ADS-L Digest - 24 Jan 2009 to 25 Jan 2009 (#2009-26)

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Mon Jan 26 17:21:00 UTC 2009

On Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 12:07:43PM -0500, Laurence Horn wrote:
> At 9:43 AM -0500 1/26/09, Amy West wrote:
>> Do you think it's a broadening of what's identfied in MWC11 sense 3?
>> : a member of a socially disadvantaged class of persons  *it's time
>> for somebody to lead all of America's niggers . . . all the people
>> who feel left out of the political process - Ron Dellums*
>> Or something else? Outgrowth of the term used non-offensively within
>> the group?
>> ---Amy West
> I've always taken this use of "nigger" (meaning essentially 'guy' [+
> black], if I'm not mistaken) to be parallel to the use of "yid" in
> Yiddish, mostly known to me from Jewish jokes (in Yiddish) that begin
> along the lines of "There was this yid" or "This yid bought a cow" or
> whatever, the interpretation of which is not 'There was this Jew' but
> 'There was this guy', with the 'Jewish' part presupposed or
> backgrounded.

OED does cover this fairly well, either in _nigger_ n. sense
1.c.  (used by blacks in neutral or favorable contexts
(i.e. Larry's 'guy' [+ black])) or in sense 4 (a person,
fellow; here used to refer to non-blacks (i.e. 'guy' [-
black])). Both of these are much older than the 'socially
disadvantaged' sense.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society -

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