04 September 2008

Turning Japanese, I Really Think So

At the urging of a friend, I post this story. My childhood stories are fairly entertaining, so I've been told. Gird your loins, this is a good one.

As a teenager I had a huge sweet tooth. While this is not news, there was a time when my sweet tooth was a problem. Not cavities or lbs. mind you, but clonked on the head with a shovel and left for dead.

This trip down memory lane is made possible by those gloriously golden pieces of goodness called Coffee Nips. You see, in high school I lived on a steady diet of Coffee Nips, caffeine, and McDonalds. Have you seen these below? They are pretty much coffee-flavored crack.

Nips are the most perfect, mouth-watering, substance on earth. So euphoric in fact, that there was never a time that I wouldn't walk miles to the store solely to replenish my stockpile.

On one occasion, my sister and I needed a fix. Wide-eyed, we drooled with anticipation over our upcoming sugar coma. The store nearby wasn't our usual 7-11 but when you are jonesin' for candy, do you care? I assure you, you do not.

This was a little corner store, with the usual convenience goodies: coffee, gum, beer, soda, and ancient groceries at quadruple the typical costs. The store was clean, well stocked and run by a very kind, yet very animated Asian couple. They spoke broken English but it was enough to communicate with their customers. She usually ran the cash register while he was perpetually in and out of the back room while talking to her intermittently in Japanese.

We searched up and down their little isles for our candy. My sister inquired of the woman, "Do you have any Coffee Nips?"

The woman looked at us blankly. She just stood there and said nothing.

~awkward silence~

"Coffee Nips?" my sister repeated herself. The gentleman in the back walked out and stood next to his wife. Neither answered and continued to stare at us blankly.

This was the problem:

- noun
Definition: Delectable candy often desired by clueless teens.

See also

 - noun
Definition: Highly derogatory slang term for a person of Japanese descent. It is derived from "Nippon", the Japanese term for Japan. Usage in this context probably peaked around the time of WWII.

Can you see where this is going?

My sister and I glanced at each other and seeing I was the older and wiser, I take over hoping to get through to the shop owner. In all my teenage wisdom, I immediately came under the impression that her lack of response, odd expression, and foreign, I needed to speak LOUDER and SLOOOOWER.

in·san·i·ty - noun
Definition: To do the same action over and over again hoping for a different outcome at each attempt.

"DOOO YOOOU HAVE ANY COOOFFEE NIPS?" I tried asking, enunciating every syllable and speaking louder than my sister's previous inquiry.

By this time her husband's blank look has turned into a full on glare. They start talking quietly to each other in Japanese.

"What is their problem?" I thought to myself.

"No," He declared emphatically as he motioned us away with the flip of his hand.

"Okay. Thanks," was all I could muster, still puzzled by his odd reply. We paid for our sodas in ignorant bliss and made our way out.

If I had been, say 40 years older, I might have understood the cultural faux paus we had committed. The sweet, little Japanese couple thought they heard, "Do you have any coffee, Nips?"

Now older and wiser, I cringe when I buy a box of Coffee Nips. It's a funny, but an uncomfortable reminder that commas do make all the difference.

~Bee has been enlightened and fully embraces cultural diversity.
Listening to: Turning Japanese by The Vapors


ancient one said...

Well, well, I learned something new today... ha ha... have I ever told you, that you are sooo funny!! :)

Millie said...

This is a most unfortunate story. I feel for you on this one.

I knew "nip" was a racial slur but I figured your story had more to do with nipples or something down that line.

So, did you get your Nips that day?

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Oh ouch! I am just wincing here.

A useful piece of info too - I had no idea.

holly said...

LOL, although i was uninformed about this particular slang word.

i am happier *not* knowing if you got your nips out...

sarahgrace said...

Oh my... I did not know about that! I have been enlightened myself today...will never say that to person of Japanese descent...WHew!

Jen - Queen of Poo said...

This is the second post in two days I've read about coffee nips and nips in general. Something in the air?

eyes_only4him said...


I never heard the term Nip as a derogatory Japense term..I just learned suptin new..

u nuaghty girl..

Ed (zoesdad) said...

I can appreciate the value of a well place comma.

So these nips--do they contain caffeine or just sucrose?

Jo Beaufoix said...

Nooooo, that must have been awful for them but you were completely innocent. Now when we talk about nips, we mean, you know, 'nipples', and when the whether is chilly and your nipples stand out like chapel hat pegs then the term 'nip on' is often thrown about. I will use it more carefully now. ;D

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I didn't know that Nips was the candy of choice for teenagers. My 13 year old LOVES the mocha flavor. They carry them at the 99 Cents Only stores now.

I guess I should never tell people in real life about how cheap Nips get me all excited. They'll think I'm a pervert with a Japanese fetish.

Jodi said...

Sounds like something I would totally get myself into!

Hysterical Bee!

R said...

I am shocked at the amount of people not knowing that derogatory term! I guess I was just raised by a racist.

I am sorry, but I got the humor of this so keenly, I leaned over and coughed out a laugh so loud I surprised myself.

It's like that scene in Elf where Buddy keeps asking the businessman/dwarf guy if he was really an elf and then it just ends up getting ugly. You're wincing in pain the whole time just watching it, wanting to hide yourself.

BTW---I LOVE coffee nips. I get them at the drug store.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

Oh my. Is it wrong that I was cringing, these many years later, trying to will the words back in your mouths?

You sweet innocent thangs...

Those poor shop owners...

(Great story.)

McBunni said...

Oh. My. God.

I wonder if they're still there....you could go show them a box of the CANDY Coffee Nips.

By the way, I didn't know Nip was a racial slur either!

Anonymous said...

I was sure this was going some where else. Nipples was my first guess as well.Japanese reminds me of Mochi balls. I can't stop eating mochi Balls. They are a Japanese dessert. They fill them with Ice Cream. Strawberry, Mango, and Chocolate. For the love these things are addictive!

Angela said...

I'm laughing so hard there are tears at the corners of my eyes threatening to ruin my makeup. Remind me why I don't by waterproof mascara?

Mrs4444 said...

Hilarious! I've been avoiding coffee nips for some time now (too afraid of pulling off a crown or breaking tooth, cuz who can just suck those things? YUM)

Globegirl said...

Yep. I will never forget that day, the look on their faces, the "What's their problem?!" conversation we had after leaving the store.


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