After Discovery, State Quietly Moves to Purge N-word From Official Documents

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 30 05:24:47 UTC 2011

Nothing less than rewriting history.


All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Fri, Jul 22, 2011 at 9:05 AM, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â After Discovery, State Quietly Moves to Purge N-word From
> Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â Official Documents
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> JULY 22, 2011
> Offensive Environment
> After Discovery, State Quietly Moves to Purge N-word From Official Documents
> In the remote meadows and forests of upstate New York, state
> environmental scientists have made a disturbing discovery: a road, a
> stream and a lake all bearing names using the most offensive racial
> word in the English language.
> A vestige of a long-ago past, the n-word—fully spelled out—still
> lingers in environmental conservation laws classifying bodies of
> water.
> "It was a shock to us. The term is very offensive," said Scott Stoner,
> a research scientist for the state Department of Environmental
> Conservation. "These are not regulations that get looked at often, but
> somebody discovered it."
> Mr. Stoner said a regional researcher alerted the agency about the
> racial epithet two years ago. Officials, he said, then did a computer
> search and found three other examples buried in regulatory indexes and
> a map.
> This week, the state quietly moved to correct the problem. While it
> can't rename local roads and water bodies, the agency is finally
> scrubbing the n-word from its regulations.
> Since it's technically a rule change, the deletions can't happen
> instantaneously but must first be proposed. The result is one of the
> more unusual rule changes announced in the official state register,
> the latest edition of which carries the headline: "Removing a Racially
> Offensive Term That Appears in the Regulations."
> The agency proposed it as a "consensus rule," obviating the need for
> any public hearings. "DEC has determined that no person is likely to
> object to the adoption of the rule as written," the register states.
> In the meantime, DEC zapped the word from regulations posted on its
> website. One of those instances, a little, narrow lake in the wooded
> wilderness of Hamilton County, is now referred to as "unnamed lake."
> The required public-comment period still stands, which means the
> regulations won't officially be amended for another month and a half.
> Since few people outside the agency ever noticed the slur, it never
> generated public outrage. That wasn't the case across the coast in
> northern California, where a cemetery containing several dozen
> headstones labeled with the racial term turned into a major
> controversy.
> Despite the effort to purge the n-word from New York's official
> documents, the epithet showed up in a recent management plan report by
> the agency's division of lands and forests.
> An offensively named road in the town of Danby in Tompkins County is
> cited in a report posted online in February. The agency was unaware of
> that until a reporter brought it to its attention on Thursday.
> "The Department will take action to move forward in removing any
> offensive term from the Lands and Forests map in terms of how it is
> referenced," said Lori Severino, a spokeswoman for the agency, in a
> statement.
> "DEC cannot and does not have the authority to rename roads, water
> bodies, or any other natural resources in the state," said Ms.
> Severino. "These are historical records and sometimes date back
> hundreds of years. We can, however, change or remove how they are
> referenced under DEC regulations and to strive to be proactive in
> those measures whenever possible."
> The precise origin of the names is a mystery to even the most rooted locals.
> "I'd like to say, 'Talk to one of the old folks around here,' but the
> trouble with that is I'm 83." said Tom Bissell, a local historian from
> Hamilton County.
> The federal government began to strip the n-word from its topographic
> maps in the early 1960s. But within the more obscure reaches of
> cartographic bureaucracy, the n-word occasionally endures.
> "You would expect to find almost all of them in the deep South, but
> there were a surprising number of them in places like upstate New York
> and Maine," said Mark Monmonier, a professor of geography at the
> Maxwell School of Syracuse University and author of the 2006 book,
> "From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim and
> Inflame."
> Write to Jacob Gershman at jacob.gershman at
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