"black," adj. = non-African American

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 5 05:08:19 UTC 2007

Wasn't Deb the woman that Colbert got to use "African
African-American" to describe Obama?

If so, she's a kind of mirror-image of the woman who wrote a letter to
the editor in which she asked how, given that she was an American of
South-African descent, the Rev. Jesse Jackson would refer to her. I'd
bet money that the Rebm would refer to her as  "white," 'cause
wouldn't no black person be askin' no ignunt-assed kwershtun like


On 3/4/07, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "black," adj. = non-African American
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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:
> http://tafkac.org/language/back_in_the_african_american.html
> > 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):
> http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/01/22/obama/
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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