LINGUIST List 4.345

Thu 06 May 1993

Disc: Racial Epithets

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  1. AHARRIS - Alan Harris, RE: 4.334 Racial terms
  2. Mark H Aronoff, nastiness and markedness
  3. , summary: racial epithets

Message 1: RE: 4.334 Racial terms

Date: Sun, 2 May 1993 22:57:06 -RE: 4.334 Racial terms
From: AHARRIS - Alan Harris <VCSPC005VAX.CSUN.EDU>
Subject: RE: 4.334 Racial terms

FYI: the source that Benji Wald alluded to re Antisemitism in Nazi Germany was
written by Ismar Schorsch, the present chancellor of the Jewish Theological
Seminary in New York.

Alan C. Harris, Ph. D. telno: off:
Professor, Communication/Linguistics 818-885-2853/2874
Speech Communication Department hm:
California State University, Northridge 818-780-8872
SPCH CSUN fax: 818-885-2663
Northridge, CA 91330
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Message 2: nastiness and markedness

Date: Tue, 04 May 1993 09:22:21 nastiness and markedness
From: Mark H Aronoff <>
Subject: nastiness and markedness

 State University of New York at Stony Brook
 Stony Brook, NY 11794-4376

 Mark H Aronoff
 04-May-1993 09:08am EDT

The use of nasty terms for intimate purposes is a paradigm (that's the
morphologist in me) example of what Jakobson called "markedness reversal."
Indeed, I would go so far as to say that markedness reversal explains the
phenomenon. For a very accessible introduction to Jakobson on markedness, see
Ed Battistella's book: Markedness (SUNY Press, 1990). Incidentally, other
theories of markedness do not incorporate the notion of reversal and would not
be able to handle this.
S. Ervin-Tripp asks for other examples. One is talking dirty while making
love (not that I would ever do such a thing). Another is the use of what to
some may appear to be odd affectionate terms for children and lovers, such as
the French "chou" `cabbage'. One could move quite easily from there into
discussions of leather, but it's too early in the morning for that. Almost
makes one believe in Freud. I'd better stop here, for everyone's sake.
Kram Ffonora
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Message 3: summary: racial epithets

Date: Tue, 4 May 93 11:25:38 -07summary: racial epithets
From: <>
Subject: summary: racial epithets

Here is a summary of responses I received to my earlier query about
Jewish terms, which I made as part of a general discussion about
racial epithets considered appropriate in +intimate, in-group
situations. During a class discussion about such terms this semester,
a Jewish student brought up her perception that this sort of usage of
epithets isn't done in the Jewish community, so I passed that on as a
query to the Linguist network. As might be expected, a number of
examples were sent that disputed my student's claim.

"I've heard Jews use "yid" and "hebe" to refer to
themselves in a way similar to the use of "fag" by gay men."

"I think it might be useful to look into the use
of Yiddish yid, yidl pre WWII which was an outgroup insult but an
ingroup usage ranging, I believe, from neutral to affectionate (could
it be an ingroup insult too, if contextualized properly??)."

Jews sometimes say that someone is acting "kikey" when they are too
brash, etc. [Note that this fits the description of a term that is
appropriate in an in-group context only, but is nevertheless used as
an insult rather than as a term of intimacy.]

And just to add Benji Wald's comments that he already sent out
publically, he also notes the in-group (but still insulting) use of
"kike", and also says: "'Jude' (Jew) had been avoided by
assimilationists and was pushed by Zionists and some other
nationalists in defiance of its bad connotations."

Thanks also to:
Jane Hill
Gene Buckley
Ellen Prince
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