Many expressions in English have clear historical origins. Many also have less than positive meanings.
Sometimes, however, what appears to be an offensive phrase ends up being innocent.
At the same time, not all expressions have origins that can be identified. One example of the latter is in a hot minute.
Today, we’ll take a look at an expression that checks both boxes.
What is the Meaning of “Easy Peasy Japanesey”?
The expression “easy peasy Japanesey” is a cutesy way of saying something is easy. The rhyme seems to have originated in England in the 1980s. However, many people today may consider this phrase racist in origin. An alternative, safer, version with the same meaning is “easy peasy lemon squeezy.”
The Origin and History of “Easy Peasy Japanesey”
There is no definitive origin for the expression “Easy Peasy Japanesey.” However, it’s pretty clear that a big part of this expression’s appeal is its rhyming nature.
The rhyme is also a big part of where this saying comes from. In fact, the saying “Easy Peasy Japanesey” originates from a playground rhyme made popular in England in the 1980s.
We can trace this saying to an earlier expression, “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.”
This earlier expression even co-existed with the “Japanesey” version, where the full rhyme went as follows: “Easy peasy Japanesey, wash your bum in lemon Squeezy.”
Bum in this case means bottom or rear end. This version of the saying also gives us another clue to its origin.
The saying “easy peasy” dates back to at least 1966, according to academic researcher Pascal Tréguer.
Tréguer also notes that while the “lemon squeezy” addition is only recorded since about 1980, many linguists assume it started as long ago as the 1960s, when a brand of dish detergent (or “washing up liquid,” as it’s called in the UK) called Sqezy was popular.
Of particular note is the fact that early advertisements for Sqezy used the phrase “easy squeezy pack” to describe their products squeezable packaging, which they claimed made washing dishes easier than with traditional detergents.
It seems likely that “Easy Peasy Japanesey” is a play on the older phrase, tying together what was already a common saying in British English with an increasing awareness of Japanese people and culture as the Japanese economy boomed in the 1980s and the country increasingly became involved in international commerce.
How to Use the expression “Easy Peasy Japanesey”
You can use “Easy Peasy Japanesey” anywhere that you would normally put the word “easy” in a sentence. This expression can also be used as a sentence on its own.
However, the fact that this expression contains a reference to a specific ethnic group makes many people uncertain about whether or not using it is racist.
In many cases, we would now have to stare into the abyss of English expressions you shouldn’t use any more.
Fortunately, while many of those other phrases do have racist undertones, there isn’t any evidence that “easy peasy Japanesey” has any hidden meaning.
Instead, as noted above, it likely just originated as a playground rhyme.
That said, while there is no evidence that “easy peasy Japanesey” is racist, there are a lot of good reasons to avoid it.
First and foremost, people aren’t going to stop and ask you if something you said was racist.
They’re more likely to just make assumptions about you, instead.
Second, it’s possible to argue that the use of “Japanesey” as a kind of nonsense word stems from an unintentional bias against nonwhite groups.
In other words, children in the UK in the 1980s might have that the word was funny because of how different it was. It’s a short jump from there to making fun of actual Japanese people for their differences.
The bottom line is that you’ll have to decide for yourself whether to use “Easy Peasy Japanesey.” Unless you have a good reason, though, it’s safest to avoid it.
What to Say Instead of “Japanesey”
If you like the rhyming nature of this expression, you can always use the original version: “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.”
The simpler version, “easy peasy,” also works to retain the rhyme that makes this saying appeal.
Likewise, there are metaphorical expressions such as “easy as pie” which add a little more oomph to your words.
Of course, in many cases, using a playground rhyme or other metaphor will not be appropriate at all.
You wouldn’t want to waste time telling your boss at work the meaning of don’t at me, for instance.
If you’re in a formal meeting, just say something is easy.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.