Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 12:54:01 -0500 From: Gregory {Greg} Downing Subject: Re: PC Dictionaries? At 12:29 PM 10/28/97 -0500, you wrote: >>From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, p. 19a >(Explanatory Notes), Order of Senses: "The order of senses within an >entry is historical: the sense known to have been first used in >English is entered first." > >>From the definition of "nigger": "1: a black person -- usu. taken to >be offensive 2: a member of any dark-skinned race -- usu. taken to >be offensive 3: a member of a socially disadvantaged class of >persons the people who feel left out of the political process -- Ron Dellums> > _usage_ _Nigger_ in senses 1 and 2 can be found in the works of such >writers of the past as Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, and Charles >Dickens, but it now ranks as perhaps the most offensive and >inflammatory racial slur in English. Its use by and among blacks is >not always intended or taken as offensive, but, except in sense 3, it >is otherwise a word expressive of racial hatred and bigotry." > I suspect the problem is that when a group of people has been historically belittled, some of its members will sometimes come to believe that belittling is taking place even when, from a more dispassionate perspective, belittling is not taking place. Sure, racist ideas overt and subtle (of many groups against many groups, actually) absolutely still exist. But the lexicographers' argument on this list has been that the MW dictionary entry in question is not a party to that. >Don't you get the impression that whoever wrote the NAACP press >release didn't actually look in the dictionary he or she was >condemning? > Well, this is part of a whole array of modern-day folklore where an accusation that racism is taking place in goverment or business or other institutions resonates so much with people on an a priori level (see my first para. just above) that it is accepted on the face of it, and repeated till it is widely known and believed, without anyone feeling a need to check into the actual fabric of the situation. There was a very big rumor a few years ago that the old three-master ship (or whatever it is) on the Snapple bottle was a picture of a slave ship. The small-type kosher K on the label was then taken as a subtle Klan symbol. For that and maybe other reasons, all the Snapple flavored ice-teas, which were *very* popular among all groups of younger people in New York City at the time, lost tremendous market share for several years. Snapple was eventually sold to a private firm by the conglomerate that had just bought it maybe four years earlier. Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]