Joanne M. Despres jdespres at MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM
Thu Jun 12 14:37:44 UTC 2003

This is a strangely belated and rather exaggerated response to a
slight alteration in M-W's treatment of slur words.

The piece seems to suggest that ethnic slurs had never been
labelled as offensive in the Collegiate before, when they have been
for many years.  In fact, not only is the N-word stigmatized, it's
given a usage paragraph which states in no uncertain terms how
badly offensive it is. The paragraph has been in the Collegiate since
the tenth edition, in 1993.

The only real change in M-W's policy is that the "usu offensive"
label was moved from the end to the beginning of the definition; this
happened several years ago.

If the NAACP wants to interpret that as a victory, that's great, but it
would be an injustice to suggest that M-W has ever endorsed
racist definitions in its dictionaries.  Unfortunately, many people
have difficulty understanding the concept that dictionary definitions
explain what English speakers mean when they use a particular
word, not what something or someone "is" in ontological sense.

But I'm preaching to the choir, of course.

Joanne Despres

On 11 Jun 2003, at 19:44, Laurence Horn wrote:

> f.y.i.
> >Subject: FW: NAACP WINS
> >Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2003 17:04:51 -0400
> >
> >
> >This is a great victory for all African Americans.
> >
> >
> >NAACP wins on "nigger" in dictionary
> >A Small Victory...A Giant Step ( Thanks NAACP )
> >There has been a change in Webster's Dictionary.
> >Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of the National Association for the
> >Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), recently gave a speech at
> >Virginia Tech.
> >
> >Everyone was informed that a landmark decision was made last week
> >with the people at Merriam-Webster Dictionary. They have recognized
> >the error of their ways.
> >
> >So, beginning with the next edition, the word nigger will no longer be
> >synonymous with African-Americans. It shall be duly noted that it's a
> >racial slur and not what African-Americans themselves are. Along
> >with this, all racial and religious slurs will finally be indicated
> >for what they really are - cruel and evil slurs too often used to
> >degrade people.
> >
> >Please pass this information on to others. This change should serve notice
> >to people, corporations, etc., that when individuals stick together to
> >right a wrong, a change is gonna come. This wasn't just a victory for
> >African-Americans, but for everyone.
> >
> >Now if we can only get some of our young black men to stop using it
> >so freely... then we will truly win.
> >
> >
> >Terry J. Pierce
> >The Alliance...the premier organization for the telecom professional!
> >National Secretary & Chief Information Officer
> >1100 Walnut St/11th Flr
> >Kansas City, MO 64106
> >816-654-3406 (Office)
> >816-654-2259 (Fax)
> >

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