"Nigga" untrademarkable?

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Fri Mar 17 13:50:52 UTC 2006

A few years ago, after discoursing with a Shakespeare class
about The Merchant of Venice, I was informed by a student
that she found offensive my using the noun "Jew."  Taken
aback, I asked what designation she would prefer; she
replied, "Jewish person."

How widespread is that sentiment?  (Though it isn't quite
parallel, the Yid/Yiddish pair reminded me of my student's

Of course, many derogatory epithets for
ethnic/racial/national/religious categories have originated
as neutral designations (as was the case with the
unutterable n-word, with its untrademarkable cognate), the
pejoration of the words resulting from the oppression--dare
I say denigration?--of the groups to which they refer.

Charlie Doyle

English Deptartment
University of Georgia

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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