Sunday, September 5, 2010

More on the n-word

I made a rather long blog post about Dr. Laura's "use" of the n-word a few days ago. I talked about how you could reason to a conclusion from theoretical pragmatics that Dr. Laura should never have (technically) mentioned the n-word, because it doesn't have to be used to deliver its expressive content. I've just experienced some evidence that for some people, any reference to the words existence is enough to deliver its expressive content.

On the StackExchange English Language and Usage site, someone asked why American English doesn't use -er pejoratives like "wanker" or "nutter." I posted an answer saying that American English doesn't use those pejoratives, but it does use many others, like "cracker" or "motherfucker". I included a list taken from Wikipedia.

In one of the comments, a site moderator said
Some others: codger, greaser, hater, muckraker, poser, not to mention the “N-word”, which ends in -er.
In response to that comment, someone else said
The "N" word is offensive! As are the others but, in particular, the reference to the "N" word. I am disappointed [...]. I should think a moderator would steer well clear.

Again, like with Dr. Laura, the moderator didn't use use the n-word, he merely mentioned it. But, he also used what I assume is the standard taboo avoidance term: n-word. Even this was enough to offend some commenters.

P.S. John McWhorter has a bit about the history use of the n-word and other racial slurs as in-group terms.

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