Date: Tue, 1 Nov 1994 12:32:15 -0400 From: Bob Lancaster Subject: offending idioms Sali writes >Having lived in the South for 10 years with African-American and White >American friends, I have a hard time contextualizing Roger Vanderveen's >claim that the term "Nigger" is acceptable and used by lots of people in >the South. Although I suspect that a lot of people here are getting pretty tired of this topic (as I am) I guess I can't let it go without saying how ridiculous the term "African American" sounds to me. Many of the persons so denominated haven't been anywhere near Africa for a hundred and fifty years. And I have to add that if I saw it paired with "White Americans" on a freshman theme I'd mark it "Parallelism !". White American goes with Brown American, Red American, Yellow American, Black American--if we believe in UFO's maybe Green American. Actually, this may be better than the geographical division, though. Here we are forced into a denominational thicket--European American (probably a bare majority these days), Scandanavian American, Southeast Asian American, Phillipine Island American, South American American. And we're still not out of the woods, since we don't know if Sali includes Egyptians, Moroccans, Algerians, et al., among African Americans. What's wrong with blacks? Most of the people I know have have used it since the sixties, and in those halcyon days it was beautiful. >In my opinion, no offensive term is less abusive than any other. If a >person resents any term used in reference to them [sic], then users of the >term should discontinue using it. It is a simple matter of civility. Of course, this sounds great, and civility and good manners are the foundation of a society worth living in. But its universality here is disturbing. Are we truly barred from any language that anyone might find unpleasant? No one can feel good about being crippled, but should we really expunge the word from the vocabulary? Do we stop reading Shakespeare and Chaucer, or Bowdlerize them? Many people without hair don't like to hear the work "bald." What do we call them? Hair Challenged? It is all too possible to sanitize language until it's essentially dead, and it seems to me we're well on the way. I am deeply embarrassed to hear someone say "nigger," I think mostly mostly because it carries such a historical freight of hatred and contempt. (Same for "faggot," though, and quite a few others.) But I think we need to be very careful about PCing words just because they might upset someone. There's a lot of hypocrisy in PC, and language shapes thought. If we can only think in abstractions we've lost touch with reality. Bob Lancaster SUNY-emeritus, English slancaster[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]