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I have two options when knowing a taboo word: either I keep it as taboo or I ask, if I want to understand a pair of fine points of German. Whence this question, which is mostly based on a presentiment. I hope to be not offensive.

Running a search one finds that great percentage of the non-anglicisms ending in -a(c)ke have a not so very nice meaning (except, perhaps, der Krake [octopus]): Kacke, Kloake, Kakerlake, and so on.

I spotted two very particular words, which are tagged as 'ultramega-offensive', namely Kanake and Polacke?

About the first word:

Kanake ist in neuerer Zeit in Deutschland eine Bezeichnung für Einwanderer mit südländischem Aussehen. In der Frühphase der Anwerbung von Gastarbeitern in den 1970er Jahren oft gegen Italiener, Spanier und Griechen verwendet, zielt der Ausdruck heute meist auf Menschen arabischer, persischer, türkischer, kurdischer sowie süd- und südosteuropäischer Abstammung.Kanake als Schimpfwort

About the second:

Abwandlung der polnischen Eigenbezeichnung Polak bzw. Polackei für Polen.

Question: Is the -ake ending causing the pejorative-effect here? If not, what is so offensive? If it's not the ending, then saying Latino to people from Latin America would be, following the last criterion given in here, very very offensive as well (which is not my impression of that word; the dicc.cc confirms in not tagging the word as pejorative).

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

No. This is a coincidence.

  • Polacke is derived from the actual Polish word for a Polish person (probably a common Slawish suffix, cf. Slowake, Bosniake)
  • Kanacke was derived by 19th century sailors from the Polynesian word "kanaka" meaning "Human".
  • Kloake is based on Latin cloaca.
  • Krake was taken directly from Norwegian or Danish.
  • Perfectly neutral counterexamples: Salzlake, Bake, Backe, Pastinake

As for what causes the two specific words to be offensive: the fact that they have been widely used pejoratively. After all, the dreaded English N-word is just a modified word for the color black, and "bigger" certainly is not pejorative...

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You’re mixing up /-akə/ and /-aːkə/ here. Many of these (i.e. all non-simplex) words are also xenisms. Another phonologically related insult is native Spacken, by the way.

Since Polacke and Kanacke are mostly used in a derogative way currently, {<-acke>, /-akə/} might become a productive morpheme, but there are few actual attested cases of that, e.g. Franzacke for a French person (Franzose) whereas Itaker for Italians (Italiener) has different roots.

Likewise, {<-öse> or <-euse>, /-øːzə/}, derived from gallicisms Frisöse and Massöse, is slowly becoming productive as a derogative morpheme for women applied to masculine bases ending in <-eur>/<-ör> or even <-er> and <-or>, e.g. *Ingenieuse vs. Ingenieur+in – that has as little to do with rhyming Möse as your examples with Kacke.

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