McWhorter on "Negro" [Was: on "Negro English"]

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 16 16:03:38 UTC 2010

I've always thought the term "colored" was a nice term for Negro people and that Negro was a neutral scientific kind of term, like Caucasian (awe-droppers are forbidden to say cockasian).  Darkies is not so bad.  It's even in my FL state song.


The word "colorful" has nice connotations.  And black has some negative connotations.  The word "black" doesn't really describe Negro skin color.  Too extreme.  How about "black" in an African language that would sound nice?   Watusi?

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL7+ 
see phonetic spelling


> Date: Fri, 15 Jan 2010 22:38:16 -0500
> From: hwgray at GMAIL.COM
> Subject: Re: McWhorter on "Negro" [Was: on "Negro English"]
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: McWhorter on "Negro" [Was: on "Negro English"]
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> As was "colored" before it. Is only the opinion of one person enough
> let you relax WRT something of no consequence, in any case? At one
> time - during the time when "Negro" was hip, in fact - it used to
> bother me when my white, Asian, and Chicano drinking buddies continued
> to use "colored" a couple of decades after "Negro" had supposedly
> become the currently-hip term.
> Then, Stokely and H. Rap determined that "black" should be the term
> that we-whose-great--grandparents-were-slaves /
> we-who-are-the-great-grandchildren-of-slaves folk should use. Since
> "black" was, among the general population of soul, the one word more
> hurtful and embarrassing than "nigger," under any set of circumstances
> (as Richard Pryor once phrased it, "I'm *not* black! I'm colored!"), I
> was, at first, amazed, stunned, astonished, and shamed that this word
> should even be mentioned in this use on national TV in front of white
> people, as though it were nothing. Indeed, these black fools even
> proclaimed as they declaimed that we Negroes should be *proud* to call
> ourselves "black," if for no other reason than to express solidarity
> with our sub-Saharan black brothers. WTF?!!! Shit! This nigger done
> lost his mind! And I was annoyed because my non-Negro friends and
> acquaintances continued to use "colored"!
> Then, it suddenly became clear to me that this
> change-the-term-every-quarter-century jive was simply empty of
> content, nothing but bullshit totally unworthy of notice and not worth
> worrying about for any reason. Except, apparently, among white people.
> White people, to whom black people are not in a position to do
> anything of greater consequence than to be quoted by another *white*
> man as being supposedly unhappy about something that some third white
> man, mistakenly or on purpose, has said.
> I can remember black organizations patting themselves oon the back
> because they had gotten white newspapers, in a large part of the U.S.,
> at least, to capitalize the "n" of the erstwhile "negro," thereby
> destroying the lynching-of-the-month clubs, ending the form of serfdom
> known as "share-cropping," closing prisons like Parchman's Farm and
> Angola, preventing telephone books in the South from adding "c" for
> "colored" after the names of black people in the telephone book, etc.,
> etc., and ultimately bringing into existence the actuality of the
> siblinghood of person under the parenthood of Deity.
> BTW, when is someone going to get the Rev. Jesse's opinion on this
> matter? His opinion has to count more than that of the professor.
> After all, 99.44% of black America has never heard of this nig-, uh,
> African-American McWhorter and 99.44% of those who have think that
> he's white, because of his stance on political issues of far greater
> importance than whether "Negro" is as bad a word as, say, "blackamoor"
> or "fuck" or whether Obama's idiolect can or should be included under
> the rubric of the made-up concept of "standard" American English, as
> though that that somehow makes any kind of difference. I may be
> mistaken, but I can't recall that anybody felt that LBJ's accent
> inability to speak without sounding as though he wasn't from Chicago
> was worthy of note in any newspaper of record.
> As usual, I could be entirely mistaken, inasmuch as I have, once
> again, made no attempt to research a topic upon which I have
> pontificated. IAC, given that people have a problem understanding that
> "fuck someone over" is not identical to "fuck over someone," any more
> than "set fire to" is identical to "set something afire," it hardly
> matters.
> -Wilson
> On Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 3:51 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> > Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> > Subject: Re: McWhorter on "Negro" [Was: on "Negro English"]
> > -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > I'm somewhere between relieved and pleased to see McWhorter writing
> > "However, it ["Negro"] is more properly an archaism, not so long ago
> > thoroughly acceptable among blacks and whites." (He goes on "If Reid
> > was wrong to use the word, then I assume he is also supposed to refer
> > to the United African-American College Fund.") I am writing about
> > 18th-century (and a bit about 19th-century) Massachusetts, where one
> > cannot avoid "Negro" in quotations, and probably should not in
> > paraphrasings. It has seemed to me only confusing for me to write,
> > say, "black" in other contexts -- I can hear my (potential) readers
> > asking, why does he use "black" here and "Negro" there, when I do not
> > mean any distinction.
> >
> > I intend to explain my vocabulary, and to mention "Changes in the
> > names used to refer to people of African descent in America have a
> > ... complicated and instructive" history (Patrick Rael,
> > "Introduction," in African-American Activism before the Civil War:
> > The Freedom Struggle in the Antebellum North, ed. Patrick Rael [New
> > York: Routeledge, 2008], 18).
> >
> > Joel
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society -
> >
> --
> -Wilson
> –––
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> –Mark Twain
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
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