the n word: on its way out?
grendel.jjf at VERIZON.NET
Fri Mar 9 15:55:17 UTC 2007
I doubt that you can lay nigger on the solecism/dialect of Southern
economically challenged persons of pallor, nor its offensiveness to
stereotyping by their more melaninic class-mates. Nigger was common in
British speech and is attested at least to the late 18C. Furthermore, there
are cognates in Continental languages derived from Fr. neger and Latinate
negro (from neger, negra, negrum). I encountered the Dutch cognate on my
Wanderjahr back in 1969. I stayed for a while with family friends near
Delft (a suburb of s-Gravenhage). Jan took me to see his office, which was
on a short, narrow lane. Jan, who spoke fluent English and had lived in
America, told me that in the old days it had been a slave market and was
called Nickersteeg <nik ker shtaygk>. With some relishlooking for my
American reaction--he translated it, in case I had missed it, as Nigger
Alley. You can find it on Google maps, between Oude Delft and Koornmarkt
Nigra is a fairly good phonetic spelling of a variant Southern
pronunciation of negro, and is actually a better fit for your speculations
about nigger. I have encountered it widely in speech, writing, and
cinema. It is a natural pronunciation and probably further recommended
itself by sounding like nigger but being different enough for polite
conversation. AHD goes farther: Nigra (1944), on the other hand, reflects
a pronunciation in certain circles of Negro, but meant to suggest nigger,
and is thus deemed (according to a 1960 slang dictionary) "even more derog.
Its a Gnostic thing. You wouldn't understand.
From: Landau, James [mailto:James.Landau at NGC.COM]
Sent: Thursday, 08 March, 2007 09:49
Subject: Re: the n word: on its way out?
Now for two non-hypothetical questions.
1) Why is the term "n****r" so offensive while the similar-sounding but
now-long-forgotten term "Negro" was the proper choice for those who
wished to be polite? My guess is that since "Negro" was the original
term, "n****r" originated as an illiteracy among white trash, and became
stereotyped as an insult because white trash were more likely to be
insulting to blacks than higher-class whites were. If this be true,
then we have the paradox that the n-word became so offensive due to
black stereotyping of a particular class of whites!
2) In Gone With The Wind, a book which to the eternal misfortune of the
United States failed to live up to the promise of its title, the n-word
does not (if I remember correctly) appear, but instead there are
frequent uses of the word "nigra". I cannot recall ever having heard or
seen "nigra" elsewhere, so I ask if it were a one-shot euphemism
invented by either the author or an editor for this particular book?
- Jim Landau
Northrop-Grumman Information Technology
8025 Black Horse Pike, Suite 300
West Atlantic City NJ 08232 USA
From: Dennis Baron [mailto:debaron at UIUC.EDU]
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 6:57 PM
Subject: the n word: on its way out?
There's a new post on the Web of Language:
The n-word: on its way out?
The New York City Council has called for a symbolic moratorium on the
use of the "N" word, joining a growing movement to ban a word
inextricably associated with racism and hate. Angry over Michael
Richards' explosive use of the word, and disturbed by its popularity
among those African Americans who put a positive spin on it as a term of
solidarity or endearment <snip>
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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