Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu Mar 8 15:35:57 UTC 2007

Yes, Wilson is definitely right: The pronunciation represented by the spelling "nigra" was the polite Southern white disignation for black people; it was a normal pronunciation of the word "Negro"--not (as often claimed by outsiders) a minced version of "nigger."

To quote myself, in an "editorial" note at the end of Susan Lea's "A Pronunciation of _Negro_," American Speech 56 (1981): 154, "What is 'offensive' about _nigra_ (to use the label in _Webster's Third_) is not the intent of the pronunciation but the intent of the spelling, which is a literary device to elicit contempt for a speaker to whom the form is attributed" (155).


---- Original message ----
>Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2007 10:07:59 -0500
>From: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject: Re: the n word: on its way out?
>"Nigger" has been a term of endearmeent within the black community as long as I've been alive. As for "nigra," this was (is?) the standard pronunciatioon of "Negro" used in polite company by your better class of white person since God knows when. It was especially popular in print at the beginning of the so-called "civil-rights era."

>On 3/8/07, Landau, James <James.Landau at ngc.com> wrote:

>> 2) In Gone With The Wind, a book which to the eternal misfortune of the United States failed to live up to the promise of its title, the n-word does not (if I remember correctly) appear, but instead there are frequent uses of the word "nigra".  I cannot recall ever having heard or seen "nigra" elsewhere, so I ask if it were a one-shot euphemism invented by either the author or an editor for this particular book?
>>     - Jim Landau

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

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