September 04, 2002
Mixed reactions on my "niggardly"-posting

After I wrote the posting about the controversial word "niggardly" last night, I must admit I expected at least some mild flaming and/or discussion... So far, four people have voiced their opinions (and diverging they are as well :-)

Mike Pugh left a comment saying

I've always had a problem with the term "niggardly". It's always been my least favorite word in the English language. Yes, it's not technically a racial slang, but I do think that people with cultural sensitivity and taste avoid using the term.
Fair enough. I have no problem with that. I also replied to him in a comment and personal email regarding this; my main point in the previous article was the out-of-proportions consequences (people fired etc) resulting from use of the word.

Harald simply states (Thanks Harald :-) :

A wonderful essay on language, and ignorance, and political correctness, and the wrongs that result. I couldn't have said it better myself (so I won't)

Douglas, on the other hand, writes:

[...] There are just some things that you should not do in order to make sure that you are not misunderstood by someone as being rude and inconsiderate. I doubt that anyone can argue that there is no way that someone might feel that the speaker said "niggerdly" meaning in the manner of a nigger.
Now, we notice three things: 1. a "not" too much(?!) 2. Douglas is the first to bring up the N-word. 3. Douglas (deliberately, or because he hasn't read my whole posting or grasped the issue?) misspells the word in question to "niggErdly", which, no doubt, would be perceived as more offensive than niggardly. He goes on:
Are you really so short on words that you have to use this word? It does not mean anything negative but there are undoubtedly more prudent options in an intelligent person's vocabulary...
Now, I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, so I hope this wasn't meant as an attack on me. If it was - you need to try harder!

As I also wrote in my reply to Mike's comment to my previous posting, I occationally enjoy exaggurating to make a point clear (to many friends' great annoyance, I'm sure ;-) Still - replying to Douglas' remark about being "short on words" - is it being short of words to choose to use words that are not used daily in USA Today? Is it not you being short on words, trying to censor a rich language like the English because of this self-imposed American """political correctness"""?

Lars goes a lot further in his posting "Emptying the Dictionary":

[...] So what more do I have to say about this issue? Let me be blunt; political correctness is s**t. [...]
And right he is... Is it just us Scandinavians daring to raise our voices on the topic?

[ Post Scriptum: Let me be totally clear here: I'm not trying to start a flame war, nor am I advocating the use of the word "niggardly" in particular - what I'm trying to address is what I, as a non-American and not having English as my mother tongue, perceive as political correctness blown out of proportion on the other side of the pond. Especially Douglas' comments made me realize that a lot of Americans make a large effort to limit their vocabulary to not hurt the feelings of people with less grasp of the English language. Maybe considerate, but isn't it almost almost Dilbertesque?

--- and if you have read through this and the previous article without feeling the urge to express your agreement, indifference or disagreement to what I've written, I'm impressed... ;-) D.S. ]

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My US$.02:

I do empathize with the desire to go to lengths to avoid offending others, especially through a semantic misunderstanding. It seems to be an American behavior. A similar thing happened with a Hindu friend of mine and her wedding invitations that had the "svastik" on them. In Hinduism this is an auspicious symbol. However, drawn at a different angle, it is a Nazi swastika. My friend asked me if her Jewish friends would be offended. This is what I told her, and it applies here as well: If a listener/reader does not have the common sense or the manners to ask for clarification before jumping to the conclusion that the intent is to offend them, they are the ones with the problem. There is no "d" at the end of the "n-word". Granted the word niggardly is not used frequently in modern-day conversation, it wouldn't kill anyone to do a little research before going ballistic. It annoys me greatly that the PC-patrol is so hyper-sensitive to every little minutia. Get over it!! Find a hobby. Or, as Jim Carrey said when he introduced Eminem at last year's MTV Video Music Awards, "If we all just spent a little time and talked [about these issues] with our kids, everything will be OK."

Posted by: ValerieF on September 4, 2002 08:15 PM

I have zero patience for people who cannot use their language of choice adroitly. If you would rather I refer to a boat rather than a ship because the latter word sounds "dirty" to you, you may rest assured that I will be on the next boat away from where you are.

(N.B. "you" here is not meant to refer personally to Anders or anyone else.)

Posted by: Graham on September 5, 2002 12:00 AM

Good comments, Graham and Valerie :-) Thanks!

Posted by: andersja on September 5, 2002 12:21 AM

You know I was thinking about this the other day, in fact it was before I began reading the PC posts that I've read the last couple of days.

I realize that there is a perception that Americans are arrogant and that we think everyone on the internet is an American, so I hope I don't perpetuate that perception with this entry. But I can only comment on things that I see in my culture, which unfortunately happens to be gangstah-America.

I'm not going to lie, today's American youth scare me. I read a pitiful article a few months ago about a black guy describing his plight. He said "when I walk through a parkinglot and a whiter person sees me coming, they instinctively lock their doors, how do you think that makes me feel?" I wish I could have spoken to this man at this moment so that I could perhaps explain to him why this ocurrs. Several reasons:
1. Don't try to dress like a gangstah, and then blame me for believing your deception.
2. Don't try to pretend like you don't glorify, poppin' caps in folks, and demean women by referring to them as "b*****s" and "ho's". What do you mean how can I judge you? You think it might have something to do with that Snoop Doggy Dog t-shirt you're wearing? Or your Tu-Pac Shakur tatoo on your bicep?
3. It is a fact that people get carjacked, raped and killed every single day in America. I have a fiduciary responsibility to my children to protect them, and it adds a little extra measure of security for me to lock the doors when I see someone, ANYONE approaching. I owe it to them. I care more about what they think of their father, that what you think, and your poor wittle feelings.

I kind of went off on a tangent there for a sec, but let me get back to the main trail here. When I was thinking about our society, I was fantasizing about what it will be like in 100 years when our vocabulary in the English Slanguage, is reduced to 137 main words.

Most of which are slang, and 40 of which do not yet exist as words. Just like the words 'chillin', gnarly, dweeb and phrases like "what's the dilly yo?" "Hey B, why you steppin to me?" "naw dawg, that wadn't me."
"look here freak-ho, why you trippin?"
"I'm the Mack-daddy" "you such a bustah, you's frontin' foo"

And I was wondering if there would be entries in the dictionary like:

Man. (archaic), see: Dude
sometimes used as an expression "Man! that was great." (archaic) see: "Damn!"

Posted by: George from CARM on September 10, 2002 06:12 PM

Most intriguing. And I have to agree with you on this. It's weird how suddenly everyone just becomes PC just because someone said "I said so, just do it". How Nike-esque.

Posted by: Stefan on September 19, 2002 05:21 PM

This is awfully similar to the "master/slave" controversy involving computer drives... I must say, that incident has infuriated techies all over America.


Posted by: Malletman on November 29, 2003 09:21 AM

There is something similar going around in Sweden right now - an ice cream named "Nogger", for nougat, is accused of being racist. The Swedish word for the ethniticity involved is "neger", and it is no way near as emotionally charged as its US-English counterpart. Nor is it spelled identically, as you can tell.

The controvery sparked over a new version of the Nogger ice cream, "Nogger Black". As can be seen from this Reuters release: - the group also claims that the advertisements involved make an immediate link to "black culture" by containing "grafitti".

The advertisement in question is a drawing in chalk, on a black surface (asphalt, blackboard, liquorice?) of a valentine with the text "Nogger + liquorice = true". It's about as much "grafitti" och "black culture" as a .. well, a chalk drawing.

Posted by: Per Edman on April 20, 2005 12:29 PM

Mmm, I just wanted to say that...yes, political correctness and censorship are a bitch, but you rarely hear people over here complain about it. The reason that we are so careful over it is that we are one of the countries to get the most shit over employing past policies that many other countries had adopted. Practicies like slavery and imperialism. Don't get me wrong, these aren't things that I am advocating, it's just that Americans seem to get more bullshit over it than the other countries who have often used one or another manner of illicit means to expand their territories or to build their nations. Countries as modern as the U.S. even. Us being the predominant super power get the most crap over it. It all leads back to sociopolitical positions in my opinion. Because America is henceforth the only super power (since the end of the cold war and the fall of Russia) it tends to get all the backlash while other countries seemingly ignore their own past.

Posted by: Stryker on May 30, 2005 09:27 AM
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