Sandra – told Mrs. Smell – that Daddy's a big – sloppy – kike.

This is a sentence from Salinger's story Down at the Dinghy. On the Internet it is often interpreted as the evidence of the innocence of the child who pronounced it. The hero here allegedly confuses "kike" with "kite". But both "kike" and "kite" are after all derogatory terms for a Jew. So where is the point of confusion of these words?

  • 4
    If "kite" is also a derogatory term for Jews, it must be so only through association with "kike", which is the "primary" derogatory term with this root. The main meaning of "kite" is not "Jew", while the main meaning of "kike" is. – CowperKettle Sep 20 '15 at 13:45
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    Since you seem to have missed CopperKettle's point: as far as I know, "kite" is not generally recognized as a derogatory term for Jews, although I'm sure some folk will get cute and use it in the knowledge that the similarity with "kike" will make the meaning plain. – WhatRoughBeast Sep 21 '15 at 2:20
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    Nobody says "kite" to insult Jews unless in some fictional Cockney-slang parallel universe. The whole premise of the question is ridiculous. And by the way, let's just all throw offensive words around without a second thought. – whywasinotconsulted Apr 28 '16 at 21:22
  • @whywasinotconsulted There's something to be said for getting it or not. There's a method to the madness here,on the writer's part. – Lambie Mar 11 '19 at 16:09

Children often mistake one word for another.

There is another somewhat famous novel called The World According to Garp by John Irving where a child mistakes the term undertow (at the beach) for undertoad, a toad that lives under the water.

undertoad and undertow

The word kite is not a derogatory term for a Jew. The child only knew the word kite so he didn't use the derogatory term at all. Only an adult who is familiar with the term will laugh precisely for that reason even though the term kike is very derogatory. It is the adult listener who substitutes the word given the rest of the phrase.

The idea that a Jew is kite, as understood by a child, is what creates the humor. Though one might say it is black humor, as the term one has to substitute is nasty.

This mishearing by kids is an example of a mondegreen:

One well-known example:

The national anthem of the United States is highly susceptible (especially for young grade-school students) to the creation of mondegreens, two in the first line. Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner" begins with the line: "O say can you see, by the dawn's early light."[23] This has been accidentally and deliberately misinterpreted as "Jose, can you see", another example of the Hobson-Jobson effect, countless times.[24][25] The second half of the line has been misheard as well, as "by the donzerly light"[26] or other variants. This has led to many people believing that "donzerly" is an authentic word.[27]



The word play is clear because right after relaying his story about the "big sloppy kike", the child is asked if he knew the what the word "kike" meant. To which the boy responds that it's one of those things that go up in the air. That you hold by a string.

So the boy doesn't know the difference between "kite" and "kike", but was still wise enough to be greatly offended.

  • The boy is not offended at all. The boy is being offensive without realizing it. That's why it's funny. – Lambie Mar 11 '19 at 15:45
  • It's not the difference between the words, it's the meaning of one of them that he doesn't know. – Victor B. Mar 11 '19 at 15:48

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