Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 13:02:38 -0500 From: "Dennis R. Preston" Subject: Re: What does the "n" word mean? (was PC dictionaries) Tom, Thanks. I thought that's what you meant. I disagree, by the way. I think many ethnic slurs have steadily been gaining 'dirty word' status and constitute a new, fourth category of such words in English - joining excreta, sex, and religion. The fact that there are inoffensive ingroup uses does not make them a bit different from, for example, the fact that an old high school buddy might greet me with 'Dennis, you ol' mother-fucker' (and he'd better damn well 'd'-delete in 'old' too). Far short of offensive, such use shows extreme solidarity, just as ethnic slurs do in ingroup situations. Dennis (Of course, maybe I just think all my ol' high school buddies are buddies ........) >On Thu, 30 Oct 1997, Dennis R. Preston wrote: > >> >Ethnic slurs are not like most other expletives, which sound nasty only >> >because they sound nasty; ethnic slurs also have specific targets. >> >> Would you expand on the meaning of 'sound nasty'? > >It's, ah, technical jargon. That's the ticket! > >Seriously, the "F" word is offensive in almost any context. The word >itself has connotations that are not necessarily deragatory towards >specific individuals, but remain nontheless offensive. > >Ethnic slurs, on the other hand, gain their offensiveness because they >have a target. To describe a similar phenomenon, look at Meredith >Brooks's song "Bitch". The chorus begins "I'm a bitch, I'm a lover...". >If a male vocalist recorded a song called "Bitch" beginning "She's a >bitch, she's a lover...", it would be insulting. Why? Because the male >vocalist falls outside of the group the slur insults, and the female >vocalist does not. In my opinion, the same principle applies to ethnic >slurs. > >Tom Head >tlh[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] > > >"The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible. > What the second duty is, no one has yet discovered." > -- Oscar Wilde Dennis R. Preston Department of Linguistics and Languages Michigan State University East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Office: (517)353-0740 Fax: (517)432-2736