Ameliorated words of offensive origin

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Thu Mar 1 09:05:17 UTC 2001

"Bethany K. Dumas" wrote:
> >Protestant.  Being newly Catholic, I find the word
> >neutral.  But some of my long-time Catholic friends say
> >they fear it's offensive to Protestants????
> Interesting. As an Episcopalian, what I find mildly offensive is "Catholic"
> for "Roman Catholic." Sometimes I shorten it to "Roman." I never shorten it to
> "Catholic" (better "catholic") which has a whole other meaning, as we say. I
> think that the word "Protestant" is generically neutral (though often
> misused).

Long-standing religious wars contribute several examples of terms
shifting from the language of invective to more innocuous usages:

"Quaker", I believe, was originally a pejorative label. . .  which
members of the Society of Friends gave a twist that carried their
theological affirmation: "Yes, we quake, because we are in the Presence
of the Lord".  "Shaker" has a similar history.

"Snake handlers"  (as in "they shall take up serpents") may be losing
some of its original pejorative punch.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been in the news
this past week for changing the emphasis in the name of their religion.
They say that the label "Mormon Church" was pejorative in origin, even
though Gentiles now use the term without intent to insult anyone.

Aside: Sol Tax, my old professor, use to say that he might find it
interesting to move to Utah.  If he did, he used to say, he would be a
true Gentile without undergoing a conversion. That makes me wonder if
"gentile", too, was once meant to be an insult.

To my ear, "Holy Roller" still sounds like an insult -- not quite on the
same level of insult as "cat-licker", but biting nonetheless.

-- mike salovesh   <salovesh at>   PEACE !!!

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