Don't throw around these seemingly innocent words and phrases that have horrible origins. These familiar terms derive from stereotypes, slurs, and bigotry, so wipe them from your vocabulary.
Even the 80s John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club, uses the phrase "Basket Case" to describe Ally Sheedy's social outcast character. The term actually comes from WWI slang—and refers to soldiers who were so seriously injured you could fit them in a basket. So think twice before you toss this uncompassionate term around. Even The Breakfast Club teens knew it was mean.
You might think this is a cute thing to say to someone you haven't seen for a while. It actually derives from the greeting of a Native American man talking to early settlers. Non-native English speakers, or anyone new to a language, will make these kinds of errors in syntax. "No can do" is a similar phrase that's said to derive from Chinese "broken" English. Both are unkind phrases to use.
你一定认为对好久不见的人说这个短语非常有爱。实际上，这个短语起源于美国土著人对早期殖民者的问候。非英语母语者或任何语言的初学者都会在句法上犯这种错误。类似的短语还有“No can do”（字面意思为“不能做”），起源于中式英语。这两个短语都很不友好。
You might say you got "gypped" if you get ripped off, but the term is said to refer to Gypsies. In that sense, the term derives from stereotyping this ethnic group as thieves and swindlers. Don't use it.
Experts find the origins of the term "ghetto" to be particularly mysterious. Ghettos were the mandated locations for the ethnic segregation of Jews under the Nazi regime during WWII. In America, the term became associated with poor areas with non-white residents. Now, it's a bigoted term that gets tossed around to mean low-class.
There's a lot of controversy around the origins of this term. You know it to mean a generally accepted principle. It's said to derive from laws in England and America dating back to the 1600s. These laws are said to have stated that a man could beat his wife with any stick no wider than his thumb. Hence, the rule of thumb. Scholars have searched but they can't find any precise proof for this origin. That doesn't mean that domestic violence isn't a problem.
You're probably happy if you get "grandfathered in" to a clause on your cell phone plan that has extra value. The grandfather clause usually means you get the benefits of an earlier "generation." However, the term originates with the practice of allowing voters in southern states easier voting conditions if they had a grandpa who had voted before 1867. Guess who didn't have those relatives? Black voters, because their grandpas were slaves. This term refers to an ugly and unfair history in voter disenfranchisement that continues today.
This is the slang term used for a police van that picked up folks who got arrested. Paddy was a derogatory term for anyone Irish. And drawing on the stereotype that they Irish are drunkards and hooligans, "paddy wagon" referred to Irish guys getting into trouble with the law. Ethnic stereotypes, like all Irish are drunks, aren't cool.
If you say you were "sold down the river," you mean that someone betrayed you. That isn't a very enlightened way to express that sentiment because it derives from America's history of slavery. Slaves were sold "down river" as punishment where they would experience harsher conditions—and be separated from family and loved ones. Nothing compares to such dehumanizing anguish, so don't equate your suffering to that of slaves.
如果你用 “sold down the river”这个短语，说明你被某个人背叛了。这不是表达这种心情的明智之选，因为它起源于美国的奴隶历史。奴隶被卖到“河下游”是一种惩罚，意味着他们会有更苛刻的生存条件，还要和家人和心爱的人分开。没有什么比这种非人的待遇还要痛苦了，所以别将你的遭遇和奴隶的遭遇相提并论。
The word hysterical derives from the Greek word for uterus. It usually gets tossed around as a description for emotional women and feeds into the sexist stereotype that women are "naturally" crazy. Doctors had a bunch of weird ideas about the biology of women that they used to rationalize sexist beliefs. These ideas still have influence today. When it comes to gender, the usual advice doesn't apply.
In the early-twentieth century, "moron" was the term given to folks with a learning disability. The term originates as a word meaning "stupid" in ancient Greek. Its history is cruel, so stay away from tossing this around.
You may think "Eenie Meenie" is an innocent children's rhyme to help kids count off or to choose someone to be "it." You've probably even recited the little verse yourself numerous times. "Catch a tiger by the toe," seems harmless. Until you find out that "tiger" is a fairly recent replacement for the original term. Which was the N-word.
Imbecile derives from the Latin term for weak. That is, it refers to just the type of people who need society's compassion and care. Instead, the term was chosen by psychologists for people with cognitive disabilities. Now, it's thrown around to mean stupid. It's a bullying term, and we need to work to end rampant bullying.