slur & epithet, racially derogatory word

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Apr 5 04:18:02 UTC 2013

On consideration, you may be right. Before 1962, the "derogatory word" use seems to appear only in the AA press.


> From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject: Re: slur & epithet, racially derogatory word
> Date: April 4, 2013 9:23:14 AM PDT
> At 4/4/2013 01:55 AM, Geoffrey Nunberg wrote:
>> The evidence, and the nature of the innovation, both point strongly
>> to an origin among the African American intelligentsia and literate
>> middle class, which was also the presumptive readership of these
>> media. In fact you see very little slang or marked BE vernacular in
>> the pages of the Chicago Defender from this period, and then only in
>> quotative contexts, not reportage. Langston Hughes used the word in
>> this way in his 1940  autobiography ("Southerners often make that
>> word a slur between nigger and Negro").
> But this is "slur" referring to pronunciation, isn't it, rather than
> meaning "a derogatory term"?
> Joel
>> I don't see why one would one assume he must somehow have picked it
>> up from BE vernacular.
>> Geoff

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