The German term "BEN"

by Lawrence
(Ontario, California, USA)

Hi Joanna

I just recently heard the term "BEN" (which stands for "Betriebs Eigener Neger"). This sounded like an insult and, if so, is this more of an insult for a white person being called this name or for black people in general? I ask to understand the thinking of anyone using such a name. Thanks...

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Betriebs Eigener Neger (BEN)
by: Joanna

Hi Lawrence

I see you searched for the term on the web ? I found your dict.cc entry and the answer from Wenz which I think is about right:

...Ein betriebseigener Neger ist zum Beispiel ein Arbeiter oder Angestellter, der "Service"-Arbeiten macht, die sehr schnell erledigt werden müssen. Zum Beispiel früher der Schreibmaschinenreparateur oder in der heutigen Zeit halt der Computerspezialist, der ganz schnell kommt, wenn ich ihn "anpiepse" (denn meistens sind diese Leute ja unterwegs bei anderen "Notfällen")...

I also found Betriebs Eigener Neger used in a discussion forum which suggests rather more negative undertones - someone at the bottom of an organisation?s food chain and thus required to carry out menial/boring tasks/at the drop of a hat/for little recognition/pay. I think the colour or race of the person being referred to as a BEN is certainly secondary to their social position.

My (Austrian) husband had never heard of it, and I suspect it might be somewhat outdated. In any case, not exactly PC and not very commonly used.

Hope this helps!
Cheers

Joanna


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