Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 17:11:42 -0500


Subject: Re: PC Dictionaries?

An admittedly somewhat racist friend of mine from West Virginia frequently

says "There are niggers, and there are Negroes," with forceful enunciation.

He is using the DARE distinction (except for "regardless of skin color") in

addition to Ron Butters' referential distinction.

I do think that it is important to keep in mind that there are core meanings

and peripheral meanings for most words. My intuitions tell me that, in its

core meaning, the derogatory word NIGGER is applied to darkskinned people.

Does anyone still use n-words to refer to the dark-skinned people from

southern India? I doubt it. The original Sambo was South Indian, I

understand, reflecting British racial feelings, but would anyone nowadays

use this term for anyone except people with some sub-Saharan African

heritage. I think the references to "dark skin" are skirting the issue of

actual usage. Both of my WV friend's terms could be applied (by him, BUT

NOT ME!!!, of course) to individuals with rather light skin.

Here is a little thought experiment:

Suppose a blind person walks into a room full of strangers and says, "Are

there any niggers here?" Would anyone think that the blind person meant 'any

person perceived as uncouth, immoral, or threatening, regardless of skin


OK. Here'a one scenario: the blind person is African American and knows

that all people in the room have some African ancestry though he doesn't

know them personally. Another scenario: The blind man is white and knows

all the people in the room except him have African ancestry. Other

scenarios can easily be made up. What if in the second scenario all the

African Americans know the blind man and have good rapport with him? All

these and other scenarios should be considered in coming up with a full

"definition" of the term -- which is more a definiton of social attitudes

than of a mere word (hyperobvious!).

*****in reply to:

DARE has evidence, both written and oral, of the use of "nigger" to refer to

"any person perceived as uncouth, immoral, or threatening, regardless of

skin color." It is used especially frequently by Black speakers. See sense