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1885 illustration from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, captioned "Misto' Bradish's nigger"

Nigger is a noun in the English language, most notable for its usage in a pejorative context to refer to black people, and also as an informal slang term, among other contexts. It is a common ethnic slur. The word originated as a term used in a neutral context to refer to black people, as a variation of the Spanish/Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger, meaning the colour "black".[1][2][3][4]

Contents

Etymology and history

The variants neger and negar, derive from the Spanish and Portuguese word negro (black), and from the pejorative French nègre (nigger). Etymologically, negro, noir, nègre, and nigger ultimately derive from nigrum, the stem of the Latin niger (black) (pronounced [ˈniɡer] which in every other grammatical case, grammatical gender, and grammatical number besides nominative masculine singular is nigr-; the r is trilled).

In the Colonial America of 1619, John Rolfe used negars in describing the African slaves shipped to the Virginia colony.[5] Later American English spellings, neger and neggar, prevailed in a northern colony, New York under the Dutch, and in metropolitan Philadelphia’s Moravian and Pennsylvania Dutch communities; the African Burial Ground in New York City originally was known by the Dutch name "Begraafplaats van de Neger" (Cemetery of the Negro); an early US occurrence of neger in Rhode Island, dates from 1625.[6] Among Anglophones, the word nigger was not always considered derogatory, because it then denoted “black-skinned”, a common Anglophone usage.[7] Nineteenth-century English (language) literature features usages of nigger without racist connotation, e.g. the Joseph Conrad novella The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' (1897). Moreover, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain created characters who uttered the word as contemporary usage. Twain, in the autobiographic book Life on the Mississippi (1883), used the term within quotes, indicating reported usage, but used the term "negro" when speaking in his own narrative persona.[8]

In the United Kingdom and the Anglophone world, nigger denoted the dark-skinned (non-white) African and Asian peoples colonized into the British Empire, and “dark-skinned foreigners” — in general. In A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), H. W. Fowler states that applying the word nigger to “others than full or partial negroes” is “felt as an insult by the person described, & betrays in the speaker, if not deliberate insolence, at least a very arrogant inhumanity”; this anti-racist linguistic prescription was deleted from the later editions of Fowler’s Dictionary.

By the 1800s, because nigger had become a pejorative word, in its stead, the term colored became the mainstream alternative to negro and its derived terms. Abolitionists in Boston, Massachusetts, posted warnings to the Colored People of Boston and vicinity. Writing in 1904, jorunalist Clifton Johnson documented the "opprobrious" character of the word, emphasizing that it was chosen in the South precisely because it was more offensive than "colored."[9] Established as mainstream American English usage, the word colored features in the organizational title of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, reflecting the members’ racial identity preference at the 1909 foundation. In the Southern United States, the local American English dialect changes the pronunciation of negro to nigra — a pronunciation most famously used by the Texan-accented US President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–69), a proponent of Black American civil rights. Linguistically, in developing American English, in the early editions of A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (1806), lexicographer Noah Webster suggested the neger new spelling in place of negro.[10]

By the late 1960s, the social progress achieved in US society, by such as the Black Civil Rights Movement (1955–68), had legitimized the racial identity word Black as mainstream American English usage to denote black-skinned Americans. In the event, the “political militant” connotations of Black displaced it in favor of the compound blanket term African American — a linguistically compromised usage, because it either inaccurately denotes or excludes non-black African people, (cf. negroid).[citation needed] Moreover, as a compound word, African American resembles the vogue word Afro-American, an early-1970s popular usage; nevertheless, Black is the contemporary racial denomination in the US, and usually is not considered offensive usage. Contemporaneously, the word nigger often is spelled in eye dialect as nigga and niggah, can be used among Black Americans without irony, to either neutral effect or as a sign of solidarity.[11]

Usages

British

In British English, nigger is a derogatory and racist word; however, earlier, the Victorian writer Rudyard Kipling used it without derogatory intent. Likewise, without derogatory intent, P. G. Wodehouse uses the phrase “Nigger minstrels” in Thank You, Jeeves (1934), the first Jeeves–Bertie novel, in admiration of their artistry and musical tradition. As recently as the 1950s, it was acceptable British usage to say niggers when referring to black people, notable in mainstream usages such as Nigger Boy–brand[citation needed] candy cigarettes, and the colour nigger brown (dark brown); however, by the 1970s, these, and other recognised racist terms, were legally proscribed.[citation needed] Moreover, as recently as 2007, the term nigger brown reappeared — in the model label of a Chinese-made sofa, indicating the regional Chinese usage of an out-dated Colonial form of English.[12]

North American

Cultural: Addressing the use of nigger by Black people, US intellectual Cornel West said, “There’s a certain rhythmic seduction to the word. If you speak in a sentence, and you have to say cat, companion, or friend, as opposed to nigger, then the rhythmic presentation is off. That rhythmic language is a form of historical memory for black people. . . . When Richard Pryor came back from Africa, and decided to stop using the word onstage, he would sometimes start to slip up, because he was so used to speaking that way. It was the right word at the moment to keep the rhythm together in his sentence making.” [13] Contemporarily, the implied racism of the word nigger has rendered its usages social taboo. In the US, magazines and newspapers do not use it, instead printing “family-friendly” censored versions, usually “n*gg*r”, “n**ger”, “n——”, and “the N-word”; however, historians and social activists, such as Dick Gregory, criticize the euphemisms and their usage as intellectually dishonest, because using the euphemism “the N-word” instead of nigger robs younger generations of Americans of the full history of Black people in America.

Political: Louisiana Governor Earl Long used nigger in advocating full voting rights for Black Americans; in that time, like colored and negro, it was mainstream usage in the American South.[citation needed] In 1948, the Washington Post newspaper’s coverage of the presidential campaign of the segregationist politician Strom Thurmond, employed the periphrasis “the less-refined word for black people”.[citation needed] In explaining his refusal to be conscripted to fight the Vietnam War (1945–75), professional boxer Muhammed Ali said, “No Vietcong ever called me nigger”;[14] later, his modified answer was the title No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger (1968) of a documentary about the front-line lot of the US Army Black soldier in Vietnam combat.[15] An Ali biographer reports that, when interviewed by Robert Lipsyte in 1966, the boxer actually said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong”.[16] Moreover, on 28 February 2007, the New York City Council symbolically banned, with a formal resolution, the use of the word nigger; there is no penalty for using it. The New York City resolution also requires excluding from Grammy Award consideration every song whose lyrics contain the word nigger.[17][18]

Sport: In the first half of the twentieth century, before Major League Baseball was racially integrated, dark-skinned and dark-complexion players were nicknamed Nig;[19][20] examples are: Johnny Beazley (1941–49), Joe Berry (1921–22), Bobby Bragan (1940–48), Nig Clarke (1905–20), Nig Cuppy (1892–1901), Nig Fuller (1902), Johnny Grabowski (1923–31), Nig Lipscomb (1937), Charlie Niebergall (1921–24), Nig Perrine (1907), and Frank Smith (1904–15). Moreover, the anagram euphemism Ginger was used instead of nigger, as a “polite company usage”.[citation needed] The 1930s movie The Bowery with George Raft and Wallace Beery includes a NYC sports-bar named “Nigger Joe’s”.

Denotational extension

The denotations of nigger also comprehend non-white and racially disadvantaged people; the US politician Ron Dellums said, “. . . it's time for somebody to lead all of America’s niggers”.[21] Jerry Farber's 1967 protest, The Student as Nigger invoked the word as a metaphor for the victims of an authoritarian society. In 1969, in the UK, in the course of being interviewed by a Nova magazine reporter, artist Yoko Ono said, “. . . woman is the nigger of the world”; three years later, her husband, John Lennon, published the song “Woman is the Nigger of the World” (1972) — about the virtually universal exploitation of woman — proved socially and politically controversial to US sensibilities. In 1978, singer Patti Smith used the word in “Rock N Roll Nigger”. In 1979, singer Elvis Costello used nigger in “Oliver's Army”, a state-of-the-world-today song inspired by adolescent British Army soldiers on occupation duty in Northern Ireland. Later, the producers of the British talent show Stars in Their Eyes forced a contestant to censor the second-verse lyrics line, “. . . all it takes is one itchy trigger — One more widow, one less white nigger” to the euphemistic “. . . one less white figure”. Moreover, in his autobiography, White Niggers of America: The Precocious Autobiography of a Quebec “Terrorist” (1968), Pierre Vallières, a Front de libération du Québec leader refers to the oppression of the Québécois people in North America.

In his memoir, All Souls, Michael Patrick MacDonald describes how many white residents of the Old Colony housing project in South Boston used this meaning to degrade the people considered to be of lower status, whether white or black.[22]

Of course, no one considered himself a nigger. It was always something you called someone who could be considered anything less than you. I soon found out there were a few black families living in Old Colony. They'd lived there for years and everyone said that they were okay, that they weren't niggers but just black. It felt good to all of us to not be as bad as the hopeless people in D Street or, God forbid, the ones in Columbia Point, who were both black and niggers. But now I was jealous of the kids in Old Harbor Project down the road, which seemed like a step up from Old Colony...

Other languages

In Romance languages, including the varieties of Latin American and African Spanish and Portuguese, contain cognates derived from the Latin niger, homophonic to the English word nigger, are native usages that do not connote the racism of the English. The two most common Portuguese words for blacknegro and preto — as noun and adjective, denote the color black, thus, Rio Negro (Black River); however, when applied to a person, preto is racist. Like-wise, the French cognate nègre is a racist colonial usage, unlike noir (black color).

Derivations from the Latin niger have entered non-Romance languages, and do not pejoratively refer to non-white people; the Hungarian néger and the Latvian, nēģeris objectively denote Black Africans; typically, these languages spell and pronounce nigger as an English loanword with its original racist denotations and connotations. In Nazi propaganda, the racist German compound word niggerjazz denoted the jazz music native to the US, which Nazi ideology classified as a type of Degenerate art (entartete Kunst). In Yiddish, shvartzer (black man, black woman) is racist usage, while neger is the standard usage.

In Russian, the word negr (“негр”), which sounds like nigger, is the usual term for “black people”, which, despite its neutral denotation, is challenged because of the virtually-universal familiarity with US society’s racist usage of nigger. Russian urban legends propose that Soviet documents used negr to denote “nationality” and “ethnic group” per regulations, instead of “Cameroonian”, “Ethiopian”, “American”, et cetera; however, the word chyornyi (“чёрный”) denoting “black (color)” is used as a moderately derogatory slur against all non-white and non-Asian peoples, usually applied against Middle Eastern and Caucasian people. Furthermore, the word chernozhopyi (“черножопый”, “black-assed”) is the harshest generic racist slur for non-white peoples; for Asian people, the Russian language contains different, specific derogatory and racist slurs.

Literary

Historically, nigger is controversial in literature as racist insult and common noun. The white photographer and writer, Carl Van Vechten, a supporter of the Harlem Renaissance (1920s–30s), provoked controversy in the Black community with the title of his novel Nigger Heaven (1926), wherein the usage increased sales; of the controversy, Langston Hughes wrote:

No book could possibly be as bad as Nigger Heaven has been painted. And no book has ever been better advertised by those who wished to damn it. Because it was declared obscene, everybody wanted to read it, and I'll venture to say that more Negroes bought it than ever purchased a book by a Negro author. Then, as now, the use of the word nigger by a white was a flashpoint for debates about the relationship between Black culture and its White patrons.

In the US, the recurrent (reading curricula) controversy about the vocabulary of the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), by Mark Twain — American literature (usually) taught in US schools — about the Slave South, risks censorship because of 215 (counted) occurrences the word nigger, most refer to Jim, Huckleberry's escaped-slave raft-mate.[23][24] Twain's advocates note that the novel is composed in then-contemporary vernacular usage, not racist stereotype, because Jim, the Black man, is a sympathetic character in the nineteenth-century Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Moreover, unlike the literary escaped-slave Jim, ante-Bellum slaves used the artifice of self-deprecation essential to Tomming, in pandering to societal racist assumptions about the black man's low intelligence, by advantageously using the word nigger to escape the violence inherent to slavery.[25] Implicit to "Uncle Tomming" was the unspoken reminder to white folk that a presumably inferior and sub-human person could not, reasonably, be held responsible for poorly realized work, a kitchen fire, or any such catastrophic offense. The artificial self-deprecation deflected responsibility, in hope of escaping the violent wraths of overseer and master. Using nigger as a self-referential identity term also was a way of avoiding white suspicion, of encountering an intelligent slave, and so put whites at their ease. In context, a slave who referred to himself, or another black man, as a nigger presumed the master's perceiving him as a slave who has accepted his societally sub-ordinate role as private property, thus, not (potentially) subversive of the authority of the master's white supremacy.

The meanings of language: The original title of And Then There Were None (1939), by Agatha Christie.

Originally, Ten Little Niggers (1939) was the British title of Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None, also titled Ten Little Indians. Other late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British literary usages suggest neutral usage. The popular Victorian era entertainment, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado (1885) twice uses the word nigger. In the song I have a Little List, the executioner, Ko-ko, sings of executing the "nigger serenader and the others of his race", personified by black-faced singers singing minstrel songs. In the song Let the Punishment fit the Crime, the Mikado sings of having over-made-up ladies in court, "Blacked like a nigger/With permanent walnut juice"; the lyrics are changed for contemporary performances.[26]

The Reverend W. V. Awdry's The Railway Series (1945–72) story Henry's Sneeze, originally described soot-covered boys with the phrase "as black as niggers".[27] In 1972, after complaints, the description was edited to "as black as soot", in the subsequent editions.[27] Rev. Awdry is best known for Thomas the Tank Engine (1946).

How the Leopard Got His Spots, in Just So Stories (1902), by R. Kipling, tells of an Ethiopian man and a leopard, both originally sand-colored, deciding to camouflage themselves with painted spots, for hunting in tropical forest. The story originally included a scene wherein the leopard (now spotted) asks the Ethiopian man why he doesn't want spots. In contemporary editions of How the Leopard Got His Spots, the Ethiopian's original reply: "Oh, plain black's best for a nigger", has been edited to, "Oh, plain black’s best for me." Again, Kipling uses the word in A Counting-Out Song (Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, 1923), the rhyme reads: "Eenie Meenie Mainee, Mo! Catch a nigger by the toe!"

In short story, The Basement Room (1935), by Graham Greene, the (sympathetic) servant character, Baines, tells the admiring boy, son of his employer, of his African British colony service, "You wouldn't believe it now, but I've had forty niggers under me, doing what I told them to". Replying to the boy’s question: "Did you ever shoot a nigger?" Bains answers: "I never had any call to shoot. Of course I carried a gun. But you didn’t need to treat them bad, that just made them stupid. Why, I loved some of those dammed niggers." The cinematic version of The Basement Room short story, The Fallen Idol (1948), directed by Carol Reed, replaced novelist Greene’s niggers usage with natives.[citation needed]

Popular culture

In the US and the UK, the word nigger featured in branding and packaging consumer products, e.g. “Nigger Hair Tobacco” and “Niggerhead Oysters”, Brazil nuts were called nigger toes, et cetera. As racism became unacceptable in mainstream culture, the tobacco brand became “Bigger Hare” and the canned goods brand became “Negro Head”.[28][29][30] The Chinese Nanhai De Xing Leather Shoes Habiliment Co., Ltd.'s online store describes the color of a model of man’s leather boots as “nigger-brown”.[31]

Cinema
The movie Blazing Saddles (1974) used nigger to ridicule US racism. In Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), the sequence titled “Danger Seekers” features a stuntman effecting the dangerous stunt of shouting NIGGERS!! at a group of black people, then fleeing when they chased him.
Music
Responding to accusations of racism after referring to "niggers" in the lyrics of the Guns N' Roses song, “One in a Million”, Axl Rose stated "I was pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob me. I wanted to insult those particular black people. I didn't want to support racism." [32]

The country music artist David Allan Coe used the racial terms "redneck", "white trash", and "nigger" in the songs “If That Ain’t Country, I’ll Kiss Your Ass” and “Nigger Fucker”.[33] In the 1960s, record producer J. D. "Jay" Miller published pro-racial segregation music with the “Reb Rebel” label featuring racist songs by Johnny Rebel and others, demeaning Black Americans and the Black Civil Rights movement.[34]

Television
In the British television series Fawlty Towers, in “The Germans” episode, the Major Gowen character used "niggers" to describe West Indian and Indian cricketers. In Saturday Night Live, comedians Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor say nigger and honky to each other in a word-association interview. Comedians such as Pryor, Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Lenny Bruce used nigger in their comedy. Contemporarily, rap groups such as N.W.A. (Niggaz with Attitudes), re-popularized the usage in their songs. Some episodes of Sanford & Son were censored and not broadcast, because Foxx used the word nigger. In a Mad TV sketch titled “Real Mother****ing Talk”, a character says “nigger, please” before other Black people, such as Xzibit. In episode 20 of the Family Matters second season, the graffito nigger was written on Laura Winslow’s school locker, and found a note addressed to her that read: “If you want to learn Black History, Go back to Africa”. Elsewhere, Dog the Bounty Hunter used nigger in referring to his son’s girlfriend.[35] The American comedian Michael Richards called a heckler nigger during his stand-up comedy routine.[36]
Theatre
The musical Show Boat (from 1927 until 1946) features the word and "nigger" as originally integral to the lyrics of “Ol' Man River” and “Cotton Blossom”; although deleted from the cinema versions, it is included to the 1988 EMI recording of the original score. Musical theatre historian Miles Kreuger and conductor John McGlinn propose that the word was not an insult, but a blunt illustration of how white people then perceived black people.

Cultural controversy

"Nigger-brown" coloured furniture

In April 2007, a dark brown leather sofa set, sold by Vanaik Furniture and Mattress Store in Toronto, Canada, was labelled as “Nigger-brown” colour. Investigation determined that the Chinese manufacturer used an outdated version of Kingsoft's Chinese-to-English translation software for writing the tags; it translated the Chinese “dark-brown” characters to “Nigger-brown”, and neither the Canadian supplier nor the store owner had noticed the incorrectly translated tag; subsequently, Kingsoft corrected its translation software.[37][38][39][40] Chinese phrases can be cut and paste into SYSTRANET, thus the:

  • 深 - 棕 - 色 characters individually translate as deep-brown-colour
  • 深棕色 collectively, they translate as nigger-brown (as late as 8 November 2009)

In Hong Kong English, the phrase nigger-brown is a commonly used colour denotation routinely used in British newspapers, decades earlier, without racist connotation.

The Dam Busters film

In the Second World War film, The Dam Busters (1955), Nigger is the name of a black dog belonging to Guy Gibson [41] an RAF Wing Commander hero. In 1999, the British television network ITV broadcast a censored version with every utterance of Nigger deleted. Replying to complaints against its censorship, ITV blamed the regional broadcaster, London Weekend Television, which, in turn, blamed a junior employee as the unauthorised censor, (see political correctness). In June 2001, when ITV re-broadcast the censored version of The Dam Busters, the Index on Censorship criticised it as “unnecessary and ridiculous” censorship breaking the continuity of the film and the story.[42]

E.S. 'Nigger' Brown Stand

The E.S. 'Nigger' Brown Stand at a sports ground in Toowoomba, Queensland caused some controversy in Australia in 2003.

Derivations

anti-abolitionist cartoon from the 1860 presidential campaign illustrating colloquial usage
  • Nigger as “defect” (a hidden problem), derives from “nigger in the woodpile”, a US slave-era phrase denoting escaped slaves hiding in train-transported woodpiles.[7]
  • In British English, the maritime term niggerhead denotes a bollard mooring post, made with an old cannon, partly buried muzzle-up, topped with an over-sized cannonball; it is sailor’s jargon for an isolated, navigation-hazard coral outcropping. (see quay).
  • In Irish English, the colloquialism “nigger’s knackers” describes prunes. In Belgium, a popular chocolate is known as Negerinnetetten (Negress’s tits), but is elsewhere sold as Melo-cakes. In Holland, Negerzoenen (Negro kisses) now are Buys Zoenen (Buys Kisses). In Sweden, the traditional Negerbollar (Negro balls) now are called Chocolate balls, Oat balls, and Coco-balls.[citation needed]
  • Flora and fauna nomenclatures include the word nigger. The Arizonan nigger-head cactus, Echinocactus polycephalus is a round, cabbage-sized plant covered with large, crooked thorns. The colloquial names for echinacea (coneflower) are “Kansas niggerhead” and “Wild niggerhead”. In Oceania, the “niggerhead termite” (Nasutitermes graveolus) is an Australian native.[46]
  • During the First World War (1914–18) US Army General John Pershing’s true nickname, Nigger Jack, was euphemized to Black Jack, by reporters, to protect the sensibilities of readers, listeners, and viewers.[47]
  • In 1960, a stand at the stadium in Toowoomba, Australia, was named the “E. S. ‘Nigger’ Brown Stand” honoring 1920s rugby player Edward Stanley Brown, so nicknamed since early life because of his pale white skin; so known all his life, his tombstone is engraved Nigger. Moreover, lingusitically, Stephen Hagan, a lecturer at the Kumbari/Ngurpai Lag Higher Education Center of the University of Southern Queensland sued the Toowoomba council over the use of nigger in the stand’s name; the district and state courts dismissed his lawsuit. He appealed to the High Court of Australia, who ruled the naming matter beyond federal jurisdiction. Ironically, the local Aboriginals, generally, did not share Mr Hagan’s opposition to nigger. Undaunted, Mr Hagan appealed to the United Nations, winning their recommendation to the Australian federal government, that it force the Queensland state government to remove the word nigger from the “E. S. ‘Nigger’ Brown Stand” name. The Australian federal government thwarted hagan and the UN recommendation, by citing the High Court’s jurisdiction ruling; in September 2008, the stand was demolished. The Queensland Sports Minister, Judy Spence, said that using Nigger would be unacceptable, either for the stand or on any commemorative plaque. The book The N Word: One Man’s Stand (2005), by Stephen Hagan, (Magabala Books, 2005, ISBN 978-1875641987) includes this episode in law and the language. Moreover, Hagan is writing a doctoral thesis titled The Origin, Maintenance, and Legitimization of the Word ‘Nigger’ in the Australian Vernacular; and he has restarted his linguistic legal reform efforts against the Coon cheese brand name.[48][49]

Place names

The word nigger features in official place-names, such as “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 place names. First changed to “Negrohead Mountain”, a peak above Santa Monica, California was renamed on (Feb. 2010) to Ballard Mountain in honor of John Ballard, a black pioneer who settled the area in the 19th Century. “Nigger Head Mountain”, at Burnet, Texas, was so named because the forest atop it resembled a black man’s hair. In 1966, the US First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, denounced the racist name, asking the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and the U.S. Forest Service to rename it, becoming “Colored Mountain” in 1968; and in West Texas, “Dead Nigger Creek” was renamed “Dead Negro Draw".[50]Nigger Grade”, near Temecula, California, named for Nate Harrison, an ex-slave and settler, was renamed “Nate Harrison Grade” in 1955, at the request of the NAACP.[51][52][53][54][55]

The northwestern North America, in Canada and the US, features many uses of the word nigger.[56][57][58][59] At Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, “Niggertoe Mountain” was renamed Mount Nkwala. That racist place-name derived from a 1908 Christmas story about three black men who died in a blizzard; the next day, the bodies of two were found at the foot of the mountain.[60] A point on the Lower Mississippi River, in West Baton Rouge Parish, named “Free Nigger Point” until the late twentieth century, first was renamed “Free Negro Point”, but currently is named “Wilkinson Point”.[61] “Nigger Head Rock”, protruding from a cliff above Highway 421, north of Pennington Gap, Virginia, was renamed “Great Stone Face” in the 1970s.

Derivatives

Euphemism

The euphemism “the N-word” became mainstream American English usage during the racially contentious murder trial of ex-footballer O.J. Simpson in 1995. Key prosecution witness Detective Mark Fuhrman, of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) — who denied using racist language on duty — impeached himself with his prolific use of nigger in tape recordings about his police work. The recordings, by screenplay writer Laura McKinney, were from a 1985 research session wherein the detective assisted her with a screenplay about LAPD policewomen. Fuhrman excused his racism saying he used nigger in the context of his “bad-cop” persona. Linguistically, the popular press reporting and discussing Det. Fuhrman’s testimony substituted the “the N-word” euphemism in place of nigger.[citation needed]

Homophones

Niger occurs in Latinate scientific nomenclature and is the root word for some homophones of nigger; sellers of niger seed (used as bird feed), use the name Nyjer seed. The classical Latin pronunciation /ˈniɡeɾ/ sounds like the English /ˈnɪɡər/, occurring in biologic and anatomic names, such as Hyoscamus niger (black henbane). In American English, nigra is a euphemistic pronunciation of negro used in the American South to "politely" speak of black people in non-racist company.[citation needed] Nigra is the Latin feminine form of niger (black), used in biologic and anatomic nomenclatures such as substantia nigra (black substance).

The words niggardly (miserly) and snigger ("to laugh derisively") are unrelated to nigger; niggard (miser) derives from the Old Norse nig (stingy), and the verb niggle derives from the verb nigla ("chew", "gnaw"; and "potter at"). In the US, the words are often misheard as nigger, and — out of ignorance — are mistakenly perceived as offensive. In January 1999, David Howard, a white Washington, D.C. city employee, was compelled to resign after using niggardly — in a financial context — whilst speaking with black colleagues, who took umbrage. After reviewing the misunderstanding, Mayor Anthony Williams offered to reinstate Mr Howard, who refused reinstatement for another job elsewhere in the mayor's government.[62]

The portmanteau word wigger (white + nigger) denotes an adolescent white boy aping "street black behavior", hoping acceptance to the hip hop, thug, and gangsta sub-cultures. In the British music business, ligger ("freeloader") denotes someone seeking free entry to concerts; it derives from lig ("gig", "event") and the variations "to go ligging".

Intra-Group vs Intergroup Usage

Black hearers often react differently to the term when it is used by white speakers and by black speakers. In the former case, it is regularly understood as an insult; in the latter, it may carry notes of in-group disparagement, or even be understood as neutral or affectionate, a possible instance of reappropriation.

Among the black community, the slur nigger is sometimes rendered as nigga, a self-referential pronoun in African American Vernacular English usage popularised by the Rap and Hip-hop music cultures as in-group lexicon and speech, wherein it is not necessarily derogatory.[63]

According to Arthur K. Spears (Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 2006)

In many African-American neighborhoods, nigga is simply the most common term used to refer to any male, of any race or ethnicity. Increasingly, the term has been applied to any person, male or female. “Where y’all niggas goin?” is said with no selfconsciousness or animosity to a group of women, for the routine purpose of obtaining information. The point: Nigga is evaluatively neutral in terms of its inherent meaning; it may express positive, neutral or negative attitudes;

While Kevin Cato observes:

For instance, a show on Black Entertainment Television, a cable network aimed at a black audience, described the word nigger as a “term of endearment.” “In the African American community, the word nigga (not nigger) brings out feelings of pride” (Davis 1). Here the word evokes a sense of community and oneness among black people. Many teens I interviewed felt that the word had no power when used amongst friends, but when used among white people the word took on a completely different meaning. In fact, comedian Alex Thomas on BET stated, “I still better not hear no white boy say that to me. . . . I hear a white boy say that to me, it means ‘White boy, you gonna get your ass beat.’”

[64]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Pilgrim, David (September 2001). "Nigger and Caricatures". http://www.ferris.edu/news/jimcrow/caricature/. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  2. ^ Being a Nigger is Not Cool
  3. ^ Abolish the "N" Word
  4. ^ J. Douglas Allen-Taylor. “The Word 'Nigger'” Metroactive News & Issues. April 1998.
  5. ^ Randall Kennedy (11 January 2001). "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/nigger.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  (Book review)
  6. ^ Hutchinson, Earl Ofari (1996). The assassination of the Black male image. Simon and Schuster. p. 82. ISBN 9780684831008. http://books.google.com/books?id=tL2dpZGqIrIC&pg=PA82. 
  7. ^ a b The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, second edition, (1996) p.981
  8. ^ Twain, Mark (1883). Life on the Mississippi. James R. Osgood & Co., Boston (U.S. edition). p. 11,13,127,139,219. ISBN 9780486414263. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=nBWbSj-r4U4C&pg=PA11. 
  9. ^ http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84025811/1904-10-14/ed-1/seq-5/
  10. ^ Mencken, H. L. (1921). "Chapter 8. American Spelling > 2. The Influence of Webster". The American language: An inquiry into the development of English in the United States, (2nd ed., rev. and enl. ed.). New York: A.A. Knopf. ISBN 1-58734-087-9. http://www.bartleby.com/185/32.html. 
  11. ^ Allan, Keith. The Pragmatics of Connotation. Journal of Pragmatics 39:6 (June 2007) 1047-57
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Mohr, Tim (November 2007). "Cornel West Talks Rhymes and Race: He says artists can use words newspapers can't". Playboy 54 (11): 44. 
  14. ^ Kennedy, Randall (2002). Nigger: the strange career of a troublesome word. Random House. p. 28. ISBN 9780375421723. http://books.google.com/books?id=yb8LmupcLdkC&pg=PA28. 
  15. ^ Rollins, Peter C. (2003). The Columbia companion to American history on film: how the movies have portrayed the American past. Columbia UP. p. 341. ISBN 9780231112222. http://books.google.com/books?id=xB1rhm6Ke2UC&pg=PA341. 
  16. ^ Lemert, Charles (2003). Muhammad Ali: trickster in the culture of irony. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 105–107. ISBN 9780745628714. http://books.google.com/books?id=MI1cTZGcDVgC&pg=PA105. 
  17. ^ Ed Pilkington (1 March 2007). "New York city council bans use of the N-word". Guardian Unlimited. http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2023817,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  18. ^ "Res. No. 693-A — Resolution declaring the NYC Council’s symbolic moratorium against using the “N” word in New York City.". New York City Council. http://webdocs.nyccouncil.info/textfiles/Res%200693-2007.htm?CFID=425440&CFTOKEN=70865698. Retrieved 2007-08-17. .
  19. ^ "1920: Corsicana's Finest Hour". http://www.attheyard.com/InRetrospect/printer_699.shtml. 
  20. ^ "Jay Justin "Nig" Clark of Navarro County, Texas". http://www.rootsweb.com/~txnavarr/biographies/c/clark_jay_justin.htm. 
  21. ^ send2press newswire. "Does the News Media Patronize the Black Community? asks United Voices for a Common Cause". News Blaze. http://newsblaze.com/story/2006112812530200001.sp/topstory.html. Retrieved 2007-08-17. .
  22. ^ MacDonald, Michael Patrick. All Souls: A Family Story from Southie Publisher Random House, Inc., 2000. Page 61. ISBN 034544177X, 9780345441775
  23. ^ "Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn". The Complete Works of Mark-Twain. http://www.mtwain.com/Adventures_Of_Huckleberry_Finn/. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  24. ^ "Academic Resources: Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word". Random House. http://www.randomhouse.com/acmart/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375713712&view=tg. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  25. ^ Stephen Railton (2005). "Tomming In Our Time". University of Virginia, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/interpret/exhibits/tomming/tomminghp.html. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  26. ^ Michael Sragow (23 December 1999). "The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd". http://salon.com/ent/col/srag/1999/12/23/leigh/index2.html. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  27. ^ a b Sibley, Brian (1995). The Thomas the Tank Engine Man. London: Heinemann. pp. 272–5. ISBN 0-434-96909-5. 
  28. ^ Ravernell, Wanda J. (15 June 2005). "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. 
  29. ^ "Jim Crow Museum". Ferris State University. http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/FAQ.htm. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  30. ^ "Hue & Cry". Urban Legends Reference Pages: Racist Sofa Label. http://www.snopes.com/racial/business/sofa.asp. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  31. ^ "Leisure Boot". Online sales catalog. http://listing.hk.business.yahoo.com/gb/2298/product_details_91024.html. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  32. ^ MNeely, Kim (April 2, 1992). Axl Rose: The RS Interview. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  33. ^ http://www.myspace.com/davidallencoe1
  34. ^ John Broven, South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican, 1983, p. 252f.
  35. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/TV/11/01/dog.chapman.ap/index.html
  36. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15816126/
  37. ^ Racial slur on sofa label stuns family by Jim Wilkes Toronto Star, April 06, 2007 (retrieved 2 February 2009).
  38. ^ Racist Sofa Label: Huy & Cry at Snopes.com
  39. ^ Offensive Couch Update City News, April 13, 2007 (retrieved on February 2, 2009).
  40. ^ Translation software blamed for sofa tag by Furniture Today staff, May 7, 2007 (retrieved 2 February 2009).
  41. ^ Warbird Photo Album — Avro Lancaster Mk.I
  42. ^ ITV attacked over Dam Busters censorship, The Guardian, 11 June 2001
  43. ^ "The Color of Words", by Philip Herbst, 1997, ISBN 1877864978, p. 166
  44. ^ Kennedy, Randall L. (Winter, 1999-2000). "Who Can Say "Nigger"? And Other Considerations". The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (26): 86–96 [87]. 
  45. ^ vol 2 p6
  46. ^ "Semiochemicals of Nasutitermes graveolus, the Niggerhead termite". The Pherobase. http://www.pherobase.com/database/species/species-Nasutitermes-graveolus.php. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  47. ^ "Buffalo Soldier Cavalry Commander: General John J. Pershing". U.S. National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/pwso/honor/pershing.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  48. ^ Bita, Natasha (27 September 2008). "League legend would have wanted sign to stay: grandson". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24409162-5012431,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  49. ^ Monaghan, Peter: Taking a Stand, 29 July 2005 in The Chronicle of Higher Education, available at "Australia's E.S. 'Nigger' Brown Stand and "Judicial Restraint"". Prof. Andrew V. Uroskie. 29 July 2005. http://lettrist.blogspot.com/2005/07/australias-es-nigger-brown-stand-and.html. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  50. ^ "Dead Negro Draw". Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/DD/rbd17.html. Retrieved 2010-02-19. 
  51. ^ "Nathan "Nigger Nate" Harrison (1823–1920)". San Diego Historical Society. http://www.sandiegohistory.org/bio/harrison/harrison.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  52. ^ "Nigger Hill in Mariposa County, California". CaliforniaMaps.org. http://californiamaps.org/place.php?county=Mariposa&feature=Nigger+Hill. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  53. ^ "Nigger Slough in Los Angeles County, California". CaliforniaMaps.org. http://californiamaps.org/place.php?county=Los+Angeles&feature=Nigger+Slough. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  54. ^ "Nigger Valley in San Diego County, California". CaliforniaMaps.org. http://californiamaps.org/place.php?county=San+Diego&feature=Nigger+Valley. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  55. ^ "Nigger Canyon in San Diego County, California". CaliforniaMaps.org. http://californiamaps.org/place.php?county=San+Diego&feature=Nigger+Canyon. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  56. ^ "Nigger Joe Ridge in Humboldt County, California". CaliforniaMaps.org. http://californiamaps.org/place.php?county=Humboldt&feature=Nigger+Joe+Ridge. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  57. ^ "Nigger Gulch in Butte County, California". CaliforniaMaps.org. http://californiamaps.org/place.php?county=Butte&feature=Nigger+Gulch. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  58. ^ "Nigger Sam Slough in Glenn County, California". CaliforniaMaps.org. http://californiamaps.org/place.php?county=Glenn&feature=Nigger+Sam+Slough. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  59. ^ "Golden Gate Genealogy Forum". CaliforniaMaps.org. http://www.genealogyforum.rootsweb.com/gedcom/gedcom7a/gedr7179.ged. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  60. ^ "Niggertoe Mountain". BC Geographical Names Information System. http://www.ilmb.gov.bc.ca/bcgn-bin/bcg10?name=45296. 
  61. ^ "Free Negro Point". USGS Geographic Names Information System. http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/f?p=gnispq:3:::NO::P3_FID:535095. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  62. ^ Yolanda Woodlee (4 February 1999). "D.C. Mayor Acted 'Hastily,' Will Rehire Aide". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/williams/williams020499.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  63. ^ http://www.arthurkspears.com/papers/n-word.pdf
  64. ^ http://wrt-intertext.syr.edu/XI/Nigger.html

References

  • Robert F. Worth (Fall 1995). "Nigger Heaven and the Harlem Renaissance". African American Review 29 (3): 461–473. doi:10.2307/3042395. 
  • "nigger" (2 ed.). 1989. 
  • Swan, Robert J. (2003). New Amsterdam gehenna: segregated death in New York City, 1630-1801. Brooklyn: Noir Verite Press. ISBN 0-9722813-0-4. 
  • Smith, Stephanie (2005). Household words: bloomers, sucker, bombshell, scab, nigger, cyber. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-4552-3. 
  • Kennedy, Randall (2002). Nigger : the strange career of a troublesome word. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42172-6. 
  • Fuller, Neely Jr. (1984). The united independent compensatory code/system/concept: A textbook/workbook for thought, speech, and/or action, for victims of racism (white supremacy). ASIN B000BVZW38. 

Further reading

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to nigger article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Contents

English

Etymology

Ultimately from the Latin adjective niger, meaning "black". Several Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc) have the word "negro" meaning "black" (in colour) derived from the Latin "niger", while French has noir, its nègre being borrowed from Spanish. During the period in America's history when black workers were shipped to America to work as slaves, this word came to be adopted from the Hispanic South American languages to describe a person of dark skin. Essentially, a "negro" person simply means a "black" person. Through constant repetition of the Spanish word in the American accent, it seems likely that the word was corrupted from "negro" to "niggero" to simply "nigger".

Pronunciation

Noun

Singular
nigger

Plural
niggers

nigger (plural niggers)

  1. (vulgar, see usage notes) A dark-skinned person, especially a person of, or primarily of, Negro descent.
    • Huckleberry Finn, in the eponymous novel by Mark Twain.
      It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it[sic], and I warn't[sic] ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that[sic] one if I'd a knowed[sic] it would make him feel that way.
    • 1888, Rudyard Kipling, ‘On the City Wall’, In Black and White, Folio Society 2005, p. 435:
      The Captain was not a nice man. He called all natives ‘niggers’, which, besides being extreme bad form, shows gross ignorance.
    • Hotel Rwanda
      You are not even niggers, you are Africans.
  2. (slang, often considered, offensive) A person of Negro descent who acts in an unapproved manner, usually as a badass.
    I love black people, but I hate niggers.
  3. (African American Vernacular) Informal term of address.
    • 2002, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, "Loaded Language", a review of Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy, Washington Post, Sunday, January 13, 2002; Page BW06
      I had overheard him greet a buddy who called him on the phone with "Yo, nigger, what's up?"

Usage notes

"Nigger" has taken on pejorative qualities, as it implies not only darkness of skin, but a general lack of intelligence and sophistication. At the time of the word's origin, various English-speaking North American settlers who set cultural standards considered black people fundamentally inferior and less civilized than white people. The term is generally considered offensive to black people, not only because it singles them out on the basis of their skin colour, but also because, due to its origin, it carries connotations of slavery, inferiority and oppression.

The term is generally derogatory when used by persons not of African descent (and sometimes when used by persons of African descent), but, it is also used by some black people among themselves, positively, especially when used in the form of "nigga," in a form of reclamation. It is important to note that many people do not believe that "nigger" is able to be reclaimed, because of its fraught history and continued pejorative usage. Usage by non-blacks, however, is almost invariably considered offensive. Thus, the term is both potentially liberatory while also being highly contested.

In its pejorative sense, it arguably ranks as the most insulting racial epithet in the English language, with strong connotations of cultural and intellectual inferiority or deficiency. The controversial nature of the word makes it unacceptable for use in most modern mainstream American media. The word is usually censored in direct quotations or euphemistically referred to as the "n-word" to blunt its potential negative impact.

Translations

Related terms

See also

Anagrams


Norwegian

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Nigger

Wikipedia no

Etymology

From English nigger

Noun

nigger m.

  1. (vulgar) nigger

Synonyms

Inflection


Swedish

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Swedish Wikipedia has an article on:
Nigger

Wikipedia sv

Etymology

Attested since 1888 according to Svenska Akademiens ordbok. From English nigger.

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /ˈnɪgːer/

Noun

nigger c.

Inflection for nigger Singular Plural
common Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Base form nigger niggern niggrer niggrerna
Possessive form niggers niggerns niggrers niggrernas
  1. (vulgar, dated) nigger, variant of neger.

Synonyms


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|1885 illustration from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. At that time, the word simply meant black person and did not have its current meaning.]] Nigger is a word to refer to a person of African descent. Today, it is mostly used as a racist insult. Originally, it was simply used to refer to a black person, as opposed to a white person. At that time it did not have a racist connotation.

The word came from a slang pronunciation of "negro", which is the word for the color black in Spanish.[1] Writers such as Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain[2] , and Charles Dickens used it. When they used it, they meant black person, as opposed to white person. The word was most used in the Southern part of the United States, where blacks were at one time held as slaves.

Today, it is an offensive and inflammatory racial slur in American English, and is often considered to be hate speech. Although, when Mark Twain used it, it seemed totally normal for his time.

Other pages

References

  1. Pilgrim, David (September 2001). "Nigger and Caricatures". http://www.ferris.edu/news/jimcrow/caricature/. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  2. Twain, Mark (1883). Life on the Mississippi. James R. Osgood & Co., Boston (U.S. edition). p. 11,13,127,139,219. ISBN 9780486414263. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=nBWbSj-r4U4C&pg=PA11. 









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