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nigger

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Nigger is a term used to refer to dark-skinned people, mostly those of African ancestry. For centuries it has held negative connotations; in modern times it is considered a racial slur in most contexts.

It is is a truism hidden in plain sight that social change can only take place with the consent of all, and that it only requires resistance by a minority for it to be incomplete. The resistance to removing offense from the language is an example of how error must be steadfastly opposed. Racists and people who think that other people think that they are racists wave away complaints about the true grievances of bias and bigotry and prejudice with mud-slinging complaints of political correctness or cultural destruction. Flaws in parts of the culture are to be removed; preserving them should be out of the question. Political correctness is a self-defeating supposition; it assumes that it is wrong to maintain, sustain, or god forbid, mandate the correctness of an argument, but that assumption itself is maintaining, sustaining, and mandating the correctness of the opposing argument.

In 2014, Cliven Bundy found out the hard way that the only more disdained slur than the regressive racist word "nigger" is the archaic racist phrase "The Negro".[1]


Contents

[edit] Etymology and history

Main article: Negro

The Spanish word negro originates from the Latin word niger, meaning black. In English, negro or neger became negar and finally nigger, most likely under influence of French nègre (also derived from the Latin niger).

In Colonial America, Neger (sometimes spelled "neggar") prevailed in northern New York under the Dutch and also in Philadelphia, in its Moravian and Pennsylvania Dutch communities. For example, the African Burial Ground in New York City was originally known as "Begraaf Plaats van de Neger."

In the United States, the word nigger was not always considered derogatory, but was instead used by some as merely denotative of black, as it was in other parts of the English-speaking world. In nineteenth-century literature, there are many uses of the word nigger with no intended negative connotation. Charles Dickens, and Joseph Conrad (who published The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' in 1897) used the word without racist intent. Mark Twain often put the word into the mouths of his Southern characters, white and black, but did not use the word when speaking in his own voice in his autobiographical Life on the Mississippi.

In the United Kingdom and other parts of the English-speaking world, the word was often used to refer to people of Pakistani or Indian descent, or merely to darker-skinned foreigners in general; in his 1926 Modern English Usage, H. W. Fowler observed that when the word was applied to "others than full or partial negroes," it was "felt as an insult by the person described, & betrays in the speaker, if not deliberate insolence, at least a very arrogant inhumanity." The note was excised from later editions of the book.

In the 1800s, as nigger began to acquire the pejorative connotation it holds today, the term "Colored" gained popularity as a kinder alternative to negro and associated terms. For example, abolitionists in Boston, Massachusetts posted warnings to "Colored People of Boston and vicinity." The name of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People reflects the preference for this term at the time of the NAACP's founding in 1909.

Southern dialect in many parts of the southern United States changes the pronunciation of "Negro" to "nigra" (used most famously by Lyndon B. Johnson, a proponent of civil rights).

Black became the preferred term in English in the late 1960s, and this continues to the present day. In the United States this has been displaced to some extent by African American, at least in polite usage; this resembles the term Afro-American that was in vogue in the early 1970s. Nevertheless, black continues in widespread use as a racial designation in the United States and is rarely regarded as offensive.

Some African Americans, especialy in the Rap and hip hop culture, have reclaimed the word from its racist or paternalistic origins, replacing this usage with meanings ranging from endearment and familiarity to playful cajoling or exhortation to comaraderie (see nigga).

Today the word is often spelled nigga or niggah, in imitation of the manner in which some pronounce it. (Less-common variants are nigguh or even nikuh.) Other variations, designed to avoid the term itself, include nookah, nukka, nagger and the much older "jigger."

The word is often confused with a Mandarin Chinese word "niga," which actually means "This one."

[edit] Usage

[edit] In the United States

In the United States, the word was freely used by some whites and blacks until the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. It seems that the word acquired a pejorative meaning in the Northern United States before acquiring the same connotation in the South.

Louisiana Governor Earl Long also used the term when advocating expanded voting rights for African Americans. At that time, the term was less noteworthy than the expressions of support by white Southerners, as it was a common regional term for blacks, along with negro and colored.

Today, the implied racism of the term is so strong that the use of nigger in most situations is a social taboo. Many American magazines and newspapers will not even print the word in full, instead using n*gg*r, n**ger, n——, or simply "the N-word."

A Washington Post article on Strom Thurmond's 1948 candidacy for President of the United States went so far as to replace it with the periphrasis "the less-refined word for black people." The word was also completely excised from the Microsoft Encarta dictionary, despite its common usage.

The shock effect of the word can also be used to deliberately cause offense. Several activists, such as Dick Gregory, have said the use of "N-word" instead of nigger robs younger generations of the full history of black people in America.

The term nigger has sometimes been extended in meaning so as to refer to all disadvantaged people. For example, Ron Dellums, an American politician, once said that "it's time for somebody to lead all of America's niggers".[2]

The New York City Council passed a resolution on February 28, 2007 that symbolically bans the use of the word nigger. There are no penalties for non-compliance. The resolution also asks that songs including the word nigger in their lyrics be excluded from consideration for the Grammy Awards.[3]

[edit] In Australia and New Zealand

In Australia, though the word's meaning is generally understood, it is now rarely used by urban whites in any context; when referring to indigenous Australians, the casual terms Abo and the more derogatory boong or coon are used in its place. Nigger is sometimes used amongst working class Australians, when used in a casual sense between friends or work colleagues of both white and mixed race. It is generally used in imitation of American slang e.g. "Wassup, my nigger." Black, Aboriginal or Maori people may use the term to greet each other. Australians, black or white, do not on the whole have the same sensitivity to the word as Americans, at least when it is used in a lighthearted, non-derogatory fashion among established groups of friends. It would not be acceptable to use the term to a stranger or casual acquaintance. The relaxed attitude is mainly because there was no direct slave trading or slave use in Australia per se; the country's infrastructure was built with the exploitation of European convict labour. The mistreatment, and genocide, of the indigenous people is generally covered under the term of "racial abuse" rather than "slavery"; however, increasing exposure to American vernacular, sensitivities and culture in general, has sensitised conservative Australia to its use.

However, nigger has seen common use in rural or semi-frontier districts. In this context, the usage was British colonial, that is, applying generically to dark-skinned people of any origin (cf. Rudyard Kipling). This has led to controversy, since Australian Aborigines have started to take the term strongly to heart, in both the pejorative and revisionist senses (see below under Names of places and things).

In neighboring New Zealand the term has been used infrequently to refer to the Māori people as well.

[edit] Other languages

In various Romance languages, including the Spanish and Portuguese dialects used in Latin American and parts of Africa, a variety of words cognate with the Latin niger and sounding similar to the English word nigger are used without the disparaging connotation the word holds in English. The French cognate nègre, however, commonly used during the colonial period, is similarly considered offensive, whereas noir (literally "black") is acceptable today.

Interestingly, in some places these words refer to people with an only slightly darker appearance than those native to Northern Europe, i.e. people who might be said to have a typically Mediterranean or Southern European appearance without any facial or hair-texture characteristics associated with black people.

Forms ultimately derived from Latin niger have been borrowed into various non-Romance languages, and may be used to refer to people without negative connotation — Russian негр (negr) is one such example. However, the word nigger, typically with the same spelling and more or less similar pronunciation, also appears as a loanword in languages other than English and has the same racist connotations as the English word. In Nazi propaganda, the German compound niggerjazz was used as a derogatory term for jazz music, which Nazi ideology held was a "degenerate" form of music.

[edit] Non-human uses

In the past, nigger was sometimes used as a synonym for "defect." For example, the May 1886 issue of Scientific American, page 308 said, "The consequence of neglect might be that what the workmen call ‘a nigger’ would get into the armature, and burn it so as to destroy its service."

Similarly, when performing shoddy but functional work, one is said to "nigger rig it," especially when duct tape is used in place of proper equipment. It seems that this usage is taken directly from the derogatory use of the word to refer to a black person. "Nigger it up" has been used to refer to excessively gaudy, non-functional decorations to automobiles to attract attention.

The more recent expression "Afro-Engineering" combines a sarcastic political correctness with derisiveness of "nigger-rigging".

The term nigger was used in lumber mills until the mid-point of the 20th century. It refers to a device that turns a log while it is being stripped of its bark. This may be an off-hand reference to the prejudicial use of the word, as until the machine was invented, this was considered a job too dangerous for anyone other than a black man.

In rapper Ice Cube's first album; "Amerikkka's Most Wanted", he said "Paybacks a muthafuckin' NIGGER". Something undesirable or bad is being expressed, but also the potency of the vengeance.

In some non-Western countries, the word nigger is sometimes used to describe a color of an object (e.g. "nigger-brown").[1]

[edit] Literary uses

Nigger has a long history of controversy in literature. Carl Van Vechten, a white photographer and writer famous as a supporter of the Harlem Renaissance, provoked debate and some protest from the African American community by titling his 1926 novel Nigger Heaven. The controversy centered on the use of the word in the title and fueled the sales of the hit novel. Ian Fleming was to make characteristically gratuitous and fatuous use of the term in his novel Live and let die, 28 years later; two of the main characters James Bond and Felix Leiter make regular use of it, and one of the chapters is called 'Nigger Heaven'.

The famous controversy over Mark Twain's novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), a classic frequently taught in American schools, revolves largely around the novel's 215 uses of the word, often referring to Jim, Huck's raft mate.[4][5]

Nigger in the Window is a book written by a young black girl who describes the world from her window.[6]

Slaves often pandered to racist assumptions by using the word nigger to counter their inequities in the self-deprecatory strategy of Tomming.[7] Implicit was an unspoken reminder that a presumably inferior person or subhuman could not reasonably be held responsible for work performed incorrectly, a fire in the kitchen, or any similar offense. It was a means of deflecting responsibility in the hope of escaping the wrath of an overseer or master. Its use as a self-referential term was also a way to avoid suspicion and put whites at ease. A slave who referred to himself or another black as a "nigger" presumably accepted his subordinate role and posed no threat to white authority.

An example of this historical use in American literature occurs in Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Gold Bug (1843). The narrator and a white character in the story use negro to refer to a black servant, Jupiter, while Jupiter himself uses nigger.[8][9]

Bram Stoker, the Irish author best known for Dracula, makes use of the word 46 times in his 1911 novel, The Lair of the White Worm. Edgar Caswall's African servant, Oolanga, is often referred to as a "nigger" throughout the book.[10]

Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None, also known as Ten Little Indians, originally appeared as Ten Little Niggers. Among the classic novels of Joseph Conrad (famous for his use of the word in Heart of Darkness) is The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' (1897).

Harper Lee's 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, also uses the term nigger throughout showing the widespread use during the 1930s.

Flannery O'Connor wrote a short story named "The Artificial Nigger", a term one of the characters uses when he sees a lawn jockey.

Other examples of literary usage in the United Kingdom during the late 19th and early 20th centuries suggest a more neutral usage of the term, which can cause a problem when reading such books today when the word has such an offensive meaning.

The Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado uses the word nigger two times. The executioner Ko-ko, in his song "I have a little list", sings of killing "the nigger serenader and the others of his race" (this is generally understood to mean white performers performing minstrel songs in blackface, a popular Victorian entertainment). The Mikado, in his song “Let the Punishment fit the Crime”, sings of having overly-made-up society ladies “Blacked like a nigger/With permanent walnut juice”. Both lyrics are frequently changed in performance nowadays.[11]

The Scarlet Pimpernel contains a black character referred to casually as a “nigger”, in a way which suggests no serious insult is intended.

In one John Buchan novel the hero goes into a night club in the early 1920s, where “a rather good nigger band” is playing.

Ronald Firbank's 1925 novel about the failed attempts of a family of blacks to enter high society in the capital of a West Indian nation was entitled Prancing Nigger. The title was recommended to him as a publicity-getter by Van Vechten.

P.G. Wodehouse's Thank You, Jeeves has Bertie Wooster mention that he would like to practice the banjo with a "troupe of nigger minstrels".

The Reverend W. V. Awdry's story Henry's Sneeze (part of The Railway Series of stories that is most known for Thomas the Tank Engine) originally described some soot-covered boys as being "as black as niggers". After complaints were made in 1972, the description was changed to "as black as soot".

It has been suggested that the USA usage became more prevalent in the UK during and after the Second World War. Whether this is through contact with American troops or whether it reflects a growing racism in UK society is open to question. [unverified]

War Comes to Willy Freeman by James Collier and Christopher Collier (ISBN 0-440-49504-0) mentions the word nigger nineteen times. Current readers complain as this use of the word is unnecessary and, in the 18th century context of the story, is not historically correct.

Rudyard Kipling's Just So Story "How the Leopard Got His Spots" tells of how an Ethiopian and a leopard, who are originally sand-colored, decide to paint themselves for camouflage when hunting in dense tropical forest. The story originally included a scene in which the leopard, who now has spots, asks the Ethiopian why he doesn't want spots as well. The Ethiopian's original reply, "Oh, plain black's best for a nigger", has been changed in many modern editions to read, "Oh, plain black's best for me."

[edit] Popular culture

At one time, the word was used freely in branding and packaging of consumer commodities in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. There were brands such as Nigger Hair Tobacco, Niggerhead Oysters, and other canned goods. Brazil nuts were referred to as "nigger toes". As times changed, so did labeling practices. The tobacco brand became "Bigger Hare" and the canned goods brand became "Negro Head". Eventually, such names disappeared from the marketplace altogether.[12][13]

[edit] 1950s-1970s

  • In the 1954 film The Dam Busters, Wing Commander Guy Gibson's dog was called Nigger (as in real life). This has been edited out of recent British TV screenings, although the name is quite audible in the clips shown on television in Pink Floyd The Wall.
  • The comedian and activist Dick Gregory used the word as the title of his best-selling autobiography in 1964. (When his mother objected to the title, Gregory told her to bear in mind that anytime someone used the term over the next year, "they are advertising my book.")
  • Jewish comedian Lenny Bruce used the word repeatedly in a comedy routine, suggesting that the more it was used and heard, the less potency it would have.
  • In 1967, Muhammad Ali explained his refusal to be drafted to serve in the Vietnam War by saying, "I got nothing against them Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me nigger,".
  • When it was translated into English, the 1968 book Les Nègres blancs de l'Amérique by Pierre Vallières, a founding member of the FLQ terrorist group, was published under the title White Niggers of America.
  • In 1972, John Lennon released a song, "Woman Is the Nigger of the World," based on a quote by Yoko Ono. The song advocated a pro-feminist stance—and used the word "nigger" to convey how poorly Lennon felt that women were treated in society. Lennon's use of the word in was echoed in a similar context by prominent Black American leader Ron Dellums.[14] Patti Smith released the song "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger" in 1978, with the meaning of being someone proud to be opposed to a society that attempts to oppress and marginalize them that was much closer to Dellums statement.
  • During the same year, Curtis Mayfield used the word in the first verse of "Pusherman" (a hit song from the Superfly soundtrack).
  • There are multiple uses of the word in Mel Brooks's 1974 comedy, Blazing Saddles. One example is when the people of Rock Ridge plan to kill their new sheriff, who is black. The sheriff, played by Cleavon Little, pulls a gun on himself and in a faux Southern voice says, "Hold it! Nobody move or the nigger gets it!"
  • British punk rock pioneer Elvis Costello used the term in one lyric of "Oliver's Army", from the album Armed Forces. This usage—"One more widow, one less white nigger"—has aired uncensored on several music programs and networks, such as MTV and VH1.
  • Richard Pryor, whose albums included That Nigger's Crazy and Bicentennial Nigger, vowed to never again use the word after a trip to Africa in the 1980s. Commenting that he never saw any niggers while in Africa, Pryor said he realized that niggers were figments of white people's imaginations.
  • In Steve Martin's 1979 film The Jerk, the title character is a white man brought up by a black family, who considers himself black. In one scene, some potential business partners talk to him about keeping "the niggers out." Martin responds by telling one of them, "Sir... you are talking to a nigger!" before attacking all of them with karate.
  • British anarcho-punk band Crass in "White Punks on Hope" say, "If you care to take a closer look at the way things really stand, you'll see we're all just niggers to the rulers of this land."
  • The Dead Kennedys a mostly white punk rock band (whose drummer was black) use the word in their song "Holiday in Cambodia," by saying, "acting like you know how the niggers feel cold and the slums got so much soul."

[edit] 1980s-1990s

  • The title track of Frank Zappa's 1981 album You Are What You Is describes a young Negro man who tries to act Caucasian, climaxing with the lines "He learned to play golf/ and he got a good score./ Now he says to himself,/ 'I ain't no nigger no more.'"
  • In the 1987 novel The Commitments, an Irish fan of soul music characterizes the Irish as "the niggers of Europe" and Dubliners as "the niggers of Ireland", finishing by quoting James Brown's words "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud". In the 1991 film adaptation, the speech was altered, referring to Irish as "the blacks of Europe".
  • In 1988, hip hop group N.W.A. ("Niggaz With Attitude") released the album Straight Outta Compton. Although they abbreviated it in all official contexts, their self-referential use of the word caused a great deal of controversy in America over the language and lyrics of hip hop. Today, the word is used frequently by black rappers in casual contexts.[15] Not all black hip-hop artists appreciate the increased use of the word, however; Public Enemy plainly states on the fifth track of Apocalypse '91...The Enemy Strikes Black, "I don't wanna be called 'Yo Nigga'". The usage is parodied in the 1994 film Fear of a Black Hat, a mockumentary about a fictitious rap group named "N.W.H", or "Niggaz With Hats" (the title of the movie itself being a play on Public Enemy's album Fear of a Black Planet).
  • The Beastie Boys, an all-white hip-hop group, left the stage mid-performance after a friendly but ill-received use of the word to refer to their audience. [2] The use of Nigga by non-black performers is not trusted, and generally considered off-limits. The risk is high because the consequences are grave, even if the chances are low.
  • MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) use "nigger" in its song "Dead Cops," saying cops are, "The Mafia in blue / hunting for queers, niggers, and you".
  • In a famous skit on Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase and Pryor portray a job interview devolving into racial name-calling on both sides, with Pryor calling Chase "honky" several times; when Chase says "nigger", Pryor responds with "dead honky".link
  • In 1995, Marilyn Manson cover Patti Smith's 1978 song "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger". Manson brought his African-American bodyguard Aaron Dilks onstage during a live performance of the song in an attempt to alleviate anxiety among concert organizers about the screaming of the word nigger. The band later used the word in their own song "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" as a reference to somebody who is hated or discriminated against by any other person or group, declaring, "Everybody's someone else's nigger; I know you are, so am I".
  • In Quentin Tarantino's film, Pulp Fiction, there are uses of the word by both black and white characters. In one instance, Tarantino, playing the character Jimmie, asks a bloodied Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta if they saw a sign outside his house that said 'Dead Nigger Storage' because they had brought a dead black man to his house in their car. He sardonically reminds the hitmen that they did not see such a sign because storing dead niggers was not his business.
  • African-American comedian Chris Rock's 1996 television special Bring the Pain and 1997 album Roll with the New included a segment known as "Niggas vs. Black People". Rock cast "niggas" as "low-expectation-havin'" individuals—proud to be ignorant, violent, and on welfare. The controversy surrounding this, to which many took exception because they felt it pandered to racism, was such that Rock ceased performing it.[unverified]
  • In 1997, Washington Capitals forward Chris Simon addresses Edmonton Oilers forward Mike Grier who is African-American a "nigger" during a hockey game between the two teams. Simon receives a three-game suspension as a result of using the slur.
  • In the 1998 movie Rush Hour, Jackie Chan's character (a Chinese detective with very limited English-language ability) hears several black characters address each other as "my nigger". Trying to be friendly, he greets someone with "What's up, my nigger?", provoking a barroom brawl.
  • White American comedian George Carlin had a routine concerning sensitive words. "We don't mind when Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy uses it," he quips. "Why? Because we know they're not racists. They're niggers!" Carlin also comments that nigger is simply a word, and it is the context in which it is used that makes it offensive.[16]
  • In the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? many people believed that in the dueling pianos scene between Donald Duck and Daffy Duck, after Daffy said, "I've dealt with a lot of wise-quackers, but you are despicable!" that Donald said, "God damn stupid nigger!" [3] when the script calls for, "goddamn stubborn nitwit".

[edit] 2000s

  • In 2001, Latina performer Jennifer Lopez provoked the ire of the African American community when she used the word in a remix of her song I'm Real written by two black songwriters.[15]
  • The word nigga has been used by Latino/Hispanic rappers such as Big Pun, Cuban Link, Fat Joe, Pitbull, demonstrating an apparent growing acceptance of the use of the word by Latinos.[15]
  • In the first season of African-American comedian Dave Chappelle's, Chappelle's Show, a blind white supremacist, unaware of the fact that he is black, uses the word repeatedly in remarks disparaging black people and at the end of the sketch, after learning the truth, comments that he left his wife because she is a "nigger-lover". The second season of the Dave Chappelle show featured the sketch "The Niggar Family", a portrayal of a 1950s white family with a last name resembling the infamous word. The comedy hinges upon the interaction among other members of the community and results in an uncensored and laughable outcome. (source: Multimedia Events-John Cashew)
  • Actor Damon Wayans tried in 2005 to trademark the word "Nigga" for use on clothing, books and other merchandise. His application was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, citing a law that prohibits marks that are "immoral or scandalous." A previous attempt by entrepreneur Keon Rhodan to trademark the term "Nigga'Clothing" in 2001 was also unsuccessful.
  • Right wing interests are served by calling the use of nigger by black people while not trusting its use by whites hypocritical, but also by demeaning those who use it, and bigotry of various sorts may lie behind this. Black comedian Bill Cosby criticized this segment of the African American community in a revealing way in 2004, saying, ""Let me tell you something, your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day. It's cursing and calling each other nigger as they're walking up and down the street. They think they hip—can't read, can't write—50 percent of them."[17]
  • In the animated series The Boondocks, the word nigga is used by the main characters and sometimes others. In one scene, Granddad tells Huey not to use the word in his house and Huey reminds him that he himself used the word 46 times the day before. Granddad's reply is "Nigga, hush!". In the same episode, a drunk Uncle Ruckus sings a song entitled "Don't Trust Those New Niggas Over There." Afterwards, there is a short clip with two non-black characters, one of whom says "I think it's OK if they say it." The show also makes note of "Nigga Moments," where a black man acts in an ignorant or self-destructive way out of anger. The show was criticized for putting the word "Nigga" in the mouth of a fictionalized Martin Luther King Jr.[18]
  • In the 2005 film Be Cool, the leader of the Russian Mafia tells Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer) to "Be cool, nigger!" Then, Daboo (André 3000) whispers "Nigger?". At this point, LaSalle launches into a long lecture on how only truly ignorant people use the term to disrespect someone's race.
  • In the movie Malibu's Most Wanted, Jamie Kennedy's character "B-Rad" uses the term "nigger" in front of an all-black crowd at a rap-off. The next sound that is heard is a phonograph needle being dragged to a screaming halt on the current record that's playing.
  • In 2006, comedian Michael Richards, performing in a Los Angeles comedy club, stirred controversy by repeatedly using 'nigger' as he ranted against a black heckler.[19]
  • Comedians Andy Dick and Damon Wayans were two other comedians cited for their use of the word.Internet Movie Database
  • In 2006 comedian Reginald D Hunter had a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival called Pride & Prejudice & Niggers.
  • In an episode of South Park satirizing the Michael Richards incident, "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson," the word is used 42 times. The episode was both lamented and praised by the African-American community. The latter viewpoint supported it as a vehicle to bring the word, and its discussion, to the forefront of American culture.
  • In a skit on Saturday Night Live, there is a game show, and one question is, "What is the name of Winnie the Pooh's feline friend?" When the contestant answers, a censor sign goes up. The host (played by Bernie Mac) is then seen attacking the contestant, who is saying, "I said Tigger, with a T!"

[edit] Names of places and things

Because the word was used freely for many years, there are many official place-names containing the word nigger. Examples include Nigger Bill Canyon, Nigger Hollow, and Niggertown Marsh. In 1967, the United States Board on Geographic Names changed the word nigger to Negro in 143 specific place names, although this did not always eradicate common use of the word in reference to such places.

In central Texas, the ominous name of "Dead Nigger Creek" was ironically changed without removing the offense, to "Dead Negro Creek".

One specific example is that of Nigger Head Mountain, located just outside of Burnet, Texas. For decades, a particular hillock was referred to as such due to the forestation at the peak resembling a black man's hairstyle of the times. It became a popular spot for the predominantly white local high school students to "show their spirit" by holding pep rallies and post-game parties, and even during the start of the Civil Rights Movement news services continued to refer to the hillock as "Nigger Head" with almost no reported complaints from either side of the rights struggle. In 1966, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, as part of her beautification efforts at the time, denounced the name and asked both the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and the U.S. Forest Service to take immediate steps to change the name to something more acceptable to reflect changing views. The name was officially changed to "Colored Mountain" in 1968, and while both maps and road signs were replaced with ones bearing the new name, local inhabitants still refer to the location by its original name.

"Nigger Nate Grade" in Temecula, California was named after former slave and early settler Nate Harrison, but was changed in 1955 due to a request by the NAACP and renamed to Nate Harrison Grade.[20]

A point on the Lower Mississippi River was known well into the middle and late 20th century as Free Nigger Point, or Freenigger Point. A later variation was Free Negro Point, but the location, in West Baton Rouge Parish, is now known as Wilkinson Point.[21] The geographic coordinates are Template:coor d.

A jagged rock formation resembling a silhouetted human face protruding from a cliff over highway 421 north of Pennington Gap, Virginia was called "Nigger Head Rock" until the 1970s, when the name was changed to "Great Stone Face." Checks issued by a local bank in the 1940s bore an illustration of the rock accompanied by the original name.

The British term for a black iron marine bollard, made from an old cannon partially buried muzzle upward with a slightly oversize black cannonball covering the hole, was "niggerhead". Sailors also once called an isolated coral head a niggerhead. The latter are notorious as navigation hazards.

Echinocactus polycephalus, native to Arizona, was colloquially called "nigger-head cactus", and echinacea, or coneflower, "Kansas niggerhead" or "wild niggerhead". The "niggerhead termite"(Nasutitermes graveolus)[22] is native to Australia.

Around the world, the names of several varieties of foods decreasingly include the word. Brazil nuts are often referred to as "nigger toes". An Irish colloquialism described prunes as "nigger's knackers" (testicles). A popular chocolate snack in Belgium is widely known as Negerinnetetten (negress's tits), however it is sold under the trademark Melo-cakes. Another chocolate treat in Holland was until recently called Negerzoenen (Negro kisses), but is now called Buys Zoenen (Buys Kisses) after the vendor's name. In Sweden, the traditional treat Negerbollar (Negro balls) is now more commonly referred to as Chocolate-, Oat- or Coco-balls.

In April 2003, there was a stir in Australia over the naming of part of a stadium in Toowoomba, "E.S. Nigger Brown Stand". "Nigger Brown" was the nickname of Toowoomba's first international rugby player. Edward Stanley Brown used the shoe polish brand "Nigger Brown". The stand was named in the 1960s. As in the United States some decades ago, the word was used casually by whites, with little thought. Brown himself was happy with the nickname, and in fact it is written on his tombstone. A growing black consciousness among Australia's aboriginal population, however, has led to the term being considered increasingly offensive, particularly when uttered by whites.

Australian activist Stephen Hagan took the responsible local council to court over the use of the word. Hagan lost the court case at the district and state level, and the High Court ruled that the matter was beyond federal jurisdiction. The federal government cited the High Court ruling on a lack of federal jurisdiction as its legal justification for continued inaction. (Hagan also has tried changing other supposed racial slurs such as the Coon brand of cheese.)

General John Pershing is remembered by the nickname "Black Jack", which was coined by World War I reporters who could not print his actual nickname, "Nigger Jack".[4]

[edit] Avoiding offense

[edit] "The N-Word"

The euphemism "the N-word" became a part of the American lexicon during the racially polarizing trial of O.J. Simpson, a retired football player charged with — and ultimately acquitted of — a widely publicized double murder. One of the prosecution's key witnesses was Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman, who initially denied using racial slurs but whose prolific and derogatory use of it on a tape recording brought his credibility into question. The recordings were from a session in 1985 that Fuhrman had with Laura McKinney, an aspiring screenwriter working on a screenplay about women in the police force. According to Fuhrman, he was using the word as part of his "bad-cop" persona.

Members of the press reporting on and discussing Fuhrman's testimony began using the term "the N-word" instead of repeating the actual word, presumably as a way to avoid offending audiences and advertisers.

Acclaim comic book Quantum and Woody features a masked African-American man (Quantum) teamed up with an unmasked white man (Woody). One issue featured a character who referred to everyone as "nigger," but fearing backlash, the first 2 pages of the comic are an announcement/disclaimer that throughout the issue, the "N-word" would be replaced by "noogie," and the "S-word" would be replaced by "S-word." This announcement, which breaks the fourth wall, featured Acclaim's lawyer and also stated that, "the word comes from the problem, not the other way around."

[edit] Near-homophones

The word niger is Latin for "black" and occurs in many Latin scientific terms and names. (See Niger for other meanings such as the country in Africa.) Niger is the root for some English words which are near homophones of nigger. Some sellers of niger seed, a small black seed commonly used as wild bird feed, have begun to sell it under the name Nyjer seed, in part to avoid the common mispronunciation. Also, the Classical Latin pronunciation Template:IPA is close to the English Template:IPA. The situation is not the same with Church Latin pronunciation, Template:IPA.

Nigra, which is the way Negro is pronounced by some people in the American South, was considered by some to be a more polite way to refer to a black person. Because of its similarity to "nigger," however, it is generally detested by blacks and is no longer regarded as acceptable.

The words niggardly ("miserly") and snigger ("to laugh derisively") do not refer either to black people or to characteristics or behavior attributed to black people, nor do they have any etymological connection with the word. Niggard (a miserly person) is related to Old Norse nig, "stingy," and the verb niggle is most likely derived from from the Old Norse verb nigla -- "to chew, gnaw, or potter at". As such words are easily mistaken for "nigger," their use is frowned upon by some and sometimes seen as offensive. David Howard, a white city official in Washington, D.C., resigned from his job in January 1999, when he used niggardly in a fiscal sense while talking with black colleagues, who took offense at his use of the word. After reviewing the incident, Washington mayor Anthony Williams offered Howard his job back. Howard declined that position but accepted another position in the mayor's administration. [5]

The word wigger is a portmanteau combining the words white and nigger generally used to describe a young, white individual who adopts certain aspects of hip hop and thug culture.

A colloquialism in the British music industry for a freeloader is the word "ligger" (one who seeks to attend concerts and music industry events without paying). The word derives from another colloquialism lig (a gig or event) and variations thereof "to go ligging" (to go to a series of events.) In other words - the term "ligger" evolved as a derivative of the other words rooted in the word "lig" and NOT as a variant of "nigger". However - the fact that it is a "near-homophone" of the word "nigger" has led to it being less used.

Tigger is a tiger character in Winnie the Pooh, and a common replacement in the children's choosing rhyme, "Eenie Meenie Minie Mo" (catch a tigger by the toe).

[edit] Revisionist usage in Britain

"Nigger" was famously the name of a Black Labrador [6] belonging to the RAF Second World War hero Wing Commander Guy Gibson. The dog died before the 617 Squadron's 1943 raid on the Ruhr dams (the "Dam Busters raid"), and "Nigger" was adopted as the radio code word signaling the destruction of the Möhne dam. Because of complaints by viewers[unverified], the British television broadcaster ITV now tries to reduce offence by editing out some scenes including the dog when it broadcasts the film Dam Busters. This has been condemned by some as "revisionist", although the edited version apparently produced fewer complaints than a previous uncensored broadcast. However, this scene probably has been viewed more times than any other part of the movie. It was watched by the character Pink (Bob Geldof) in the hotel-room sequence in the Pink Floyd film The Wall, during which the dialogue relevant to the dog's death is screened.

[edit] Nigga

Main article: Nigga


Historically, nigger has been used self-referentially by many in the African American community. With the rise in popularity of rap and hip-hop, the term has become more widely used among some black youth and among some non-blacks as well. This neo revisionist usage, particularly among non-blacks, has been the source of considerable controversy. In such applications, the word often is spelled nigga — as it is pronounced in African American Vernacular English and in Southern American English.

[edit] References

Cited references
  1. Joe Scarborough: Fox News Was ‘Exposed’ By Cliven Bundy Saying That Blacks Are ‘Better Off As Slaves’ UPROXX
  2. "nigger." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. <http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com> [Accessed 14 Apr. 2006].
  3. Reuters
  4. Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. The Complete Works of Mark-Twain. URL accessed on 2006-03-12.
  5. Academic Resources: Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. Random House. URL accessed on 2006-03-13.
  6. Lee, Helen Jackson (1978). Nigger in the Window, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-07142-6.
  7. Stephen Railton (2005). Tomming In Our Time. University of Virginia, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. URL accessed on 2006-03-13.
  8. Poe, Edgar Allan [1843]. The Gold Bug, PoeStories.com.
  9. Poe, Edgar Allan (1990). The Gold Bug, Mankato, Minnesota: Creative Education. ISBN 0-88682-303-X.
  10. Stoker, Bram (1911). The Lair of the White Worm, onlineliterature.com.
  11. Michael Sragow. The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd. Salon.com. URL accessed on 2006-03-13.
  12. Ravernell, Wanda J. (2005-06-15). "What's cute about racist kitsch?". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/06/15/HOG3ID66P11.DTL. Retrieved 2006-03-13. </li>
  13. Jim Crow Museum. Ferris State University. URL accessed on 2006-03-13.</li>
  14. Huffington Post</li>
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Alex Alonso. Won’t You Please Be My Nigga: Double Standards with a Taboo Word, May 30, 2003. </li>
  16. George Carlin: Doin' It Again</li>
  17. CNS news</li>
  18. 'Boondocks' steps over line in its treatment of King. USA Today. URL accessed on 2007-01-24.</li>
  19. http://www.imdb.com/news/wenn/2006-11-21#celeb1</li>
  20.  ; Nathan "Nigger Nate" Harrison (1823-1920). San Diego Historical Society. URL accessed on 2007-01-15.</li>
  21. Free Negro Point. USGS Geographic Names Information System. URL accessed on 2006-03-12.</li>
  22. Semiochemicals of Nasutitermes graveolus, the Niggerhead termite. The Pherobase. URL accessed on 2006-03-12.</li></ol>
General references
  • Robert F. Worth, (Fall 1995). "Nigger Heaven and the Harlem Renaissance," African American Review, 29, 461–473.

[edit] Further reading

  • J. Asim, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why. Houghton Mifflin, 2007. ISBN 0618197176.
  • R. B. Moore, The Name "Negro": Its Origin And Evil Use. Black Classics Press, 1992. ISBN 0933121350.
  • R. Kennedy, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. Vintage, 2003. ISBN 0375713719.

[edit] See also


[edit] External links

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