It was reported that a sports commentator is criticized being racist for calling Japan "Land der Sushis". According to this article, he said:

Es wäre sein erster Treffer für 96 gewesen. Den letzten hat er im Land der Sushis geschossen.

As a second language learner, I have difficulty figuring out the implicit nuance besides its literal meaning: 🍣 (though I feel a little weird seeing Sushi in plural). How and to what degree does the phrase sound racist (or pejorative) in this context? Is it associated with some typical discriminatory template, or is the metonymy inappropriate for the occasion?

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    There is a very strong phonetic similarity to Land der Muschis, which means land of pussies (Weicheier). Mar 10, 2021 at 7:22
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    @BjörnFriedrich Is there? In what accent? I don’t see it. They are pronounced completely differently. Mar 10, 2021 at 21:34
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    @BjörnFriedrich The “u” has a different stress (short vs long), so the only real similarity is the “schi” ending, which isn’t very uncommon. Mar 10, 2021 at 21:46
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    That`s such a great question! I'v think about it - we really don't use plural for the food in German. So there is an answer - people tend to create idioms, phraseologies. Based on stereotypes. We talked about it in a online-Class at ifu-institut Mar 12, 2021 at 19:31

2 Answers 2


The pejorative thing is the plural because it shows that Sushi is used as a nickname for the Japanese people themselves (calling them Sushis) instead of referring to the food (as in Land des Sushis (genitive -s) 'land of sushi').

That's the same pattern as used in krauts (note the plural isn't used for the food in German either) for Germans.

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    This is the best of the current explanations. I would just add, that Land des Sushis might also be considered at least rude (if not worse), because it still would be a call to stereotype about an out-group. I think reducing a group to some stereotypic food is an expression of ignorance and disdain. Mar 10, 2021 at 8:00
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    @jonathan.scholbach It's true that it'd be unfair to reduce Japan to a dish, but at least it'd not be an ethnophaulism denigrating its people. Mar 10, 2021 at 12:00
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    Wow this is convoluted but I think I have a handle on it. If it was "the land of Sushi" (the dish) then genitive singular, des Sushis. But "sushi" is usually uncountable in English, and I assume it's the same in German, so if you're using the genitive plural der Sushis then it's not the dish but the nickname.
    – RDBury
    Mar 10, 2021 at 14:45
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    This answer is correct about the potential pejorative usage, but I'm not sure that it was the intention by the moderator. Maybe he thought just saying "Japan" would be too boring, so he thought about a descriptive thing and there is nothing wrong with that. Using the plural "die Sushis" is absolutely valid when refering to the food. Nobody would complain about "das Land der Kängurus" or "das Land der Waffeln" (Belgium).
    – Chris
    Mar 10, 2021 at 20:47
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    @broccoliforest : The common usage is uncountable Sushi as in English. The plural is, to use a kind word, "uncommon", much like "Pizzas" and "Spag(h)ettis". I agree the sports moderator was perhaps just sloppy about the plural, but who can tell? He's the one who should be cautious about this kind of thing. If it can be interpreted as racist then it will be interpreted as racist, that's how it works these days.
    – HalvarF
    Mar 12, 2021 at 19:50

Im Lande der Sushis sounds similar as im Land der Sufis (sufi = practicioner of sufism, a mystical movement within Islam). The latter might be used for some middle east country. So it's some kind of play on words. It's up to each individual whether one finds this funny.

That said, using a word for a country which is derived from some food which is considered typical for that country is often considered disrespectful, if not outright racist. Compare e.g. the term "spaghettis" for Italians.

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    I seem to be missing any logical correlation between Japan and sufism.
    – tofro
    Mar 10, 2021 at 8:21
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    This sound like trying to humilate a catholic monk by calling him a potato. When there's no connotation, there's no humilation.
    – tofro
    Mar 10, 2021 at 8:37
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    Very few Germans (and, I’d guess, even fewer sports commentators) even know of the existence of sufism. It’s quite far-fetched that this was either the intended allusion, or that it was widely (mis-) understood as such. And this isn’t even touching on the fact that, as tofro notes, there is no apparent relation to Japan. Mar 10, 2021 at 21:36
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    There is also no logical connection between "Beispiel" and "Bleistift", but this doesn't keep people from saying "zum Bleistift". Therefore, unless refuted by the commentator, I stubbornly stand by my opinion.
    – RHa
    Mar 11, 2021 at 7:31
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    @RHa That substitution is only used in one specific case, “zum Bleistift”, and in situations where everybody will automatically parse it as “zum Beispiel” due to it being a stock phrase. The substitution isn’t done (and wouldn’t work) in any other context. You couldn’t say “Diese Antwort ist ein Bleistift für fadenscheinige Argumentation“. — Nobody would understand what you’re talking about. Same when willy-nilly replacing “Sufis” with “Sushis”. What’s more, “zum Beispiel“ makes sense. “Land der Sufis” (to refer to Japan) doesn’t. Mar 11, 2021 at 8:42

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