Date: Tue, 25 Oct 1994 16:33:21 CST


Subject: Re: offensiveness

In Message Tue, 25 Oct 1994 02:00:00 LCL,

"M. Lynne Murphy" 104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] writes:

i'm interested in decisions re: offensiveness in dictionaries (not

sure how this string got started) and noted with alarm that the buro

van die woordesboek van die afrikaanse taal has decided not to define

any "racially offensive" terms. this troubles me greatly--it seems

that the way some south african dictionaries are dealing with the

legacy of apartheid is to try to shove some of its linguistic

ugliness under the rug.

In my opinion, no offensive term is less abusive than any other. If a

person resents any term used in reference to them, then users of the term

should discontinue using it. It is a simple matter of civility.

On the other hand, I deplore the decision of the Buro van die Wordesboek,

because I consider a dictionary as a useful source of various source of

information about dictionaries. I would find a dictionary more useful if it

could also help me tell which particular terms are likely to offend (and

under what conditions). What's the point of omitting racist terms if they

are used anyway and people who do not know the connotations of particular

terms would not have a way of checking why they may have offended somebody

or failed to react in some appropriate way to the offensive speaker?


Salikoko S. Mufwene

University of Chicago

Dept. of Linguistics

1010 East 59th Street

Chicago, IL 60637


312-702-8531; fax: 312-702-9861