"black," adj. = non-African American

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Mar 5 03:24:06 UTC 2007

On 3/4/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> At 4:03 PM -0800 3/4/07, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >Indeed "non-African African American" is closer to what I meant.
> >
> >   If you see what I mean.
> Indeed I do.  It makes for a nice balance with that old
> (semi-apocryphal, it seems) tale of a global search-and-replace
> leading to some institution announcing that they were now back in the
> African-American.

Perhaps you're thinking of the Fresno Bee incident in 1990. In that
case it was apparently the result of a deliberate prank, not a
politically correct spellchecker:


> In the case below, African-American is really
> what's intended, although you'd think if anyone is African-American,
> it's someone like Obama.  I guess we need a good adjective that
> denotes (while not quite saying) "slave-descended".

On Salon.com, Deborah Dickerson argued that "'black," in our political
and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves"
(thus precluding Obama):


--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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