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In Reservoir Dogs (1992), Joe assigns code names to a group of people: Mr. Brown, Mr. White, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Orange, and Mr. Pink. One person questions why they were assigned the name “Mr. Pink” and Joe responds with an offensive remark. Mr. Pink asks why they can’t choose their own code names and Joe explains that it has caused problems in the past. Joe insists on choosing the code names and tells Mr. Pink to be grateful they were not assigned “Mr. Yellow.”:

Joe: You're Mr Pink. Be thankful you're not Mr Yellow.

Why would being called "Mr. Yellow" be undesirable?

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  • That would just be a confusion with Mr. Blonde, I guess. Jun 8, 2023 at 23:50
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    It's interesting how quickly words -- and even concepts -- fall out of cultural favor. Up through the 1970s, it was common to point out when a man or boy was a coward by calling him "yellow" or "a yellow belly". Now maybe it has it's roots in the fact that East Asians were the "yellow races", but it certainly never occurred to us that we were equating cowards with Chinese or Japanese.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 9, 2023 at 14:42

1 Answer 1

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"Yellow" is slang for being cowardly.

e.g. per Urban Dictionary

To be cowardly, or a pussy

Maybe Oxford English Dictionary is a better place to see this meaning as Urban Dictionary seems a bit volatile...

[3] b. colloquial (originally U.S.). Lacking in courage; faint-hearted; cowardly.

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    I would remove the Urban Dictionary reference to avoid ridicule. Jun 8, 2023 at 12:48
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    I actually think the Urban Dictionary version give a better sense of what the characters in this movie probably think. Jun 8, 2023 at 19:45
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    @DanielR.Collins Well, the movie was made before Urban Dictionary existed, and UD has lots of very niche internet slang which most people wouldn't know. The regular old Cambridge dictionary lists "Yellow-Bellied" and gives "Yellow" as a synonym. Jun 8, 2023 at 22:02
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    In the same scene, shortly after "be thankful you're not Mr. Yellow", the name "Mr. Brown" is equated with "Mr. Shit", and "Mr. Piss" is mentioned, so perhaps there's the additional meaning of yellow being the colour if urine. Just a thought.
    – Spratty
    Jun 9, 2023 at 11:53
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    @AllanMills the association wtih beople of Asian heritage seems unlikely. In the same scene it is noted that if people chose their own code names "you get five guys fighting over who is Mr. Black" That's nothing to do with race, and everything to do with "black" representing "criminal, villainous, evil, heartless" - all the things these gangsters aspire to.
    – James K
    Jun 9, 2023 at 21:20

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