Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jun 13 14:11:20 UTC 2003

At 5:46 AM -0400 6/13/03, Frank Abate wrote:
>...The relevant parts of the NOAD entry follow:
>nigger  [pron.]  n.  derogatory  a contemptuous term for a black or
>dark-skinned person.
>USAGE: the word ~nigger~ was used as an adjective denoting a black person as
>early as the 17th century and has long had strong offensive connotations.
>Today it remains one of the most racially offensive words in the language.
>Also, referred to as 'the n-word,' ~nigger~ is sometimes used by black
>people in reference to other black people in a jocular or disparaging
>manner, or some variant in between (in somewhat the same way that _queer_
>has been adopted by some gay and lesbian people as a term of self-reference,
>acceptable only when used by those within the community).

I am in complete agreement with Frank's comments in his posting, but
I wonder if the entry above is accurate in comparing "nigger" to
"queer".  The latter item has been successfully reclaimed, appearing
in such contexts as departments of Queer Studies, scholarly paper
titles, conferences on queering various literary and cultural figures
of the past, and so on.  I can't imagine, on the other hand, a
department of, or conference on, nigger studies; the idea is absurd
(or worse).  "Queer" is no longer "acceptable only when used by those
within the community", although caution is still required,
controlling for the context of use.  "Nigger", on the other hand,
really is in-group restricted as noted above.  Perhaps a closer
equivalent would be "fag".  Arnold, what's your take on this?


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