Posted by Lewis on January 19, 2004
In Reply to: Another example of the "S" word posted by Word Camel on January 15, 2004
: : : According to this article, a principal, who is white, has been reassigned for saying (I assume) the N-word while lecturing students about name-calling.
: : : http://www.cnn.com/2004/EDUCATION/01/14/principal.racial.ap/index.html
: : :::: This is one on a number of examples of the increasing political correctness in the US which has the effect of chilling expression and removing the ability to even discuss certain issues. There is now a lack of tolerance from segments of the society, where, as a country, we made our greatest strides by increasing tolerance, and open discussion. Hopefully this is just a passing phase, and good sense will finally prevail. I'm an optimist, and hope it happens.
: "Stupidity", that is. :)
all those words could cause offence. However, I can't see how it could be offensive to explain to children - who soak up unacceptable words quicker than permissible ones - that some words are deeply offensive. I'm pale skinned, as Celts often are, but I can see that 'nigger' is particularly offensive because it is a de-personalised word coming from 'negro' which was used by English-speaking white folks to denote a slave. Even though some of my ancestors were probably slaves under thrall to the Romans, then the Danes and finally the Normans - there is no word that is used exclusively of white people to remind them of their past as subservient and owned beings.
However, it is up to Afro-origin people to determine whether 'nigger' and 'negro' are offensive - they can choose to re-claim the words, especially 'negro' which is simply latinate for 'black'. 'Nigger' would be more difficult, as I don't think it was ever used in a positive way.
Offensive or not, words exist and cannot be unmade, so it is better to tell the children that using 'nigger' causes offence and will not be tolerated than to pretend such words don't exist.
In Britain, we have the 'Paki' debate - is 'Paki' offensive or simply descriptive?
After all, 'Paki' is only a shortened word for 'Pakistani' and if used accurately should not be any more offensive than 'Brummie. However, it has acquired a dismissive tone, so it is generally thought offensive.
Ever since school, I have had Chinese friends, yet I often called having a Chinese take-away a 'chinkie', never associating the word 'chinkie' with a person, only a type of meal.
I got told off by somebody (not any of my Chinese friends) for calling the take-away 'a chinkie'. Thinking about it, if the expression were used about a person of Chinese background that too would probably be construed as offensive - yet it does not carry any negative connotations, so far as I am aware. So far as I am concerned 'chinkie' is restricted to take-aways.
If I go to a restaurant, I might choose between Indian, Chinese (not 'chinkie'), Thai, French or Italian cuisine - yet 'Indian' is inaccurate as to be truthful more 'Indian' restaurants are run by Bengalis than Indians - and quite a few by Pakistanis. We use the generic description 'Indian' to cover the cuisine of a whole region without offence being taken, yet offence is taken over what appear to be lesser errors.
I suppose accurate use of language is the answer.