Saturday, July 24, 2021

Is The Nigerian Children's Chant "Oyinbo Pepper" Offensive?

This is Part II in a two part pancocojams series about the Nigerian referent "Oyinbo". 

Part II of this pancocojams series presents various online excerpts about what appears to be a widely known Nigerian chant/song "Oyinbo pepper" (also given as "Oyinbo pepe" or "Oyibo Pepe").

Click  for Part I of this pancocojams series.

The first excerpt in Part I quotes a portion of a 1966 book by Dr. Fela Sowande entitled 
The Mind Of A Nation- The Yoruba Child. That portion of that book is from the chapter entitled Yoruba Names And Their Meanings" and refers to the Yoruba name "Fatoyinbo".

The second excerpt in Part I of this pancocojams series is from a Wikipedia page about the word "Oyinbo" and the third excerpt is from a 2009 article that was written by a Nigerian professor Kola Tubosun. Selected comments from that article's discussion thread are also  included in that pancocojams post.

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

"Oyinbo pepper

Definition:1. An expatriate or foreigner who is generally considered as having an untrained palate for eating spicy hot food. 2. Any white person.Example:

1. Oyinbo pepper. If you eat pepper you go yellow more more.
2. Why you dey do like oyinbo pepper sef?

Synonyms: Oyinbo, Omo white"
“omo”, Yoruba word; English translation = “child”


The Map of Me: True Tales of Mixed-Heritage Experience Penguin, 2008 · ‎Biography & Autobiography

[Pancocojams Editor's Note: This book is a collection of stories by British people of mixed racial ancestry.]

... “An anonymous horde of children of the market women began their familiar chant, directed at expatriates and their progeny

Oyinbo (white person) pehpeh (pepper)
If you eatee pehpeh
You go yellow moh (more) moh!
Oyinbo pehpeh,
if you eatee

Today I didn’t care. I was cool, calm, and collected. Nothing would dampen my mood.  Besides, as soon as my mother’s back was turned I planned to retaliate with a chant I’d recently honed to perfection with Danmola’s help.  It described the increase in flatulence in people who eat sugar, which was a rare treat for these children.”…

From Is "Oyinbo" A Derogatory Word? Posted by Kola Tubosun, August 27, 2009
…”So, when used in a civil, polite conversation, Oyinbo is mainly a harmless term of reference, but it is insulting only when it is yelled out loud, especially by a(n unaquainted, unfriendly) stranger.” How does one explain all of this easily in a class of an elementary course on language and culture without raising red flags and unnecessarily preconditioning the mind of impressionable students to a hostile, negative cultural experience? That was my dilemma on that beautiful Wednesday afternoon.

I resolved the situation in favour of common sense, and the concise explanation I gave before moving to the next topic was a “No please, that’s not a derogative word. It is a fun word of endearment used by the Yoruba to refer to those they perceive differently because of their skin colour.” But I left the class a little worried that I myself do not totally agree with that description for its lack of depth and breath to capture all that the word “oyinbo” entails, and for the way that definition might be wrongly construed as a racist/derogatory tag. Fact is, the image that flashed across my mind when I think about it is that of a cacophonous horde of dirty little stray children chanting “Oyinbo pepper” after a foreign pedestrian on a public Lagos park, and totally enjoying the embarassment on the face of that now despairing foreigner who curses under her breath, wonders what went wrong with this world, and wishes she had not taken up the invitation to come visit Nigeria. Yorubaland."
Here are some of the comments from that article that refer to the "Oyinbo pepper" chant (with numbers added for referencing purposes only) 
Click Part I of this pancocojams series for Kola Tubosun's complete 2009 article as well as some additional comments from that article's readers.  

1. John says:

June 5, 2013 

"i don’t know what is meant by ‘dirty little stray children’. When i was a little boy in the early and mid 80’s, i used to join the chant of ‘oyinbo pepper! hipi hipi pepper!’ and I wasn’t a dirty stray child. I also day-dreamed of marrying an “oyinbo”. So, I can tell you categorically that the word was never used in a derogatory or racist context, rather it was more of fascination being expressed without discretion.

for older folks, calling a white person or one of part caucasian ancestry oyinbo was used as a statement of fact. oyinbo = white person."

2. BBC - That 9jabOi says:

September 20, 2013 

"Oyinbo is whatever you white folks thing its … we making fun of your piel skin, Hahaha, when i was little we sing behind any non-black person we see, giggle , clap and single “Oyinbo pepe chuku chuku pepe, bla bla bla you go yellow more more.. We know colors so we don’t calll you folks white.. You guys are yellow to us.. OYINBO OYIBO same meaning.. Still mean the same sh-t*… People that there skins look like someone that was just covered with Bee (Oyin) B’o (Cover)…You guys have name for us right."
*This word is fully spelled out in this comment.

3. carmenmccain says:

April 21, 2015

"I understand that “oyinbo” is not meant to be derogatory and I don’t think you can call it racist–as foreigners/white people in Nigeria are usually privileged and not victims of structural racism. In the past, I have rolled my eyes at “oyinbos” who claimed that people saying “oyinbo” is racist. I am rarely bothered when children excitedly call out “oyinbo.” HOWEVER, having moved to a part of the country where I am hearing it a lot more, it can be extremely exhausting to have it called out to you hourly, by adults, as you are just walking around and trying to live your life. I have had students on a university campus yell it at me. I have had staff walk into a university office where I was filling a form and say “oyinbo” loudly. I have had a student even start singing “oyinbo pepe” behind my back as I walked out of a room. When I took offense, she protested that it was a “praise song,” and perhaps it is, although my 11 year old self who experienced this same song years ago did not feel like she was being praised but that she was being mocked. Perhaps my 11 year old self just didn’t understand, but… Inasmuch as no one enjoys constantly being singled out and reminded that they are different and “other” and foreign and a spectacle, I wish that the chorus of “oyinbo” would just stop, whether it is meant as a term of endearment or whether it is a jest or something worse. Whatever the etymology and whatever it “actually” means, it feels dehumanizing when it is constantly yelled at you."

4. carmenmccain says:

April 21, 2015 

"hahaha, this post is the second one that popped up when I googled “oyinbo pepe” to get the full lyrics to that most joyfully sung-most irritatingly received song. When it is said endearingly by people I know, I don’t mind it all. When strangers call it out or say it behind your back, it becomes very annoying."

5. Priya says:

August 30, 2017

"As an Indian who grew up in Lagos, I have been called Oyinbo innumerable times, and most times it was not meant to offend. Mostly it was just how people who didnt know our names referred to us. I can’t say what the children chanting “Oyinbo Pepper might have been thinking, but I am guessing it was not meant to offend either and was just a silly rhyme to them. It is not racist to acknowledge that people are different. However, the word could be used to bully someone for being different and that would be racist."

From Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word - Family – Nairaland

[Pancocojams Editors Note: I've added numbers for these selected comments for referencing purposes only.]

 1. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by Nobody: 9:54pm On Jul 16, 2010

^^^ I guess you're asking if the term "Oyinbo "Pepper" has the same racist meaning as the word "N__"?* If that's your question, then the answer's no. "Oyinbo Pepper" referred more to light-complexioned black people.
*This is a substitution for the way the "n word" was spelled in this comment.

Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by LadyDee1(f): 10:01pm On Jul 16, 2010
"oyinbo pepper if e eat pepper you go yellow more more [grin symbol]

Yep for light skinned nigerians, [wink symbol]

Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 11:13pm On Jul 16, 2010

If i recall my first visted to Nigerian right there were a special song for the westerns if they went to a bear paller or ristorante and pepper soupe where ordered.

And i heard stories where children in Nigerian running behind westerns and sing this specail song, too.

My sister in law is very light and complecor in her colour nobody never sang this song for her.

And when i went to a market in Lagos with my other sister in law a woman came to her and said something like 'thank you for bringing the omo oyebo the children of the whiteone home to Nigeria.'

No one say 'Thank you to my sister in law for bringing her children home from the UK or to my other sister thank you for bringing them for the USA'

Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by Nobody: 11:15pm On Jul 16, 2010

"If you don't mid me asking, where are you from?

I'm only asking, because your English is a bit difficult to decipher. undecided

5. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 11:22pm On Jul 16, 2010


6. Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by honeric01(m): 11:39pm On Jul 16, 2010

"I got confused with your english, but then now i understand.

No, oyinbo pepper is for white skinned Nigerians, especially the abinos"

7. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by mutter(f): 7:12am On Jul 17, 2010

white one why do you give yourself that nick  When you have problems with it. I can as well say you are being racist by using that nick here. Trying to show "ich bin was besseres- nicht wahr" I`m something better.

You know what is amazing- most white are so racist it never occurred to them that blacks are racist too. So you finally came closer by having a black husband or bf and guess what - you found out that blacks do have their pride.

Why should one not say thanks for bringing the kids home. They know it is not easy to go to another country with your children. That is not bad but shows respect and appreciation.

Learn our way of life [grin symbol]

Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 8:41am On Jul 17, 2010

WhiteOne is my nick name bec. i like to take the mickey out of this all.

And we where three ladies caming to Lagos. My sister in law from London, my sister in law from USA and me, all your children where brought up together. I did not hear any one saying 'Thank you' at the market to them. The tickets from the USA where more expensive.

Oh, perhaps someboby might have say take you for teach the whiteone the nigerian costums and teacher her a bit of yoruba.

If we are all the same why we still see coloure and please do not missunderstand me wrong now there was a big hapy around the current US president regarding this mattter.

 When we are truly free?
The word “where” in this comment means “were”.

Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by iice(f): 5:26pm On Jul 17, 2010

"It just means white person.

As for kids saying it behind the back. . .it's because they are shy or not disrespectful. . .unlike some people who like to get all up in the face and be like 'N*gga' ish.

Is your sister in law white? Have you asked her about her own experience? Does she seem 'more' nigerian than you are?

 What free are you dreaming about?"
This is the way this comment was written in this discussion thread.

10. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 6:12pm On Jul 17, 2010

"My sister in law here in london is a real yoruba big mama from Ogun State.

 My other sister in law is a yoruba/ us american.

 And i am a white german.

 Our children where born in the USA or England.

 Which free I am dreaming about?

 Everbody is coloure blind. The kind of free Martin Luther King speaks about in 'i have a dream!'

 And the kind of free Jesus Christ speaks about when he said ' blessed are the peace maker ect.

Are we not all created in the image of god our father? And did not Jesus set us all free or at least gave us some wunderfull teachings?”

11. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by Selena586: 8:01pm On Jul 17, 2010

Oh, that is very sad whiteone.

But I think this will happen in every country when you come as a foreigner."

12. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by iice(f): 10:56am On Jul 18, 2010

"Your sisters in law are not white. Oyinbo pepper means white person. What do you germans call black people? Or do you go around breaking into english to translate 'black' anytime? Since your children were born and raised abroad, you can understand what the woman meant about you taking the kids home. If you haven't learnt from your husband, you will learn from this site, that culture and heritage is important to us.

There is a difference between dreams/visions and reality."

13. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 12:54pm On Jul 18, 2010

Iice - What is about may niece and nevus.

They where rased in the UK and USA, therefore abroad, too.

What is the reality for mixed rase children?

Everboby make a fus out of them.

Are they something special?

Are they something outstanding now are days?

Learning from my husband, his sisters, his brothers, his uncles ect to which point?

If you married a Nigerian you marry the hole family!?

And in Africa it is not only the parterns, which train/rase a child it is the hole village ?!

In Africa the hole family support each other and a african should not forget the people back home, his/hers sister and brothers need to go to school, mama und baba might need a new house or help to repair there one. Sister might have a baby or Brother is getting married.

And one explained the you get yellow yellow more bit to me.

Yes, we call black people 'schwarz'

Everboby here know what Oyinbo pepper stands for and what does it means and why chrildren are singing it and some adults use this name and 'make there mouth', but no one have the guts to admit Africa/Nigeria is well equipped in name calling, too. ect

14. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by iice(f): 1:58pm On Jul 18, 2010

"Your niece and nephew have nigerian parents. It's understandable that culture is taught to them being as their parents are nigerian. Logical conclusion. Mixed kids are not always made a fuss about. But yes it happens around the world for different reasons.

You seem to understand our culture but refuse to understand it. Just because it doesn't sit well with you doesn't make it wrong. You weren't born there, you didn't grow up there and it seems very alien to you because of where and how you grew up. Logical conclusion.

Yellow yellow means because you are light skinned, you can see the effect of pepper on your skin, when you go red.

People always make mouth, whether it's because you are white, a woman, rich, speak different language, married a nigerian man, traveled around, studied who knows where, able to do this and that. . .my point is, people will discriminate you because of different things, but because you are comfortable with the 'skin color' choice, you chose to believe that it's only your skin color people will make mouth about.

Lol no guts to name Nigeria? You really don't know us. When we crucify our people over slight and major issues. And our words cut to the bone. . .not something like oyinbo."

Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 3:48pm On Jul 18, 2010

"The effect pepper had on me was none.

I did not turn yellow when I ate it.

When my stepfather cooked stew and people from my shool, where around everboby went 'crazy' for fufu and stew and it was specy. On my 'sweet six teen' we had a big party and Germanys from my school dance to ju ju misic and this song back in the 90 tys 'Nigeria is my fatherland, nigeria is my county, oh' Some guy went home and changed there jackets, they where bomber jakets in Green and on of those guy lerned to make fu fu some days later by himself. Therefore pepper had a good effect cool

And 'yes,oh' i know how Nigerian can make mouth, if they are not pleased with something or someboby. The senior onces specially! Have see it! Have heard it and had it on my phone bill!

However my mothers neighbors in German or my mother brother or my oma (grand ma) would never say 'thank you' to my husband for bringen our children to Germany, this is simply something what they would expected of him and me. They can say thing s like 'good to see you again', 'how was your journey' and 'we hope to see you again' and no one would this at the market or at the 'butchers'.

Your niece and nephew have nigerian parents. It's understandable that culture is taught to them being as their parents are nigerian. Logical conclusion. Mixed kids are not always made a fuss about. But yes it happens around the world for different reasons.

Why is was taught of them or expected and not of me? or my partner? Is he not an Nigerian, too? Or am i the first white woman in Nigeria, who send her kids 'back home'? It is so often assumed 'mixed rase' children are lost and it was not worth fighting for them or put them in 'consideration'.

My husband was seen as my husband and as the father of my children, not more not less.

It was only unrespect strangers how asked him a big bunch of strange questions about 'Africa' aka 'do you have more multi-story buildings there ect. My husband reply where 'no we do not, we still live on threes and the German ambassador is living on the biggest of all the threes and he has his visa not on a passport it where on a leaf. And when ask if he speaks english he said no only yoruba and German. People soon stop to ask him things like this."

15. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by Damysa(f): 9:52am On Jul 19, 2010

@whiteone people calling u yellow yellow/Oyinbo pepper is not so discriminating neither is it an insult of a kind.

 I have never travelled out of Nigeria but people still call me Oyinbo pepper just cos am a light in complexion

 Nigerians generally refer to fair ladies as SISI, YELLOW, OYINBO PEPPER. To us here there is nothing bad attached to it."

16. Re
: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 1:32pm On Jul 19, 2010

"Ok. I will call my big mummy here in London Oyebo bec. she is very light in complexion. wink

Better than i take the omorogo with me, i surely will get pepper from her! And perhaps i have to raise my hand in the corner and think about what i have done wrong. embarassed

P.S. I am sure she will make mouth and call me disrespectful girl ect. shocked"

17. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by iice(f): 1:35pm On Jul 19, 2010

The woman no gree hear.  What she's going in a round about way is to say Nigerians are racists. 

Not that it's not true but it's not as bad as some other places.  Whites get more leeway in Nigeria than blacks in other places.


I see a hint of racism in the posts. . ."
This is the way this comment was written in that discussion thread. 

18. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 1:46pm On Jul 19, 2010

"I was just joking cool

If i do this everyboby might just laugh.

Only she might not feel to happy about it.

People make jokes about Nigerian ladies which use to much cream as well to get lighter."

19. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by boy1(m): 1:51pm On Jul 19, 2010

"^^u talk too much. . .Damysa have said it all. . oyinbo pepper is not derogatory. .end of topic."

20. Re: Oyebo Pepper Get S Yellow Yellow More More. And The Other N Word by WhiteOne(f): 2:24pm On Jul 19, 2010

I d talk to much shocked !!!!

LOL and of topic cheesy

No worries"

From Hey, Easy With The Name-calling! by distinkt(f): 6:03pm On Mar 02, 2015
"I once gave a glimpse of people's reactions to albinos in [url][url]Ko K’Aye[/url[/url]]. What I did not say is, that scenario only accounts for less than 5 minutes of the average day of an albino; you cannot even begin to imagine how tough it can be.

The point-blank staring and name-calling can be very quiet unsettling and upsetting most times (if you let it). Here are a few of the names I have been called over the years, “Afin”, “Oyinbo”, “Unfortunate European”, “Whitey”, “Snow White”, “igo Oju”, “Four Eyes”, “Bat Eyes”, “Orisa”, “NEPA”, “Ebora”, “BonfrereJo”, “Afin o reran osan”, “Onyiocha”, “Ostrich”, “Yellow fowl”, etc.

Now, as you walk by, kids will chant, “Oyinbo pepper, if you eati pepper…” I do not blame the kids though, they are simply amused but every now and again, you see an adult who should know better, tap their kids and say, “Look, See Afin!”

Then the popular questions, “Why does your head shake?” “You are holding your phone so close, can you see?” They wave their hands in front of your face, “Can you see my hand, how many fingers?”. “Can you see in the dark?

Experience has thought me that most people feel no guilt in making crude remarks either because they are unaware of the effects of their words, because they simply do not care, or worse, because they actually set out to demean. I have often wondered why…

It may be fear which stems from an unconscious belief that to name something is to control it. People truly are likely to be controlled by repetitious name-calling when they begin to believe the name and act accordingly. This is the reason why albinos must never subject themselves to name-calling and most rise above.

Another reason may be lack of knowledge, curiosity or a genuine desire to learn. However, most people are faced with a frustrating inability to express questions constructively or with emotional intelligence. Albinos must therefore learn to excuse unknowing name-callers on this premise. Some people tease in order to get to know others better or to express affection. This kind of teasing usually does not hurt. However, if the person being teased does not have a positive self-image, and is uncomfortable with albinism, even affectionate teasing will hurt.

As part of society, we all hold a responsibility to educate the people around us; do not condone any form of name-calling. As for my white-nation brethren, you owe it to yourself to be happy and confident; it is handwork in this kind of environment but you are worth the handwork….

Ultimately, both sides of the divide must work to ensure that the albinos in the society can enjoy a measure of psychological health.




Your Racist Brain – Are we all born racists?

February 7, 2017  

Maria Katsarou-Makin

“Oyibo pepe, chuku chuku pepe. if you eat i pepe, you go yellow ma ma”. I can still hear this song from my childhood in Nigeria…. No matter where you would go in any corner of Nigeria you were serenaded with this song by children singing – sometimes shyly, nudged by their parents, or else boldly, accompanied by dancing, jumping or hysterical laughter. Oyibo means ‘white man (or woman)’. Pepe refers to the color of a white person’s skin after tasting the stomach scalding heat of Nigerian pepper (pepe in Pidgin English). …and back then through the eyes of a 6-year old that I was, we were all just having fun… colour did not matter…”


Apparently, we are hardwired to be ‘racist’ or to spot the people who are not the same as we are. There are many parts of the brain involved, one of which is the amygdala, which is the most primitive part of our brain, and acts like the alarm of a house. Whether someone breaks in, or the wind shakes the windows, or a cat accidentally jumps on your balcony, the alarm goes off. It does NOT have the capacity to go into rational thinking mode and say ‘oh, that’s only a cat’. That’s exactly what happens in the brain. It’s the mechanism that answers the fundamental question to our survival ‘am I safe or not?’. Many neuroscientists have been able to show these movements in our brain in relation to spotting ‘outgroup’ (people that are NOT like us) versus ‘ingroup’ (individuals that ARE us) faces in fMRI (one of them is Dr. Elizabeth Phelps, NY University). This automatic activity may not represent inbuilt racism, instead it may simply reflect heightened awareness and deeper thought when assessing faces from another racial group. However, one thing it does highlight is the obvious differences in processing of ‘outgroup’ faces. “…
The author is a White woman who lived in Nigeria as a child. This is how that excerpt was written on tht website. 




"She wasn’t like the rest of them.

Always went to church

With that particular green skirt that swept the crooked roads as she walked by

Or was it the black one with yellow flower prints?

In her hand, she held a black book

When asked, she would tell us,

”It’s the goose-pel, Father say it’s one man in the sky that write it.”

She obviously wasn’t like the rest of them cause they made fun of her

Oyinbo pepper, yellow paw-paw, slap me I change colour’

They would chant after her when she came out to play

Soon, the rhythm was changed as they danced to a different song behind her

Making fun of her faith.

She then made it to the city, making her peers jealous

But she came home after some years with a belly bump

And the girls went around saying, ‘Mary Amaka don get belle.’"
This is how this poem was published on that website.

From "Nigerian Suya"
By tekobo, June 30, 2018 in KK Cooking
"As an emigrant from my home country and an immigrant here in the UK, I find that street food is one of the things I miss the most and love to eat when I get to go back to Nigeria.  Cooking suya on my KK has been a dream cook for a while but I have been nervous about not getting it right.  Thanks to you all pushing and encouraging and trying it out yourselves, I finally got around to making my own suya tonight.”…

Tekobo, July 1, 2018
Location: England, United Kingdom
…"There is a children's chant from colonial times which goes: "Oyinbo pepper, if you eatee pepper, you go yellow more more".  I think we thought white people going red (or yellow) after eating hot stuff was an interesting design flaw.  As it stands my (white) husband and my father are both fine after eating a load of hot suya last night but I am feeling less good.  Go figure. "


[by] Sylvia Wohlfarth

An Irish-Nigerian soul living in Ireland after 40 years in Germany….


Lovin(g) These Days
A Haiku

published in Literary Impulse, Sept 5, 2020

Reminiscing On My Childhood…

A Poem On Longing And Belonging

….And though I suffered no need and thrived

on a culture of colour and dance, I was

never blind to the surrounding miseria.

Oyibo pepe, Oyibo pepe, if you eat i pepe,

you go yellow maw maw” a children’s song

rendered to us Oyibos, meaning white,

though I was brown — and urging us

to eat pepper to darken our skin

— a melodic obbligato sans sting.

Beaming faces of the impoverished young,

waving for my friendly attention —

their delight and laughter at my timid reaction,

were all facets of my early foundation."...

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1 comment:

  1. There are several YouTube examples of songs entitled "Oyinbo Pepper" (or "Oyinbo Pepe").

    However, I'm not including any links to those examples since I don't understand Yoruba or Nigerian Pidgin English (which I assume are the languages used in those examples). Consequently, I don't know if those songs are based on the children's chant that is the focus of this pancocojams post. Also, I don't know whethr those YouTube examples are "clean" (family friendly) which is what this blog strives to be.