Date: Tue, 25 Oct 1994 08:28:52 EDT From: David Muschell Subject: Re: offending idiot In response to Roger Vanderveen's reply to Salikoko Mufwene, there would seem to be more explanation of the term "trivialization." For me, offending idioms have huge distinctions of offense: a "dunce" was once very mocking of the followers of John Duns Scotus and its later translation as a term for any ignorant person gave it lasting negativity; however a "guy," which was once a derogatory term for traitorous individuals (from Guy Fawkes--it's a long story), lost negative weight as history blurred a brief incident of rebellion. "Nigger," however, has hundreds of years of corrosive racism attached to it as it jumped from its Spanish origin into English. Its application to a large group who happened to have extra melanin in their skin carried the notion of chattel, slave, one to be bought and sold as a mule in the marketplace. We, who feel enlightened, must frown in amazement at the fact that our Civil Rights Movement barely edged through the 1960's, that apartheid only now has seen its demise. The offending word is so un-trivial that anecdotes about dogs given the appellation with tones of "I don't understand what the big deal was" cause not knee-jerk reactions, but a more heart-wrenching sense that this horrendous history of the term has somehow been diminished to a kind of fluff that we can laugh about. These levels of distinction in offending idioms make some terms so connected to past wickedness that they cannot be spoken of without that connection in mind. So, while "Indian" may offend and "Native American" is now "politically correct" (or maybe humanly correct), we know that the Western moniker was given under the mistaken assumption that we "white folk" had somehow reached the isles of India and thus its offense bears less of a load on the human consciousness. David