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Betreft: Re: Self-Use of Ethnic Insults (was: Re: Ebonic

From:Ed Heil <edheil@...>
Date:Friday, January 14, 2000, 19:28
Christmas )
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 13:28:11 -0600
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Rob, you make a good point.

Words pick up negative associations from the concepts associated with
them.  The classic example of this is in the words used for physical

Every five or ten years people in social services (at least in the
U.S.) want to come up with a new word for people who lack some bodily
capability which is considered normal, like sight or the ability to
walk normally.  "Blind" and "deaf" are still OK, but "crippled" is
right out because it was used metaphorically too much, apparently.

As for more general terms, "handicapped," and "disabled," have both
been nixed, sometimes for entirely fanciful reasons (e.g.
"handicapped" is sometimes claimed to have referred to beggars who
went around "cap in hand" looking for handouts -- entirely false).
"Physically challenged" is the new euphemism, but it has become an
object of mockery too as people talk about short people as "vertically
challenged" and so on.

As soon as you come up with a new word, somebody is going to attach
some negative associations to it, and then the word is going to start
to smell tainted, and then you have to come up with a new one.  As
long as the people whom the word refers to are the objects of some
kind of derision, contempt, or prejudice, it doesn't matter how many
new words you come up with, it's gonna happen.

Similar processes happen with racial terms.  Dan Seriff spoke of the
ugly tone "Juden" has taken on in German.  It's a simple, ordinary
term, but the negative associations people heaped upon the referent
have begun clinging to the word.  We don't use the words "colored,"
"Negro," or "Afro-American" in American English much any more for
similar reasons (though subtly different reasons in the case of each
of those three words).

So, yes, it's a bit optimistic of me to hope that the racist
connotations of "nigga" will be forgotten in thirty years.  But permit
me a bit of optimism. :)

"Bill Gates is a white Persian cat and a monocle away from becoming
another James Bond villain. 'No Mr Bond, I expect you to upgrade.'"
                                           --Dennis Miller

Rob Nierse wrote:

> >>> Ed Heil <edheil@...> 01/13 10:26 >>> > I predict that within 30 years, due to the taboo on its use as a > racial stereotype and the mainstreaming of rap music, "nigga" will > lose its racial meaning and become a term for "friend" or "comrade." > <<<<<<<<< > > I doubt it. > Take a look at "indio". It used to indicate a native american, > but became an insult. So the term "indi'gena" was made. > Now that has become en insult too, as I found out once. > Just because the people that are meant by it still have > low social status. > > So in my opinion if a person called a "nigga" will remain low > social status, the term will remain it too, I guess.