chew it up then spit it out

For most of the last decade, the "s" word for our kids has been "shut up" not "shit." But then, to prove a point about something, two of the kids did the "you shut up, no you shut up, no you shut up" back and forth for a wicked long time. They get into again occasionally so now I don't hear those unheated doofy exchanges any more. Shut up is no longer a phrase that ellicits a gasp around here. Is that good? bad? mixed, probably

But maybe we should follow that "no you shut up" example and take this guy's advice about one word ** that is never spoken here by any of us, old or young, human or dog.

The N. Word.

We do not say this word. We will occasionally say fuck and shit (accompanied by an absentminded "no, stop saying that" from an adult) and other sorts of nasty words, but rarely insulting words and never, never, never the N. Word. Maybe we could render it less potent by using it? That's the guy's advice:

If you say the word 'nigger' enough times, then like every other word you repeat, it becomes just an absurd collection of meaningless sounds, stripped of any emotional baggage (Love strippers. Hate emotional baggage) . . .

When I was a kid, I got called nigger. I hated it. But then, one day, something happened. I stopped being a nigger. (Punched somebody hard) That was a long time ago. And I stopped being offended by the word "nigger" a long time ago, too. Because I stopped believing in magic a long time ago. . . .

The longer you chew the word nigger, the less flavor it has. Just like bubblegum.

I considered this for a while and decided that if our family had black members in it, this would make sense. I'd want to decrease its power to hurt my kids. But since it's not a weapon used against us, no point in blunting its sharp edge around here. We'll stick to the "no you shut up, no you shut up" since God knows we're a bunch of talkers.


** It's dailykos, but it's not really political


  1. White people can only say the N word only at their own risk--to their hides.

    I can use it. My black friends and even acquaintances can use it with me. But if a white person says it to me, they have crossed the line.

    It's my word to use. I chose to use it and defuse its power. But when you direct to me, you rearmed the word and it will be on.

    Steven Colbert has no sense and just wants to chortle when you complain to him how your kids got their little white asses beat to the ground.

  2. The whole idea of specific words having that kind of awesome horrible power--even not words directed at us--is kind of interesting.

    Also interesting: I really can't think of any equivalent words for my family that could bring up the same instantaneous sensation that someone's drained most of the air from the room.

    I've been called a cracker and thought it was hilarious. Same with yid and jew-scum (I'd been in a synagogue once in my life.)

    The anger can make me reel (you can't hit mid-40s as a loudmouth and not get doses of hatred now and again) but there are no particular words associated with that punched feeling. Not even fat cow!

  3. Well, your great, great, grand-grandmother was considered human. The word nigger meant mine wasn't. Folks think something of that immensity doesn't have reverberating echoes through the generations? It does and will for many more.

  4. Anonymous6:43 AM

    a few randomish points...
    this whole idea was brought up a long time ago by lenny bruce before his self destruction..... he had a routine, nigger nigger spic kike etc. wherre he said all the hate words untill "they don't hurt anymore"
    I never went there, but I admired the sentiment.
    My students tell me there is a difference between nigger and nigga...yeah well.
    sometimes my guys will slip and call me my nigga, which we all feel is hilarious (I'm a white old man teacher of middle school boys , mostly black).
    I have been told also that I can call them nigger or nigga,at my peril.
    my position is the word and it's derivatives have history for me that I cannot undo, but I am pleased as hell to see them undoing it for themselves, diluting it, owning it, whatever, it looks healthy and I'll take it.

  5. Naw, if you use that argument monica, then my g g g grandmother was in fact considered worse than subhuman...pogroms and whatnot were held just to wipe out her type.

    And it was only a generation back that nearly all of the extended family on my mom's side were killed off just because of what they were.

    (only fair to mention that the hatred in that case goes both ways--I spent a high school semester in Germany and except for one angry letter, my grandmother never spoke to me again. [of course she died soon after that but it sounded better without that info])

    Anyway, I think the power of "nigger" is related to more modern problems still a big chunk of our society. The word would have lost more power a long-ass time ago otherwise.

    Do other ethnic derogatory terms still hurt? nip, dago, cunt? (oh, wait, one of these things is not like the other) I wonder if they still do or if they're so outdated, they're quaint and it's the speaker's hostility that causes the "uffdah" response.

    Outdated, quaint, whatever would be good. Doesn't feel to me we're anywhere near that yet.

    oh, and I haven't had coffee yet and haven't spent more than ten minutes thinking about this so if it's bullshit, tchah. Live with it.

  6. except now I'm thinking about it I'm even more convinced. I mean take the irish. They were considered subhuman a couple of hundred years back in places like NYC. Really, really. They were the minority to loathe. (You ever seen some of the cartoons from that era? And they were more disposible than Chinamen, was the standard thinking on the railroads. You couldn't get less human than that).

    But once they wiggled into jobs and became totally integrated with the mainstream the words like Mick lost any kind of power.

  7. I agree that the word is related to the reverberations that slavery has on modern whites today. The taint remains with blacks while the historical taint on the Irish has been washed clean.

    It seems as if the American Jew has forgotten what race bigotry feels like only a generation or two down the way. There's no gut revulsion seeing it played out with blacks, say, in publishing and Hollywood. Maybe a touch more intellectual rejection, but I don't see the "It could be me" gut revulsion toward acts of bigotry.

  8. I say that's because except for pockets here and there (say Puerto Ricans in some areas) most minorities --including jews--don't face harmful racism and blacks do.

    I can't forget images of NOLA last fall.

    when your sub-segment of society doesn't live with racism that creates rotten conditions or if you don't see evidence of other people in your country living under racism, there's less of a weight to those nasty words.

  9. same thing, less long-winded: if it feels like it's still happening, the words aren't going to lose an bit of power.

  10. You won't find me using the n-word any time soon, same as how I won't use the word 'cunt' in casual conversation. It's hurtful, it's disrespectful, so why do it?

    I agree with Monica. Many American Jews have forgotten themselves. Israel has become what it detested. How American Jews can support Israel bewilders me.

    Before the '04 election, I received a slew of emails from various Jewish groups telling me how George Bush was 'our' candidate (because of his strong support of Israel). That's when I realized that the Jewish world had been turned on its pointy head. Not me. I'm still a liberal Jew who supports ACLU, even when they support the American Nazi Party, and who cringes when he hears about the latest Israeli atrocities. (Yeah, sure, the Palestinians are part of the equation too. But Israelis gave up the post-WWII moral high ground decades ago -- very similar to the way the US has given up its post-9/11 high ground. And there's something to be said for sticking to the moral high ground.)

    Sorry to blather.

  11. Sry to interrupt a fascinating argument, but can I use the word cracker?

  12. no, but you can shut up.

  13. I don't do a lot of things well, but I think I did okay on the motherhood role.

    When he was a high school sophomore, some jocks were giving grief to a bi-racial couple, and one of the rednecks asked my son what he thought about it. Son ignored the group, only to be hounded while the hassling group refocused their energies on a newbie. Ringleader yelled "I asked you what you SEE here!"

    Finally, son turned, looked at them all, and used the only name he ever called anyone in school. He said I see a white redneck making an ass out of himself. Then he walked on. Took him a while to realize that every minority in the school had his back for the next two years.

    I don't think The Kid had even questioned his values up to that point--he'd just accepted them. So it was a nice defining moment for Mom here.


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