Subject: Re: "Negro with two g's"

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Mar 10 17:35:11 UTC 2013

There are occasional eg's out there like "Dearborn - nice place, not a lot of N-words there," ( which is arguably an instance of metonymy, that most commodious of figures of speech. (Indeed, you could make the same point about the use of "hashem" for God among orthodox Jews.) But that doesn't answer the original question of what to call things like "the N-word" or "Negro with two g's" or "a**hhole" or "barnyard expletive" etc. in their standard uses. I can't think of anything more apt than nomonyms. Though on second thought, maybe "euphemism" works too, if you think of "N-word" as a polite way of saying ""nigger,"" which is the name of the word "nigger."


> From: "Joel S. Berson"
> American Dialect Society
> Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2013 00:43:26 -0500
> Does "metonymy" fit in here anywhere?  I ask because I live
>  in Menotomy.  (No, not in Monotony.)
> Joel
> At 3/9/2013 09:29 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> >On Mar 9, 2013, at 2:13 PM, Geoffrey Nunberg wrote:
> > >
> > >
> > > *PS It doesn't seem quite right to describe phrases like "the
> > N-word" as euphemisms, though that usage seems to be pervasive
> > (see, e.g., the Wikipedia entry for "nigger"). To say that "A" is a
> > euphemism for "B" is to say that A denotes politely what B denotes
> > rudely, but in this case the words are not co-extensive: "A"
> > denotes "B" not B's.  Is there a name for this type of expression?
> > >
> >Well, increasingly it does seem to be used to denote B's, maybe
> >because of the inevitable confusion of use and mention, maybe
> >because of exigency/taboo avoidance:  "X called Y an/the N-word"
> >seems to function exactly like any other god-fearing euphemism,
> >although to be sure in other contexts "the N-word" is used to refer
> >to the word, not its referent.  I guess the real shift from
> >whatever-we-call-it to a true euphemism would be when X can actually
> >hurl "You N-word" at Y as an epithet.  I wouldn't be surprised to
> >learn that this transition has already been made.
> >
> >LH

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