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January 9, 2006

NAACP vs Merriam-Webster

NAACP wins on "nigger" in dictionary (email from La Wanza to the social justice listserv)

A Small Victory...A Giant Step (Thanks NAACP)

Kweisi Mfume made the announcement during a speech at Virgina Tech in the spring of 2001 "beginning with the next edition, the word nigger will no longer be synonymous with African-Americans. It shall be duly noted that it's a racial slur and not what African-Americans themselves are. Along with this, all racial and religious slurs will finally be indicated for what they really are - cruel and evil slurs too often used to degrade people."

history and etymology.

Posted by Steph at January 9, 2006 10:46 AM


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Posted by: Les at January 10, 2006 3:02 AM

Yes, but how does this jibe with the casual and familiar use of the word (and its variants. nigga, niggaz) in the Black hip hop vernacular? Wouldnn't it be more honest to say that the word is used selectively by certain people in certain contexts without connoting racial degradation. Of course, this is a debate among African-Americans who hate the word and those who use it as a term of (hostile?) affection.

Posted by: unhooked and unhinged at January 12, 2006 1:03 PM

Maybe Les has an opinion? I've a feeling your philosophy of language is way beyond what folks can manage in terms of a dictionary definition. You're shifting the basis from one of fixity (a range or set of meanings) to one of use in practice. This latter concept reflects a post-structuralist attitude that hasn't yet reached its cultural apex.

Posted by: Steph [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 12, 2006 5:34 PM

Well, maybe my take is postmodern, but the dictionary does allow for several definitions of a single word, so maybe the dictionary could make a point of defining the term "nigger" the same way it would define any word with more than one definition. This doesn't sound too hard to me. Example: Nigger: 1) a racial slur; 2) a term of affection among certain Black Americans (controversial).
To me, it's like the word bitch 1) a female dog; 2) "a lewd or immoral woman." and so forth. I hate the word "bitch" and the definitions that defame women. Maybe I should write to Webster's about that.

Posted by: unhooked and unhinged at January 14, 2006 8:07 PM

Webster's online dictionary includes: "Its use by and among blacks is not always intended or taken as offensive," which isn't as affirming as your offering but does at least hint in another direction. The campaign re "nigger" was started by a librarian...what would be your goal for Webster's to change about "bitch"?

Posted by: Steph [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2006 11:24 AM

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