[Ads-l] Racist origins of "Grandfathering"

dave at WILTON.NET dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Dec 18 22:38:32 EST 2020


Offense is in the eye of the beholder. If someone finds a word to be
offensive, then it is. If it's only a few people, then asking people to stop
using it as a matter of course is unreasonable, but when a critical mass of
people who are offended is reached, then one should probably avoid the term.

And a term can be discriminatory if it supports or connotes a discriminatory
power structure, such as using he/him/his as the default pronoun. 

In both cases, the intent of the speaker is irrelevant. But a little known
historical link is not disqualifying. (If it were, just about everything in
the US would be taboo.)

In this case, I'm not aware of anyone who is actually offended by
"grandfathering" (although that perception may be a result of me being a
middle-aged white guy.) Nor do I think any connotation to racist practice
remains in the word. Therefore, I don't think there is a problem with this
word. But I'm happy to be corrected.

But even if it's not offensive, it's good thing that more people are
learning the word's racist past. Our language is littered with the detritus
of racism, and being aware of it can help us correct present-day racism.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of Peter
Reitan
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2020 7:06 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Racist origins of "Grandfathering"

Wasn't it the law that was racist, by whatever name it might have had, and
not the chosen name itself?

The name itself is thematically relevant to other, non-racist laws or rules
for non-racist reasons, isn't it?

Is any word once sullied by one bad usage useless for any other purpose?
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