An interesting linguistic point

We’re not really supposed to use the word “black” to describe race these days, at least not when discussing America. African American is still roughly OK, coloured is out, black is a bit iffy, Negro is absolutely out and “person of colour” is today’s euphemism of choice among the right on.

Except:

FBI probe after Mississippi black man found hanging from tree

There’s no particular point to this, just the observation. When there’s echoes of the appalling parts of the past the use of the older words seems OK….possibly even appropriate actually.

49 thoughts on “An interesting linguistic point”

  1. I think ‘black man’ is ok again but ‘the blacks’ is still a big no-no. The permanently offended keep changing what is acceptable so often I don’t really care anymore.

  2. Interestingly, didn’t Cumberbatch get crucified for saying ‘Coloured’? Yet the article states:

    “But powerful civil rights group the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) ”

    You just can’t win, can you?

  3. Yes it’s ”National Association for the Advancement of Colored People” but Ben C definitely said ‘Coloured’.

    Something to do with being U and Non-U, I’d guess….

  4. If “black” is not OK, why have the politically correct invented the phrase “BME” (Black and Minority Ethnic)? The reason is (as Dongguan John suggests above) that it suits the “permanently offended”. I.e. if you have dozens of phrases for ethnic minorities and constantly suggest that each of them is not acceptable, you’re in seventh heaven: you can claim to be “offended” 24/7.

  5. Probably suicide. Poor bastard, rest in peace. I once knew someone who topped himself the same way.

    African-American is a retarded term, and “people of color” is worse. Everybody has a skin colour!

    I’ve heard some USAnian folks say “Basketball-Americans”, but that’s probably racialist.

  6. bloke (not) in spain

    It’s interesting to see what the PC crowd find to be offended at. The Paki in Pakistan describes the people who live in that ‘stan’ or region (? nation?) No-one objects to Afghan. No-one seems to have objected to Paki. The Pakistani High Commissioner’s car sported the registration plate PAK1 for years. Possibly still does.
    Until there were considerable numbers of Pakistanis in the UK & the use of the term became common. At which point it became “offensive”.

  7. Dongguan John

    “You just can’t win, can you?”

    The only way to win is not to play. If you care about equal rights based on race, sex or sexuality, do not waste your time with the professionally offended. Their job is sustain the idea that there are serious problems. Look at Stonewall – their slogan is “Stonewall working for equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.”. But that’s done. LGBT people in the UK have equal rights.

  8. bloke (not) in spain – I grew up beside a lot of Pakistani kids and was friends with several of them. In those days nobody thought shortening it to “paki” was offensive.

    Then, sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s, it suddenly became “the P word”. I think the “anti-racist” left in the UK were just desperate to have their own vile racist word to cry and wail and gnash their teeth about, just as the Americans have “the N word”.

    Course, when you declare that something is a Bad Word, well-intentioned folks will tend to stop using it. (I certainly don’t go around trying to upset people, that usually happens organically) So when you hear the word “paki” nowadays it usually is in a racist context.

    It’s still alright to say “Chinky” though.

  9. “We are not supposed to say the word ‘black'”

    You focused on the wrong word there Tim. The word of interest is ‘we’.

  10. When, and where, I was a young adult “chinky” referred to restaurants and “paki” to corner shops. I don’t think I’ve ever heard “chinky” applied to people except for the childish doggerel “chinky, chinky Chinaman”. The only time the Chinese featured in my childhood, apart from lessons at school, was when we were urged to eat up and to “think of all those poor, starving people in China”.

    With what comparison is the modern child urged to eat up?

  11. “We’re not really supposed to use the word “black” to describe race these days, at least not when discussing America. “

    Isn’t it SepticLand lefties that launched the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag campaign then..?

  12. “I really dont get it, what is wrong with calling a spade a spade?”

    You’re on a slippery slope there. So to speak.

  13. Ian Bennett at 11:38 am

    “You’re on a slippery slope there. So to speak”.

    Surely you would use a shovel on a slippery slope

  14. I love all this bollocks because sooner or later people who haven’t really noticed will get swept up in it, and then they’ll have to notice, and then it will have to stop.

    I don’t use ‘nigger’ or ‘Paki’ personally, because I think people don’t like it. Simple good manners. But I’m fucked if some pursed-mouthed, dispapproving, nose-looker-downer, finger-wagging cunt is going to dictate to me what I say. I choose what I say, not them. Fucking incredible that one has to even say this.

  15. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    Now I was told that it wasn’t Paki-stan but Pak-istan which is something to do with Pure Land or Nation..

    One regret I have is that the photo didn’t come out of a car that I spotted on an Autobahn in Bavaria. German number plates have one, two or three alphabetic code denoting the area and then two letters as part of the serial number. The registration for the town of Passau is PA. Fill in the rest yourselves.

    I was once given a real telling off for using the term “Abos” for Aborigines. Apparently the defence “But I heard them say it on Skippy” isn’t sufficient.

  16. I don’t use the “igg” word – I don’t think I ever have: it’s bloody rude, and intended to be. But “negro” is so much better than “sub-Saharan African, or someone predominantly descended from the same”. “Mulatto”, used in a rather approximate way, is far better than “mixed race” which is, in Britain at least, a self-centred bit of linguistic imperialism by negroes. I have two mixed race friends – neither has a drop of negro blood. Nor of white blood come to that.

    What are whites nowadays: Caucasoid? Is one allowed to use “blood” as a metaphor, or is one meant to adopt some sort of pseudo-scientific lingo, with allusions to genes, DNA, and whatnot? Aw, for Christ’s sake.

  17. dearieme, yup, we’re Caucs – the New Scientist report on the British genetics study people here were wittering about yesterday says: The insights come from a study of DNA samples donated by 2039 Caucasian people from around the UK. And continues in the same vein.
    (Incidentally this terminology vindicates SMFSs observation).

  18. Lily Allen got into a bit of trouble for complaining about “black cab drivers” who wouldn’t talk to her when she wanted to have a bit of a gossip with the driver when she was riding a cab. Any Londoner knows that she meant “black-cab drivers” and not “black cab-drivers”, but this was not obvious to Americans in particular.

  19. BnLiA: the name Pakistan is derived from the initials of its composing regions: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, and Sindh (plus Baluchistan).

    I have heard that indigenous Aussies prefer the term “black fella”. Of course, some may not.

  20. Does no one remember the grim days of Paki-bashing? “Paki” was a fairly widespread term of abuse at one point, and referred to all Sub-Continentals (knuckle-draggers not being known for their general knowledge).

    I think even Richie Benaud had to stop using the term. Tricky for him because the use of unnecessary syllables remains illegal in Oz.

  21. BnliA: “Apparently the defence “But I heard them say it on Skippy” isn’t sufficient.”

    I wouldn’t try ‘But Rolf Harris used it in ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’..’ either…

  22. Michael Jennings: “Lily Allen got into a bit of trouble for complaining about “black cab drivers” who wouldn’t talk to her …”

    I’m astonished. Usually, the trick is to get them to shut up…

  23. bloke (not) in spain

    “Does no one remember the grim days of Paki-bashing? “Paki” was a fairly widespread term of abuse at one point, ”

    So we stop using it, so now it’s definitely a term of abuse.
    Do we now stop using Irish, Welsh & Scot for the same reason? Or Jew? No-one’ll be wanting to abandon the word English, though. Abusing the English is required.

  24. The joy of “Caucasians” lies it witnessing the knots Yanks tie themselves in when they want to refer to actual Caucasians.

  25. When I was a teenager (1980s), the term “Paki” was used in Australia to refer to someone from Pakistan. Most commonly, it was used to refer to their cricket team (“The Pakis”). It was a completely inoffensive term, stemming from the Australian unwillingness to ever use nouns of more than two syllables. When I came to Britain and discovered it was an offensive term, this was a complete surprise to me.

  26. This is what appeared to you as noteworthy when you read that headline? What’s wrong with you? I think I’m right on when I call you a dog’s ass.

  27. It is changed intentionally every few years ago to ensure whitey can be tripped up and shamed over using a word which was perfectly acceptable, indeed required, yesterday but which has mysteriously become deeply offensive overnight.

    Of course, if whitey didn’t give a shit then it wouldn’t be a problem, but whitey has lots of issues, and a masochistic attitude towards race is one of them.

  28. Tim’s wrong that we’re not supposed to say “black” at the moment, but it was considered borderline offensive when I was a kid in South London, when “coloured” was the politically correct inoffensive term. Course, language and its connotations do change, but I do get the impression these particular connotations are deliberately changed far too often, just to catch people out. I remember when the fact that police officers investigating the Lawrence murder used the word “coloured” was used as evidence of their racism. As it happened, the murder coincided with my migration to Scotland, so I was amazed: it had been the non-racist term when I’d left London just a couple of years earlier, and I was seeing on the news that it was completely racist. A lot of the Met come from outside London. I remember wondering how many of them hadn’t merely been saying “coloured” thoughtlessly but had been deliberately using it because they weren’t racist and they thought they were being considerate and polite.

    I hate “Caucasian”. I’ve never been anywhere near the place. Isn’t it a bit like calling all black people “Congan” or something?

    My favourite US newsroom politically correct fuck-up was when their absolute refusal to use the word “black” led to them describing Lewis Hamilton as “an African-American from England”.

  29. We’re not really supposed to use the word “black” to describe race these days, at least not when discussing America. African American is still roughly OK, coloured is out, black is a bit iffy, Negro is absolutely out and “person of colour” is today’s euphemism of choice among the right on.
    That’s mostly wrong. “Black” is the usual word, freely used by newspapers for example. “African American” is preferred in racially sensitive contexts, especially when talking about black people collectively. “Person of color” is used for a non-white person, not necessarily black. “Colored” is obselete, but retained in the name of the NAACP, because it’s not important to change it.

    Obviously this is not some conspiracy against white people. Changes of name for sensitive subjects is a usual feature of language. eg “lavatory” (1864), “toilet” (1895), “bathroom” (1920) (all similarly derived euphemisms).

    In this case we have “Negro” (1835), “Colored” (1909), “Afro-American” (1968), “African American” (1988). My guess is that, with memories of segregation fading, we’ve come to the end of this series.

    (The first set of dates come from here. The second are when each usage is recorded as being encouraged by African-Americans.)

  30. Let’s not forget the sinister side. I have come across well-attested incidents where children have confronted their grandparents and told them that they are racists, because said grandparents have been unaware of the changing fads in nomenclature and the children having been essentially indoctrinated in school as to the evils of using incorrect terminology.

  31. So Much for Subtlety

    PaulB – “Obviously this is not some conspiracy against white people. Changes of name for sensitive subjects is a usual feature of language. eg “lavatory” (1864), “toilet” (1895), “bathroom” (1920) (all similarly derived euphemisms).”

    No one is claiming a conspiracy but “obviously” is an absurd word in that context. It is an obvious attempt to bully and shame White people. So they can play the race card indefinitely. As can be seen by the fact that the Afro-Whatever community have no problem with any of these words when they use them. It is just White people being rude that annoys them. Quite possibly because they know they are being spoken down to by people who can do it with some justification. Chinese people rarely get upset when people laugh at them for always doing their homework. After all, as Afro-Caribbeans are to us, we are to them.

    “My guess is that, with memories of segregation fading, we’ve come to the end of this series.”

    White people still have money and can still be shamed into handing it over. So I think we are coming to the end of this series but only because we are running out of White people. Good luck trying it on with Hispanics or Asians.

  32. So Much for Subtlety

    Ian Bennett – “the name Pakistan is derived from the initials of its composing regions: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, and Sindh (plus Baluchistan).”

    Well yes and no. After all, when Pakistan was created it had another composing region – East Bengal. Don’t see it there. It is slightly more accurate to say that when a small group of Cambridge students dreamt up the idea, they did not think Bengal was worth having and so left it out. They also did not get Afghanistan but they did get the Tribal Areas so close enough.

    “I have heard that indigenous Aussies prefer the term “black fella”. Of course, some may not.”

    Indigenous in what sense? Careful, if your community has been in a country for a mere 60,000 years, Ironman will be along to denounce you as a racist for claiming you are indigenous. I think the preferred term should be Early Immigrant Community.

  33. I like “early immigrant community”. I’m also impressed that it’s now been upped to 60,000 years. When we lived in Oz it was only 40,000. How time flies.

  34. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Personally I always use the police 6+1 IC codes, although now you have the self-defined ethnicity version which throws a bit of a spanner in the works. But if you’re accused of being racist, you can always fall back on the old “some of my best friends are IC3” line.

  35. So Much for Subtlety

    dearieme – “I like “early immigrant community”. I’m also impressed that it’s now been upped to 60,000 years. When we lived in Oz it was only 40,000. How time flies.”

    I believe the politically correct view now is that in fact Australia’s indigenous community are precisely that – they have always been in Australia and they have not immigrated from anywhere. Separate evolution used to be the mainstay of racism. Now it is compulsory for those of the Ironman/Guardianista Tendency.

    Poe’s law at work in academia.

  36. Pasty-white bloke that I am, I’ve started ticking “African” on the pointless ethnicity surveys.

    On the grounds that Homo sapiens evolved from Homo erectus in what is now called Africa.

  37. I remember going to an out-patient appointment at a hospital in Birmingham. The oldish white lady at outpatients reception held out an ethnicity form saying “Would you like to fill in one of these?” in a manner which strongly suggested that she didn’t expect me to”.

  38. @b(n)is, Steve, “Paki” became offensive when I was growing up. I noticed the change because white kids started calling me it as a term of abuse.

    It didn’t become offensive because Pakistanis wanted a race flag to wave (they actually did almost none of that and put up with a fair amount of abuse graciously), it became offensive when whites started using it to intend offence.

    And to somewhat back up SMFS’s point, Cumberbatch should be able to describe black people as niggaz, if no offence is intended. If offence is intended that would become highly offensive. To be on the safe side, avoid such words because your intent might not always be clear. Yes – the onus really is on the person doing the speaking.

  39. … It is an obvious attempt to bully and shame White people. So they can play the race card indefinitely. As can be seen by the fact that the Afro-Whatever community have no problem with any of these words when they use them. It is just White people being rude that annoys them…
    It’s ok to say things about yourself which would be rude if anyone else said them. And you can call your friends names which might start a fight if a stranger used them. As anyone who’s not intensely stupid understands.

    …when a small group of Cambridge students dreamt up the idea, they did not think Bengal was worth having and so left it out…
    “Pakistan” means something like “holy place” in Urdu. The acronym was an afterthought.

  40. I like “early immigrant community”. I’m also impressed that it’s now been upped to 60,000 years.

    Upped? As our resident linguistic pendant, that is appalling? What’s wrong with “increased”?

  41. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “To be on the safe side, avoid such words because your intent might not always be clear. Yes – the onus really is on the person doing the speaking.”

    That depends on whether you want to be their prison b!tch or not. But I am all for not causing offense. I suggest a trade off. We can agree to stop using the word, if the Pakistani origin community agrees to stop raping White girls. Or at least calling them sluts. But somehow offense is always a one-way street isn’t it?

    PaulB – “It’s ok to say things about yourself which would be rude if anyone else said them. And you can call your friends names which might start a fight if a stranger used them. As anyone who’s not intensely stupid understands.”

    But it is not about what words they use. It is about what words they are happy for anyone else to use. As long as they are not White. It is about what words they are proud to use about themselves – not just tolerant but boasting.

    All the while demanding the right to use rude words about every other ethnic group.

    So it is not politeness. It is bullying. Either we will agree to be bullied or we won’t. So far, we are.

    ““Pakistan” means something like “holy place” in Urdu. The acronym was an afterthought.”

    Pak means pure. -stan is the Persian “land of”. It is not clear which came first.

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