crisis.
#6
Old 06-05-2017, 08:20 PM
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That's what that means

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Originally Posted by snfaulkner View Post
I always assumed it was a racial slur in the sense that "Black people come from the jungle because they are subhuman monkeys" way that bigots like to use.
I've heard that term a lot when I was a teen and I never used it because I thought it was distasteful and possibly racist. If what you say is true, I'm glad my suspicions of the term were correct.
#7
Old 06-05-2017, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by anomalous1 View Post
I've heard that term a lot when I was a teen and I never used it because I thought it was distasteful and possibly racist. If what you say is true, I'm glad my suspicions of the term were correct.
I've always assumed the term comes from this connection, that black people are from the jungle. See the term "jungle bunny" for black person, for example. Or a parallel construction in the term "yellow fever" (Asian fetishization.)
#8
Old 06-05-2017, 09:19 PM
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Jungle is from Hindi jangal; it means uncultivated land, particularly heavily grown or overgrown uncultivated land. It came into English in the late 18th century. It wasn't until the second half of the nineteenth century that it came to be applied to such land in Africa.

Jungle fever in the nineteenth century was any remitting/relapsing fever associated with tropical countries, particularly malaria.

I don't know when it first acquired the sense of sexual attraction to a black person. I've only ever come across it in this sense in the title of the 1991 Spike Lee film; it may be an Americanism.
#9
Old 06-05-2017, 10:41 PM
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I thought it was much earlier than the Spike Lee film, but a search only brought up one result, although it's a goodie.

Quote:
Jungle Fever
Jean-Paul Goude

New York City: Xavier Moreau, 1981.
ISBN: 0937950017
Condition: Nr Fine. Minor tears to DJ
hardcover
150 pgs, 10 x 12 inches

Jungle Fever is a classic eighties style book; an autobiographical work based upon Goude's unashamed erotic fascination for black and Latino women and style. A highly imaginative and totally original book it contains some of the most penetrating icons of the eighties including many of Grace Jones and Toukie Smith.
#10
Old 06-05-2017, 10:52 PM
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There is also the 1971 song https://google.com/search?client...w=1024&bih=729

I've got jungle fever, she's got jungle fever
We've got jungle fever, we're in love
She's gone black-boy crazy, I've gone white-girl hazy
Ain't no thinking maybe, we're in love
She's got jungle fever, I've got jungle fever
We've got jungle fever, we're in love
I've gone white-girl crazy, she's gone black-boy hazy
We're each other's baby, we're in love...

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 06-05-2017 at 10:55 PM.
#11
Old 06-05-2017, 10:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambivalid View Post
Most people know the term, jungle fever, to mean attraction between black and white people. But where does this term come from? On it's face, it doesn't really make sense. What is it about a jungle that helps explain black/white sexual attraction? I don't get it. Hence the question.
I'm 72 years old and pretty savvy about words and phrases. I didn't/don't know that it means "attraction between black and white people." It certainly never meant that to me in the 1950s-1990s. Still doesn't.
#12
Old 06-05-2017, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
I'm 72 years old and pretty savvy about words and phrases. I didn't/don't know that it means "attraction between black and white people." It certainly never meant that to me in the 1950s-1990s. Still doesn't.
I'm about to turn 50, and knew that phrase to mean black-white attraction for most of my life.

Grew up in NY/NE in the 1970-80s
#13
Old 06-05-2017, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
There is also the 1971 song https://google.com/search?client...w=1024&bih=729

I've got jungle fever, she's got jungle fever
We've got jungle fever, we're in love
She's gone black-boy crazy, I've gone white-girl hazy
Ain't no thinking maybe, we're in love
She's got jungle fever, I've got jungle fever
We've got jungle fever, we're in love
I've gone white-girl crazy, she's gone black-boy hazy
We're each other's baby, we're in love
Great cite. Just not in my view growing up.
#14
Old 06-05-2017, 10:59 PM
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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
Great cite. Just not in my view growing up.
Interesting- where did you grow up?
#15
Old 06-05-2017, 11:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
There is also the 1971 song https://google.com/search?client...w=1024&bih=729

I've got jungle fever, she's got jungle fever
We've got jungle fever, we're in love
She's gone black-boy crazy, I've gone white-girl hazy
Ain't no thinking maybe, we're in love
She's got jungle fever, I've got jungle fever
We've got jungle fever, we're in love
I've gone white-girl crazy, she's gone black-boy hazy
We're each other's baby, we're in love...
The lyrics quoted here are from the Stevie Wonder song Jungle Fever, which dates from 1991, not 1971. (In fact it's the title track to the Spike Lee movie.)

There is a 1971 Jungle Fever by the Chakachas, a Belgian group. While it's definitely about sex, it's hard to say that it's about race. The lyrics consist largely of moans; the few words that can be made out don't refer to race or colour.
#16
Old 06-05-2017, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by UDS View Post
The lyrics quoted here are from the Stevie Wonder song Jungle Fever, which dates from 1991, not 1971. (In fact it's the title track to the Spike Lee movie.)

There is a 1971 Jungle Fever by the Chakachas, a Belgian group. While it's definitely about sex, it's hard to say that it's about race. The lyrics consist largely of moans; the few words that can be made out don't refer to race or colour.
You're right- I was looking st both and put wrong date with the song I was quoting.
#17
Old 06-05-2017, 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by UDS View Post
The lyrics quoted here are from the Stevie Wonder song Jungle Fever, which dates from 1991, not 1971. (In fact it's the title track to the Spike Lee movie.)

There is a 1971 Jungle Fever by the Chakachas, a Belgian group. While it's definitely about sex, it's hard to say that it's about race. The lyrics consist largely of moans; the few words that can be made out don't refer to race or colour.
You're right- I was looking st both and put wrong date with the song I was quoting.

Interestingly, this cite https://english.stackexchange.com/qu...le-fever-means says it's more about Forbidden love, which black-white love was. 1991 lyrics back this concept up.

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 06-05-2017 at 11:39 PM.
#18
Old 06-05-2017, 11:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
I'm about to turn 50, and knew that phrase to mean black-white attraction for most of my life.

Grew up in NY/NE in the 1970-80s
Per Partridge's Dictonary of Slang, it doesn't mean simply black-white attraction, but rather attraction by whites to blacks (not vice versa).

Partridge gives a date of origin as 1990, but I think I heard the term well before the Spike Lee movie came out. I did not, however, hear it growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s or in college in the 1970s. All of Partridge's cites are after the movie.

Last edited by Colibri; 06-05-2017 at 11:53 PM.
#19
Old 06-05-2017, 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Per Partridge's Dictonary of Slang, it doesn't mean simply black-white attraction, but rather attraction by whites to blacks (not vice versa).

Partridge gives a date of origin as 1990, but I think I heard the term well before the Spike Lee movie came out. I did not, however, hear it growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s or in college in the 1970s.
I have vague memories of its use in late 70s early 80s, as a preteen/teen.
#20
Old 06-06-2017, 12:00 AM
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Cassell's Dictionary of Slang says the term goes back to the 60s. Since linking to Google Books can be a little wonky, here's the definition it gives:

Quote:
jungle fever n. 1 [1960s+] (US) (also black fever) the desire of Whites (usu. men) to have sex with Black partners. 2 [1990s+] (US Black) the desire of Blacks to have White partners. [the term, generally outlawed as racist in White use, changed its emphasis with the release of Spike Lee's film Jungle Fever in 1991]
#21
Old 06-06-2017, 06:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
Interesting- where did you grow up?
I am from So Cal and 68 yrs old. I think the term goes back to at least the 70's.
#22
Old 06-06-2017, 08:31 AM
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I've also heard the "yellow fever" term to refer to white men who wanted Asian women. But IIRC I heard the term "jungle fever" first, and assumed "yellow fever" was an extension of that.
Quote:
Besides, there are a billion plus non-"yellow" Asians.
Slang isn't usually clinically accurate. The term refers IME to attraction to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean women.
Quote:
Chinese and other Southeast Asians aren't actually yellow, not even slightly.
White people are pink and black people are brown. Like I said, you won't find mathematical precision in slang like this.

Welcome to the SDMB, by the way.

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#23
Old 06-06-2017, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by CheaderHeddar View Post
No. Yellow fever is an actual disease. Besides, there are a billion plus non-"yellow" Asians.
Yes, I know that. It also refers to fetishization of Asians, as I said in my post.

Quote:
Chinese and other Southeast Asians aren't actually yellow, not even slightly.
Once again, I know, but people using terms like this don't care. The way I've heard "yellow fever" since the 90s it didn't matter what part of Asia they were from. Anything from Chinese to Japanese to Thai to even sometimes Filipino.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan
I've also heard the "yellow fever" term to refer to white men who wanted Asian women. But IIRC I heard the term "jungle fever" first, and assumed "yellow fever" was an extension of that.
That would be my guess, as well, that "jungle fever" came first.

Last edited by pulykamell; 06-06-2017 at 08:48 AM.
#24
Old 06-06-2017, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
The way I've heard "yellow fever" since the 90s it didn't matter what part of Asia they were from. Anything from Chinese to Japanese to Thai to even sometimes Filipino.
Actually, I should not say it didn't matter what part of Asia they were from, as it referred to what Americans think of as "Asians," which usually does exclude South Asians and Central Asians. (I've at least once heard "curry fever" for South Asians.)
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Old 06-06-2017, 10:28 AM
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I had never heard the PHRASE "jungle fever" prior to Spike Lee's movie, but the concept is quite old. There have LONG been bourgeois white women who've fantasized about sex with black men who (they IMAGINED) were barely civilized savages, and would be aggressive animals in bed.

Ralph Ellison's protagonist deals with this in "Invisible Man." There are hints of this in "Othello. "

Last edited by astorian; 06-06-2017 at 10:29 AM.
#26
Old 06-06-2017, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by CheaderHeddar View Post
To my knowledge, there's no derogatory term for when whites boink Asians.
In the UK, I've heard the phrase 'a taste for bamboo' to describe someone who likes chinese or japanese women. Not totally derogatory, but not exactly PC either.
#27
Old 06-06-2017, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
Interestingly, this cite https://english.stackexchange.com/qu...le-fever-means says it's more about Forbidden love, which black-white love was. 1991 lyrics back this concept up.
I see one answer that suggests this. But it has no citations and the book it refers it is from 2002 and is about India. I'd say it's just another wild guess.
#28
Old 06-06-2017, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by CheaderHeddar View Post
No. Yellow fever is an actual disease.
As has previously been noted, before the mid to late 1900s "jungle fever" referred to actual tropical diseases. Words and phrases can mean more than one thing.

Quote:
Besides, there are a billion plus non-"yellow" Asians.
Irrelevant.

Quote:
To my knowledge, there's no derogatory term for when whites boink Asians.
Your knowledge is lacking. As has been documented here, the term is "yellow fever."

Quote:
If anything, it would be the Asians that think up a derogatory term since it seems a step down for them?? (Speculating)
There may well be one. But that's also irrelevant.

Quote:
Chinese and other Southeast Asians aren't actually yellow, not even slightly.
And Caucasians aren't white, either, nor are most sub-Saharan Africans really black. But East Asians are conventionally referred to as "yellow.'

Last edited by Colibri; 06-06-2017 at 11:44 AM.
#29
Old 06-06-2017, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Cassell's Dictionary of Slang says the term goes back to the 60s. Since linking to Google Books can be a little wonky, here's the definition it gives:
Cassell's didn't look hard enough.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Music by Walter Donaldson Lyrics by Howard Dietz
i got that fever that jungle fever
you know the reason that i long to go
dusky maiden dark haired siren congo sweetheart
This clip of the Mills Brothers is from the 1934 film Operator 13. In that particular context, the song wasn't about a black/white relationship, but it isn't a stretch to see where it could go.
#30
Old 06-06-2017, 12:21 PM
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I have no doubt the phrase can be found before the 60s, but it seems to have acquired the specific inter-racial meaning around that time. That's kind of an important detail.

Last edited by pulykamell; 06-06-2017 at 12:22 PM.
#31
Old 06-06-2017, 12:23 PM
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Nice find, kunilou.
#32
Old 06-06-2017, 12:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambivalid View Post
Most people know the term, jungle fever, to mean attraction between black and white people. But where does this term come from? On it's face, it doesn't really make sense. What is it about a jungle that helps explain black/white sexual attraction? I don't get it. Hence the question.
Am I the only one who thought that 'jungle fever' was basically the Europeans catching the various jungle diseases (malaria, yellow fever, the various nasty hemorrhagic fevers, dysentery and just about everything else that killed folks when they went into the jungle)? I think that's the origin, and later it was morphed to mean what the OP is getting at. I mean, I've seen references to 'jungle fever' in stories and books set long before the 1970's (hell, before the 1870's) and they weren't implying some sort of forbidden lust between the 'races', but instead just stuff you caught in the jungle that the doctors at the time had no idea what it was and lumped it together in one term. Or do I have that wrong? Certainly a Google search seems to indicate that at least the first 3 pages are about what the OP was talking about, but that seems to be how Google works these days, with what you REALLY want to know being 100 pages in.
#33
Old 06-06-2017, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by XT View Post
I think that's the origin, and later it was morphed to mean what the OP is getting at.
Yes, I can find cites back to the early 1800s that use "jungle fever" in the disease sense. I would say, yes, "jungle fever" was a set phrase referring to jungle-related diseases, and then got morphed into a euphemism about interracial relations because, well, the jungle has been associated with dark-skinned people.

Last edited by pulykamell; 06-06-2017 at 12:52 PM.
#34
Old 06-06-2017, 02:02 PM
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I would also like to bring into view as related-but-different and preceding the Spike Lee movie: Morris Day and the Time's 1983 hit "Jungle Love". The lyrics refer to the singer wanting to show the object of his affections his jungle love. Although I was young in 1983, most people at my very diverse school understood it to mean a Black man trying to seduce a non-Black woman by hinting at the stereotypical African-American sexual prowess/endowments.
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Old 06-06-2017, 05:37 PM
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What the heck? I see 3 quoted responses to CheaderHeddar but I don't see the actual post from said user. ctrl+F confirms it.
#36
Old 06-06-2017, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by snfaulkner View Post
What the heck? I see 3 quoted responses to CheaderHeddar but I don't see the actual post from said user. ctrl+F confirms it.
I notice this fairly regularly and I don't get it either. A thread will contain quotes from a poster but it won't contain the original post being quoted.
#37
Old 06-06-2017, 09:11 PM
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I notice this fairly regularly and I don't get it either. A thread will contain quotes from a poster but it won't contain the original post being quoted.
I think sometimes a sock account is cornfielded and its posts vanish with it. I think the missing poster from this thread was a recent joiner, so that's my guess.
#38
Old 06-06-2017, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by snfaulkner View Post
What the heck? I see 3 quoted responses to CheaderHeddar but I don't see the actual post from said user. ctrl+F confirms it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambivalid View Post
I notice this fairly regularly and I don't get it either. A thread will contain quotes from a poster but it won't contain the original post being quoted.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bayard View Post
I think sometimes a sock account is cornfielded and its posts vanish with it. I think the missing poster from this thread was a recent joiner, so that's my guess.
Correct. Disappeared sock.
#39
Old 06-08-2017, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Maggie the Ocelot View Post
I would also like to bring into view as related-but-different and preceding the Spike Lee movie: Morris Day and the Time's 1983 hit "Jungle Love". The lyrics refer to the singer wanting to show the object of his affections his jungle love. Although I was young in 1983, most people at my very diverse school understood it to mean a Black man trying to seduce a non-Black woman by hinting at the stereotypical African-American sexual prowess/endowments.
Black men may have VERY different reactions to being perceived by white girls as animalistic, super-virile, hypersexual jungle savages in the bedroom. Some, like Morris Day (apparently) revel in that stereotype, and are only too happy to tell white women, "I'll rape and ravage you in a way your tame, boring white husband never could."

But as I mentioned earlier, in "Invisble Man," Ralph Ellison's protagonist is horrified and insulted (and a bit amused) by the married white woman who tries to seduce him, since she doesn't really know or care abut HIM, per se. Rather she fantasizes about being taken against her will (but not really!) by a savage black male, and regards him as the fulfillment of that fantasy. To Ellison, that kind of stereotyping is exactly what makes his hero "invisible." NOBODY sees him as a real individual- only as the embodiment of an idea they already had.

Last edited by astorian; 06-08-2017 at 11:31 AM.
#40
Old 06-08-2017, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by astorian View Post
Black men may have VERY different reactions to being perceived by white girls as animalistic, super-virile, hypersexual jungle savages in the bedroom. Some, like Morris Day (apparently) revel in that stereotype, and are only too happy to tell white women, "I'll rape and ravage you in a way your tame, boring white husband never could."

But as I mentioned earlier, in "Invisble Man," Ralph Ellison's protagonist is horrified and insulted (and a bit amused) by the married white woman who tries to seduce him, since she doesn't really know or care abut HIM, per se. Rather she fantasizes about being taken against her will (but not really!) by a savage black male, and regards him as the fulfillment of that fantasy. To Ellison, that kind of stereotyping is exactly what makes his hero "invisible." NOBODY sees him as a real individual- only as the embodiment of an idea they already had.
Absolutely agreed. I do believe, though, that this indicates that the descriptor "jungle" for Black/other relationships precedes the Spike Lee film. Most of the people participating in this thread (I believe) are white and generally liberal; it may have been a more common term among those more concerned with race matters, ie the African-American and explicitly racist communities, both of whom would have more reason to discuss interracial relationships on a regular basis than the rest of the folks.

Last edited by Maggie the Ocelot; 06-08-2017 at 11:41 AM.
#41
Old 06-08-2017, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Maggie the Ocelot View Post
Absolutely agreed. I do believe, though, that this indicates that the descriptor "jungle" for Black/other relationships precedes the Spike Lee film. Most of the people participating in this thread (I believe) are white and generally liberal; it may have been a more common term among those more concerned with race matters, ie the African-American and explicitly racist communities, both of whom would have more reason to discuss interracial relationships on a regular basis than the rest of the folks.
As noted earlier in the thread, the word comes from Hindi, and it came into English via the British encounter with India. Most of the early appearances of the word in English texts are in texts dealing with India.

By the mid-nineteenth century it was being used with reference to other places - the Middle East, Southern Africa and even (figuratively) England. The earliest usages that may refer particularly to African-Americans seem to be from the early twentieth century; "jungle' became a slang term for a hoboes' camp, though this could be either because many hoboes were black, or simply because the camp as seen as a chaotic and lawless place. However, shortly after that you have the emergence of terms like "jungle music", a derogatory term for jazz, and that's definitely a racial reference.
#42
Old 06-09-2017, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I've always assumed the term comes from this connection, that black people are from the jungle. See the term "jungle bunny" for black person, for example. Or a parallel construction in the term "yellow fever" (Asian fetishization.)
Huh. I never knew 'Yellow Fever' meant anything more than a term for a mosquito-borne viral fever that causes (amongst other symptoms) jaundice in its victims.

Ignorance fought. Albeit that this other usage of the term isn't very useful to me.
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