In case you didn't recognize it -- and why would you -- this is a Kaffir lime, a variety of the citrus fruit commonly found in parts of Africa and Asia. The origin of the name is obscure, but might just have something to do with the knobby skin, which may have reminded someone of the appearance of the head of a "kaffir".
"Kaffir?", you say. Yes. Dictionary.com tells us that "kafir" was originally an Arabic word, used by Muslims in referring to an infidel or unbeliever. Back in the 19th century there was a large region of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan known as "Kafiristan", the setting for Rudyard Kipling's fine short story The Man Who Would Be King.
The word was carried by Arabs and by British colonizers into Africa, where, for well over a century, it referred to black people of the Xhosa tribe (of South Africa), and later any black person. When Walt lived in that region, around the time "majority rule" came to South Africa, the word was falling into disuse -- spoken in a whisper rather than a shout -- because it was considered "racist". Now we are told that "in South Africa the use of this word is nowadays completely taboo, and is indeed actionable in the courts. It is also advisable not to use the word in any of the compounds to which it gave rise."
Which brings us back to Kaffir limes. As if making the use of the N-word [except by N's! Ed.] an even greater sin than using the C-word in polite company, the progressive thinkers and forces for racial equality are now commanding us -- even those of us a long way from South Africa -- to find another name for the innocent citrus fruit.
Veronica Vinje is a student in British Columbia, doing her master's degree in "Intercultural and International Communications". And CBC News quotes her with approval, which tells you all you need to know about where this nonsense is coming from. "Kaffir," she says, is "deeply racist". Right. Not just "racist", but "deeply racist". Why...it's like using the N-word to describe black people.
Ms Vinje has taken to Twitter [naturally. Ed.] in an effort to change the name to "makrut" lime, which is the common name in much of South Asia, which is (Walt suspects), where she comes from. South Asia and the Middle East also happen to be parts of the world in which "kaffir" is still used as a derogatory term for non-Muslims. And, despite the urgings of Ms Vinje and the usual suspects in the meeja, celebrity chefs like Rachel Ray and Gordon Ramsay still call them, errr, "Kaffir limes".