ball boy slur

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 29 00:50:49 UTC 2012

Actually, it appears that the OED entry (or rather entries, since there are three separate nominal ones) for _slur_ doesn't actually include a sense corresponding to 'epithet'.  In fact, it might be argued that the "racial slurs" alluded to in the FOX headline corresponds more closely to the senses provided in the OED (_slur_, n., 3: e.g. sense 1a 'an expression or suggestion of disparagement or reproof') than the kind of slur the author of the headline was probably thinking of.  Still, the OED entry should probably include a meaning corresponding to 'epithet', or none of our favorite racial, ethnic, religious, or orientation- or gender-based slurs would qualify as slurs.  While it's tempting to read this cite from Henry Sweet under sense 5 as relevant,

1894   H. Sweet Anglo-Saxon Reader (ed. 7) p. lxxxvi,   Two short syllables constituting a slur, which must be uttered very rapidly.

I don't imagine it really is.


On Mar 28, 2012, at 7:20 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> In my (or at least in my idiolect) a contemptuous name for somebody was an
> "epithet."  A "slur" was a false accusation of turpitude or something
> similar.
> Over the past thirty or forty years, "ep[ithet" has been fading and "slur"
> has muscled in.
> Now "slur" has gone too far.
> headlines that 'HUNGER GAMES' FANS RACIAL
> SLURS<,0,6398142.story>
> .
> The Tweets that it's fanned are pretty stupid and idiotically racist, but
> they're hardly "slurs." Typical:
> "<,0,6398142.story>Why
> does Rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie."
> They're just "racial/racist remarks."
> JL
> On Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 6:14 PM, Alice Faber <faber at> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Alice Faber <faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU>
>> Organization: Haskins Laboratories
>> Subject:      Re: ball boy slur
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> On 3/28/12 6:02 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>>> In an incident in Seattle on Friday night, Houston Dynamo (soccer)
>>> player Colin Clark (a 2009 Colorado Rapids Humanitarian of the Year)
>>> yelled at the local ball boy what has been repeatedly identified in the
>>> press as a "homosexual slur". It's rather obvious what the most likely
>>> candidate is, but it took me quite some time--and moving from newspapers
>>> to blogs (Yahoo! Sports)--to confirm it. Even then, the reference was
>>> edited out.
>>>> Angered by a Seattle ball boy who didn't hand him the ball exactly how
>>>> he wanted before a seventh-minute throw-in against the Sounders on
>>>> Friday night, Houston's Colin Clark called the kid a "f***ing f****t."
>>>> The gay slur was picked up loud and clear by pitchside microphones for
>>>> the nationally televised match (video here -- NSFW language,
>>>> obviously), so everyone watching at home immediately knew what Clark
>>>> had done.
>>> Here's the video link (texted out from the quoted passage):
>>> There are some interesting details for the students of apologies, as the
>>> apology has been offered to the ball boy and "anyone who has been
>>> offended". I am not really questioning the sincerity of the apology, but
>>> I find it somewhat puzzling that even in run-of-the-mill sincere
>>> apologies we now get standard non-apology apology language. Furthermore,
>>> Clark offered the following line:
>>>> I didn't mean to disrespect anyone and am sorry for letting my
>>>> emotions get the best of me. It's not who I am and it won't happen
>> again.
>>> The first part is a bit hard to swallow--it's quite obvious that, at the
>>> moment of utterance, he meant every ounce of disrespect that he heaped
>>> on the ball boy. Furthermore, if he lets his emotions get a better of
>>> him in the seventh minute of a 90-minute match this early in the season
>>> (not even into the second week) one has to wonder if it would be wise to
>>> let him play in overtime of a playoff game.
>>> Despite the apology, Clark has been suspended for three games.
>>> Here's the standard taboo avoidance dance from the report today. (AP and
>>> ESPN)
>>>> Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark has been suspended for three games by
>>>> Major League Soccer and fined for directing a gay slur toward a ball
>>>> boy during Houston's 2-0 loss at Seattle last week.
>>>> MLS commissioner Don Garber also ordered Clark to attend diversity and
>>>> sensitivity training.
>>>> "Major League Soccer will not tolerate this type of behavior from its
>>>> players or staff at any time, under any circumstances," Garber said.
>>>> The 27-year-old apologized on Twitter and said he will say he's sorry
>>>> to the ball boy in person.
>>>> "I believe that he will learn from this incident," Garber said.
>>>> Clark is in his seventh MLS season, and second full season with the
>>>> Dynamo.
>>>> "First of all, I want to apologize for what I did during the Seattle
>>>> match. I had a chance to speak to the ball boy after the game," Clark
>>>> said. "I'm sorry to everyone who I offended with that term. I intend
>>>> to never use that word again in any context. There's absolutely no
>>>> excuse for using that word.
>>>> "What I said doesn't represent me. It was out of character and out of
>>>> line. I made a huge mistake by using those words, and I truly regret
>>>> that."
>>> Clark may learn from this, but how will anyone else, if they don't even
>>> know what taboo word had been used?
>> Not every web report of this was as circumspect as I first saw
>> this reported by; the link for the entry includes the slur
>> in question:
>> .
>> --
>> ========================================================================
>> Alice Faber                                       faber at
>> Haskins Laboratories                            tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
>> New Haven, CT 06511 USA                               fax (203) 865-8963
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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