The owner of a family-owned restaurant started a contest to rename the squaw bread served in his restaurants after a few patrons made a case that the term was insensitive to Native Americans.
But he wasn't prepared for what he said has been a "vicious" backlash, with dozens of phone calls and messages decrying his proposal as too politically correct.
Keith Holloway owns the Backstreet Restaurant in Riverside with his wife, Kitty. The restaurant was started by their family 48 years ago.
Over the years, several customers had commented on finding the name squaw bread offensive, because "squaw" is a word often used as an insult to Native Americans, Holloway said.
In a published letter, linguist Ives Goddard wrote that while the origins of the word were "innocent," its connotations today are generally demeaning.
Holloway said that when one customer approached him about the bread, and was sincere about its offensive connotations, he covered up the name and wrote "brown" over the label on the counter.
"I've been convinced that it's an offensive word," Holloway said.
One of Backstreet's cooks, Rubén López, added, "I think its time to have a new name so nobody gets offended."
Holloway decided to sponsor a contest for people to rename the bread at their restaurant, and has gotten about 60 suggestions so far.
Yet, along with those suggestions, Holloway has also gotten numerous hate messages, critiquing him for conforming to be politically correct, he said.
Holloway said he was getting about 18 "vicious" voice mails a day after news of his contest first spread, calling him insulting names for deciding to change the bread name at Backstreet, he said.
"The last thing I want to do is offend a customer, and I ended up offending a whole segment of them," Holloway said. "I can't win."
If he had the chance to do it all over again, Holloway said he would've just changed the name himself without creating the contest and involving the press.
He has since taken the temporary "brown" bread label off of the counter also because some people were offended by it as well.
Despite the flack Holloway has gotten, he has decided to keep the contest running until the end of July.
People with suggestions can fax their suggestions to 957-683-6466, for the chance to win a few free lunches at Backstreet Restaurant.
Holloway said his current front-runner for the new name is "prairie" bread.