Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 19:57:39 EST From: Monkmag Subject: Re: PC Dictionaries? In a message dated 10/28/97 9:45:51 AM, you wrote: < I am a Black man, not African-American, and the use of the word "Nigger" > or shall I say the definition of the word, in the Merriam dictionary > greatly offends me. Who gave them the right to define any one person or > race. Is the publisher of Merriam God. Nope. Of course Merriam-Webster is not God: this is precisely the reason why it cannot define a word in whatever way it pleases. God might change language; a dictionary cannot. A dictionary records language; it has no power to determine or change it. So what gives him the > right to call me a "Nigger." M-W is not "calling" anyone anything. It is truthfully recording the (unfortunate) fact that some speakers of American English do in fact use the term to refer to black people in a derogatory manner. Pretending otherwise would be dishonest and would not change the fact that the usage exists. Peter McGraw>> This brings up an interesting point. I was recently asked by an interviewer in Portland, "should certain words be retired?" She was referring to offensive uses of words like "babe." As in, "hey babe." Of course, I railed against such a notion, since they reek of literal-minded, one-dimensional political correctness. But perhaps at the root of Mr. Holden's and NAACP's protest is a desire for just this--a retiring of the "n-word." Keep in mind--this sort of thing is frequently done in other countries. There is an institute Paris, which determines which foreign words can or cannot be used in advertisements, etc. And in Germany, the outlawing of a whole slew of words associated with the Third Reich. Is there a point, EVER, where the retiring of volatile words could be deemed necessary for the greater public interest? My answer at this juncture seems to be a flat out NO. One of the tests of a democracy is its ability to contain disparaging and ugly uses of language. But I am interested to hear if there are cogent counterarguments to this position.