Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Is this an Uber thing? I didn't see it mentioned.



This is a much older fight in NYC than Uber. They're probably involved in a good number of the cars in question in recent years, but a back-and-forth over to what extent to tolerate vs. crack down on unlicensed taxi services has been going on for decades. The general category is often called by the somewhat racist term "gypsy cabs".


Why is that a racist term?

To be honest, I had never heard the term until recently when I heard it used on a TV show.


"gypsy" is an ethnic slur that refers to the Romani people.


Interesting. From my quick reading I can see why some would disagree with the usage.

Although, I also find it interesting that, apparently, in English law it refers to a nomadic person regardless of race or origin. Which is a use of "gypsy" that I was familiar with.


Uber wasn't explicitly mentioned, but it just sounds like the TLC is overly trigger happy in seizing cars, presumably because of the uptake in services like Lyft and Uber who in the TLC's eyes are skirting around the law.


By "skirting around" do you mean "blatantly flouting"? Because that's the truth of it..

Uber, Lyft, et al are just central dispatch for gypsy cabs. I don't see any reason they shouldn't get massive fines or seized vehicles in all locales they operate.


> Uber, Lyft, et al are just central dispatch for gypsy cabs.

True fact: Every single Uber and Lyft vehicle which I've ridden in, in New York City, has a Taxi and Limo Commission plate on it in the T123456C format. The so-called "gypsy cab"+ market consists of the vehicles without those plates.

(+complete with casual old-fashioned ethnic slur)


casual old-fashioned ethnic slur

It's not a slur. Why does everything need to be so PC these days? The term may have originated in NYC, home of much colorful language.

Here's a Village Voice article that provides a lot of background and that quotes illegal cab drivers referring to themselves that way:

   once a gypsy, always a gypsy
http://www.villagevoice.com/news/how-some-illegal-taxi-drive...


>referring to themselves that way

Apply this logic to any other ethnic slur and see how well it works out for you.


First, the drivers aren't even Romani. Second, the NY Times has used the phrase, quite often. Granted, with a quick Google I couldn't find a more recent NYT reference than 2008, so maybe they changed their mind.

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist William Safire, perhaps best known as a long-time syndicated political columnist for the New York Times and the author of "On Language" in the New York Times Magazine, a column on popular etymology, new or unusual usages, and other language-related topics[1], explains in the NY Times:

   Just because some people take offense
   at a word, however, does not automatically
   banish the word from the English language.
   ...
   it is hypersensitive to take it as a slur
http://www.nytimes.com/1986/02/23/magazine/on-language-gyppi...

Here the NY Times mentions that a politician was a former driver: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/16/nyregion/16rivera.html

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_safire


>First, the drivers aren't even Romani.

This makes your argument worse, not better. The term "gypsy cab" derives from a racist stereotype of the Romani[1]. How can a term with a racist etymology not be racist?

Imagine any group of people appropriating traditionally-derogatory ethnic slurs for another group to describe themselves. How is that okay?

As for the Pullitzer Prize winner, that article is from 1986, more than a bit out-dated. Bizarrely, the author even defends the verb "to gyp" as not being racist because it's only one syllable. Imagine the sheer outrage if the verb "to nig" came into popular usage and referred to a negative stereotypical activity.

Why am I even arguing this? The fact that the term "gypsy cab" uses the name of an ethnic group to refer to a stereotypically negative trait of that group should completely and utterly speak for itself.

It's not "too PC".

[1] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gypsy_cab


Why am I even arguing this?

Because you don't agree with Safire, who stated quite clearly:

   Egyptians, from whose name the word gypsy
   erroneously originated, are usually unaware
   of the etymology and are not offended.
   (Gypsy cab, which uses both syllables,
   stresses the ''wandering'' meaning of gypsy,
   which is descriptive and not derogatory.)
Edit: You seem to be saying

   “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in
   rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what
   I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
Never mind the opinions of people who made a living writing about the meaning of words.


Based on your racist and derogatory statements, I have to wonder if you're involved in the taxi industry.

The fact is, taxi lobbies are just protection rackets. I don't like Uber at all due to the way they treat their customers and drivers, but ridesharing is the future and the taxi mob is desperate to stop them from growing. If that means paying off the local law enforcement and city officials to illegally and unconstitutionally seize law abiding citizens' vehicles (including regular folks dropping off or picking up family and friends, which boggles the mind), they will do it.


The problem is that even if you can't own a person wholesale anymore in this country, you can own the right to be the sole provider of one type of service to that person, and charge them exorbitant rates. To the taxi lobby, the citizens of New York are not free men, but their property as customers. Uber and the like are therefore dirty thieves, abolitionist usurpers.

The taxi lobby will also say that it's all for your own safety, even as unlicensed taxi drivers in licensed cabs proliferate. (fun story: I've had colleagues whose luggage was held hostage while driven to an ATM because the driver didn't want card payment because he wasn't driving the cab legally. good luck pursuing recourse for that.)


Your colleagues should/could have played the game. Just sit there, in the cab. Either he takes the payment that they offer or they get to leave. As long as they're sitting in the cab, it's not making any money.

Force him to decide to either take their payment or write off the loss from the ride because he can't get any other fares while they're occupying the seat. What's he going to do? Call the police and tell on himself?


Wait, I don't understand. Because this person used a term that you describe as a racist and derogatory term, you are claiming the entire taxi industry is racist? As I asked elsewhere, how is this term racist and derogatory?


(I agree with your first point.)

> As I asked elsewhere, how is this term racist and derogatory?

Gypsy is a racially problematic term.

Using that term to refer to unlicensed cabs links travellers (who may or may not be Roma) to crime and dangerousness.

If you care about this kind of stuff it's probably a good idea to move to phrases like "unlicensed cabs". You get some benefit it's more useful for an international audience.


"Gypsy" may also refer to Irish Travellers (Pavees), and possibly even to other insular nomadic cultures, not just Roma. I wouldn't be surprised if a travelling carnival worker had ever been called a gypsy.

The term itself is derived from Egyptian, which just goes to show how little people care about actual facts when labeling outsider groups.

And if you really want to be politically neutral as well as culturally neutral, "unofficial", "non-medallioned", "hackney", or "jitney" would be better than "unlicensed" or "illegal".


As I responded in the other post where I asked the question, under English law that is the definition of which is the version I was familiar with. Referring to nomadic person regardless of race or origin. I've never understood it to reference a particular race. Hence my confusion on why it would be a racist term. Derogatory I could understand, but not racist.


> you are claiming the entire taxi industry is racist?

When did I ever say that? I said the taxi industry is a protection racket. The person I replied to is spouting racist commentary.


Central dispatch for gypsy cabs?

Are you trying to make a cogent argument? because all I see is a nasty insult.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem


"Gypsy cab" is a slang term for an unlicensed taxi, and no longer has anything to do with the Romani people. It's not a term I personally use (outside a descriptive context like this), but it doesn't seem intended as an insult.


Maybe not, but wouldn't it be better to avoid antiquated ethnic slurs like "Gypsy cab" in favor of cool neutral terms like "unlicensed"?


One of the (I guess intended) effects of using an aniquated slang word is to illustrate that this is not a new problem, but that this very same problem exists for so long that it got its own well known insulting term a long time ago.


It's true, which is why I don't generally use the term myself. I was just trying to clarify the point.


Uber, Lyft, et al are just central dispatch for gypsy cabs.

Ignore any flak you get about this. It is the best one-sentence description I've ever read about Uber.


Uber and Lyft are licensed livery cabs in NYC. Livery cabs are not allowed to accept street hails, but are allowed to be ordered for pick up in other ways (such as through a phone call). The only way that they would be illegal is if you believe that ordering through a phone app is more similar to street hailing than it is to ordering through a phone call, but I think that is a huge stretch.




Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: