Date: Tue, 25 Oct 1994 13:37:40 CST From: salikoko mufwene Subject: Re: offending idiot In Message Mon, 24 Oct 1994 21:32:23 -0400, PPATRICK%GUVAX[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] writes: >Most ADS-L readers probably don't need the reference, but in 1991 >American Speech ran two excellent articles on the subject of terms >of group self-reference by African Americans (or "American Slave >Descendants" in Baugh's neutral term), by Geneva Smitherman and John >Baugh. Baugh's article gives a detailed breakdown of preferences by >age among ASD for such terms as "black, colored, negro, nigger" etc. >It's quite evident from this that "nigger" is not a neutral term for >anyone in the African American community today. Thanks, Peter, for adding the references to the discussion. The article by Geneva Smitherman actually provides a chronology of the terms. On p. 118 (AS 66, 1991), she observes that "nigger" was a term used by "Europeans in Colonioal America" as a racial label, not as an epithet, to refer to African Americans "when the enslavement status was unknown, or where there was occasion to use a collective term for all Africans [in North America?]." In the next paragraph (second on the same page, she says that the most frequently used label by Africans to refer to themselves was "African." 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. As this discussion began, I didn't question that it was used. I admitted that it is used among African Americans with special pragmatic effect. So, some African Americans insult or tease one another using the term "Nigger." I don't think it as a neutral term. My wife is AA and she takes serious offense at the term. One of her aunts often uses it to put down other AAs she despises, which iritates my wife a lot. I suppose Roger will have to be more specific in his claim. On the other hand, Chuck Coker sounds accurate in describing some of the pragmatic constraints on the usage of such epithets. I hate to use this addition to Peter's note as a way of replying to some parts of Roger's intervention. What one says in the privacy of their home is more or less like what one thinks in the privacy of their minds. There are things that are considered tasteless by others which some of us may like. Everybody does not like everybody, and that's fine though not ideal; but that does not mean that society allows them to abuse or offend everybody they do not like. Why should I even bother discussing this anyway? Sali. Salikoko S. Mufwene University of Chicago Dept. of Linguistics 1010 East 59th Street Chicago, IL 60637 s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] 312-702-8531; fax: 312-702-9861