Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 09:50:57 -0500


Subject: Re: subcategories of people

Caryl Phillips writes in his novel The Final Passage on minute gradations

of skin pigmentation in the West Indies:" Bradeth, tell me what colour you

think your child going come? White, fusty, musty, dusty, tea, coffee,

cocoa, light black, black, or dark black?" (Penguin:1985, p. 52). Mon,

17 Nov 1997, Lynne Murphy wrote:

hi all--

i'm working on a comparison of racial labeling and sexual orientation

labeling, in which i'm looking at some hypotheses from the cognitive

social psychology tradition on social categorization to see if they can

be applied to (and thus supported by) social labeling. anyhow...

the thing i'm looking at now is the hypothesis that an ingroup will

perceive more differences within itself than the outgroup will perceive

in them--and therefore have more words for different 'subtypes' of the

group. i have lots of examples from the sexual orientation arena. for

example, straight people (the outgroup in this case) have very few words

for, say, gay men, and what they do have reflect generalizations, not

subtyping (e.g., fag, fairy, homo). but gay men have tons of names for

different types of gay men (here's what's on my handout so far):

Ingroup labels for subcategories of gay men (see also Stanley 1971, Zeve


queen, etc.

(fat), Ivy (Indian)


ok, so now i want to make the same point about ingroups/outgroups when

it comes to race, instead of sexual orientation, considering African

American ingroup terms for other African Americans. all i can think of

right now (and find while skimming DARE and _juba to jive_) are color

terms (high yella/yeller/yellow/brown, nappyblack, etc.). other than

'uncle tom', which is not exclusively an ingroup term, i can't think of

any sort of cultural/political divisions, sexual divisions (words for

African American women or men, but not both), occupational divisions, or

other "types" (career-driven, sweet old granny, whatever). can any of

you help me out? the type of word i'm trying to find would only refer

to a subgroup of african americans, so it wouldn't count, say, if i had

an AAVE term for a police officer if that word is used for both white

and black police officers.

i hope i've sufficiently explained what i'm looking for. any words or

references would be most gratefully received. also, if you want to give

me counter evidence to my hypothesis, i'd like to hear that too.




M. Lynne Murphy

Assistant Professor in Linguistics

Department of English

Baylor University

PO Box 97404

Waco, TX 76798