nitty-gritty: racist term?

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Wed May 15 16:05:59 UTC 2002

The latest controversy about the alleged racism of an everyday term is
described at:

Basically, it says that UK police are not allowed to use the term 'nitty
gritty' because it allegedly originally meant the waste at the bottom of a
slave ship once the slaves were taken off.  OED and AHD4 say that the
origin is unknown, so I don't know where this etymological story comes from.


Dr M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
Acting Director, MA in Applied Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

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