Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?
A very memorable line of children’s nursery rhyme verse, but years later, having taught it to my daughter, it’s occurred to me that I don’t even realize what it means! Not only that but what are its origins? And could it even be racist?
Well after a cursory check on the net it looks like my concerns appear to be justified!
Because the origin of the verse can be traced back to the 19th century when British colonial soldiers used it to describe members of an East African nomadic tribe called the Hadendoa.
The term caught on and was later used to denote tribal peoples in places like Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Legendary British poet Rudyard Kipling – who wrote The Jungle Book in 1894 – even penned a short poem called 'Fuzzy Wuzzy' in 1918, paying tribute to the fighting abilities of this gutsy African tribe:
We've fought with many men acrost the seas,
An' some of 'em was brave an' some was not:
The Paythan an' the Zulu an' Burmese;
But the Fuzzy was the finest o' the lot.
Yep, the British soldiers must have been shocked by the flamboyant and unusual appearance of the “fuzzy Wuzzy” warriors. But then again, did they ever think to consider what the “Fuzzy Wuzzy” thought of THEM?