Date: Fri, 10 Nov 1995 14:30:23 -0500


Subject: Re: Political Blunder

On Fri, 10 Nov 1995, Suzanne Legault: English wrote:


I'm curious: Could the Senator really have misunderstood the caller?

The caller said, "I ain't near rich as you." The Senator

angrily replied, "I ain't nigger rich either."

The only way I can imagine a "legitimate" mis-hearing (as opposed to some very

swift back-pedaling) is for both speakers to be r-less. Even then I have to

wonder, since you say that the Senator is not a native son, but hails from


No, no. The Senator is a native Kentuckian and the guy calling in

sounded like a native Kentuckian. When I heard the caller I also thought

he has said "nigger-rich," but I think it had more to do with "noise" on

the line than with a peculiar linguisitc twitch.

As I have heard the term used it refers to the racist notion that when

black (and they need not be from Africa) people get a paycheck they have

lots of money but they quickly spend it. Thus to be "nigger-rich" is to

have an infusion of money. The implication is that now that one has

money he/she will quit working until more money is needed. The idea is

that blacks can never have a lot of money because as soon as they get any

they quit working until they run out.

Now, with this understanding, I must say that the Ford-caller conversation

makes little sense from Ford's end. He claims to have been just repeating

what the caller said to him, but the two men were talking about taxes.

The caller was making the point that more taxes were a burden on him

because he is not as rich as Senator Ford. If I were Ford's PR man I

would be saying that all this makes sense. The caller could not pay more

taxes because he hasn't gotten any great infusion of money. However, I

think the way the term so naturally flowed from Ford's mouth that it is

clearly a normal element of the Senator's vocabulary, which is why I think

there was so much fuss about his usage.

Al Futrell

-- awfutr01[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]


Dept of Communication -- University of Louisville