Date: Thu, 16 Nov 1995 15:09:34 -0600 From: EJOHNSON[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MSUVX2.MEMPHIS.EDU Subject: Re: Political Blunder This reminds me of the other night when my 4-year-old son, frustrated with trying to open a straw in a restaurant, suddently came out with "goddam!", much to the shock of the elderly couple in the booth next to us. My unthinking response was to say "WHAT did you say?", after which he gladly repeated himself. I quit letting him watch one of his favorite movies, Forrest Gump, for awhile. It's hard being a linguist and also being expected to instill society's taboos in your child. E.g. at his preschool he can't use the common household term "butt" but must say "fanny" instead. Ellen Johnson (hey! I'm almost caught up on my mail) ejohnson[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] >From: IN%"ADS-L[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]" "American Dialect Society" 13-NOV-1995 09:42:40.07 >Subj: RE: Political Blunder > >On Mon, 13 Nov 1995, Sonja Lanehart wrote: >> >> I still don't understand why the senator felt it necessary to repeat >> what the caller said. If he really did hear it as a racial slur I don't >> see why he would be so eager to repeat something like that--especially >> on a radio talk show where so many people could hear it. I also don't >> understand how repeating the slur was a way of reprimanding the caller. >> It seems a better rebuke would have been enlightening the caller about >> the inappropriateness of such a slur. > >Granted, there are people--many people--for whom the word "nigger" is so >painful and invidious that they find it socially inappropriate for anyone >to utter it under ANY circumstances; for such persons, even repeating the >word with ironic intent (as I believe that Sen. Ford claims he thought he >was doing) would be considered socially inappropriate. On the other hand, >I can imagine myself in a situation in which I thought that someone had >used a phrase containing the invidious word in question and in which I >would be so shocked that I might conceivably repeat it back to the >utterer--my voice (I would hope) dripping with irony. For me, whenever I >hear someone use "nigger" in a "normal" way I am left virtually >speechless; sputtering with rage; conversationally inept. I agree that >there would certainly have been better ways for Sen. Ford to have handled >the situation. What I am maintaining is that, under the circumstances, it >could well have been an honest strategic conversational blunder brought >on partly by shock and partly by a desire to reprimand a constituent >without seeming too impolitic. I would hate to have to be held >responsible for all of my worst conversational missteps, and I think that >it is wrong simply to assume that the phrase is one that Sen Ford >approves of or uses regularly in conversation, or even that it indicates >racial bigotry on his part. As I understand it, he has given a public >explanation for his remark which contains an implicit apology and an >expression of abhorrence for the phrase in question. Given the facts as >they have been reported to me, I'd be willing to accept his explanation.