Let's not put the n-word on the front page please. January 4, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

The N-word on the front page makes Metafilter extremely not work friendly, in addition to being just plain offensive. Can we do something about that? Thanks.

I don't care if this is ironic or misses the point of the post. Whatever point you are trying to make isn't worth dropping that word in 2011.

This isn't the 19th century and you aren't Mark Twain.
posted by empath to Etiquette/Policy at 9:49 AM (243 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I guess just flagging it wasn't enough, was it?
posted by crunchland at 9:51 AM on January 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


The post is about the censorship of the word "nigger" from an upcoming version of Huckleberry Finn. I find it kind of funny that now you're asking to censor the word from the MetaFilter front page.

(I can see where you're coming from, but I think that's a damn good hook to the story and I'd be sorry to see that go. Anybody with a clever draw on their FPP is good people in my book.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:53 AM on January 4, 2011 [31 favorites]


It's a quote from the book, and I don't think it's "ironic" to use it in a post about the omission of that language from upcoming editions. I think that we ought to trust people here to be able to discuss things like adults within the provided context.

Also, MetaFilter is not work-friendly.
posted by hermitosis at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2011 [110 favorites]


When a debate about the use of the word is the main point of the linked item, it's appropriate for the word to appear on the front page.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Quoting from Mark Twain is not "dropping the N-word".
posted by ericost at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2011 [74 favorites]


I think it makes sense within the context of the post (which is all about the use of the word within historic-but-still-read literature). I don't see it as stunty or purposefully fighty; it's the very thing the post is about. It's an offensive word with fucked-up connotations, but the post is about that very fact.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Do you believe that you are free to read anything you want on the web, while at work?
posted by the Real Dan at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whatever point you are trying to make isn't worth dropping that word in 2011.

the point IS that word

i suppose it could be written n----- as a compromise
posted by pyramid termite at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2011


Personally, in my dream world, people wouldn't do that since nigger is a word with problematic context that goes beyond just discussing what New South Press is doing with the new version of Huck Finn. It causes red flags on various work computers and filters. It starts MeTa threads when people object to its use.

That said, this is clearly not the ironic racism stuff that we have asked people not to do here. I think there's a decent point to be made that sanitizing a post explicitly about this particular topic would seem weird and have its own share of detractors. However, I'm open to hearing other viewpoints, this isn't something where we have a clear cut policy and this sort of thing happens rarely enough that we don't even really have a protocol.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2011


Don't care about the subject matter, don't care about the content. Don't want to remove the post. I just want the word off the front page so I can read metafilter today without worrying about people walking behind me and reading my screen.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on January 4, 2011


I just want the word off the front page so I can read metafilter today without worrying about people walking behind me and reading my screen.

Why is this a site issue?
posted by hermitosis at 9:58 AM on January 4, 2011 [48 favorites]


And, in case it's helpful, MeFi is not supposed to be textually safe for work in a general sense. If there could be problems with people reading words on your screen in your workplace, that is an issue between you and your workplace. Not specifically directed towards empath, but just a restatement of our general NSFW policy which is in the FAQ.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:59 AM on January 4, 2011 [50 favorites]


I think when empath says 'I don't care if this is ironic' he means this MeTa thread, and his complaint, being ironic, exactly as Rory Marinich says. I don't think empath is confused as to whether the thread on the Blue is using 'nigger' ironically.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2011


Yeah, I'm of the opinion that there are only a few contexts in which putting the word on the front page is a straightforwardly defensible choice, but this seems to be one of those rare cases.

I just want the word off the front page so I can read metafilter today without worrying about people walking behind me and reading my screen.

Difficulty of the question of the specific word being there aside, this is not really in the domain of reasons we edit posts. Not reading metafilter today is the practical solution to this kind of problem.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


I just want the word off the front page so I can read metafilter today without worrying about people walking behind me and reading my screen.

You could try this profanity filter, if you're using Fiefox.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it makes sense within the context of the post (which is all about the use of the word within historic-but-still-read literature). I don't see it as stunty or purposefully fighty; it's the very thing the post is about.

It's cheap and obvious and not clever.
posted by empath at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


blah blah, irony or whatever, but can we just agree, as a community, not to put the n-word on the front page?

No, we can't, because we obviously don't, as a community, agree on this. It has been established and previously discussed that the front page is not, from the perspective of what text it might contain, inherently work safe. The word "nigger" is not some kind of magic linguistic kryptonite and many of us do not consider it to be transgressive (or ironic for that matter) to use it explicitly in the context of talking about the word itself. The post accurately quotes Twain in service of reporting on an inaccurate transcription of Twain someone is proposing to publish.
posted by nanojath at 10:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Don't care about the subject matter, don't care about the content. Don't want to remove the post. I just want the word off the front page so I can read metafilter today without worrying about people walking behind me and reading my screen.

Serious question: Would you be similarly embarrassed reading an actual copy of the Twain book in question, where other people could see you? Because they could walk behind you and see the word there, too.
posted by jbickers at 10:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Okay, well I guess the consensus is no.

Fair enough.
posted by empath at 10:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just want the word off the front page so I can read metafilter today without worrying about people walking behind me and reading my screen.

Then don't read the front page where other people can see it. Really. This is not a problem that mods should be required to solve for you.
posted by rtha at 10:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's cheap and obvious and not clever.

I don't think it's aiming for "clever" or "subtle" so much as "descriptive of the topic at hand."
posted by Greg Nog at 10:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [19 favorites]


In my dream world, whenever people got offended they'd just flag it and move on.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:04 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think the irony here is too magnificent to permit whitewashing the post. What if you were reading an online version of Huck Finn? Would you prefer an online version with the n-word removed? Aren't you advocating for the very thing, the precise thing that the community is vilifying?
Furthermore, I don't believe it's in the best interest of Metafilter to be "work friendly." This is a place I go to escape from the fetters of my workplace, to engage in semi-anonymous debate that isn't always work friendly, and to feel safe about honestly expressing my opinions. I think if you want a work friendly metafilter you should build another website. You have all manner of language-filtering software at your disposal. Hell, you could even call it MetaWork.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:06 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Okay, well I guess the consensus is no.

Fair enough.


In my dream world, when somebody posts a follow-up like this to their MetaTalk thread, all the other people would acknowledge it and stop harping on them for having an opinion they disagree with.
posted by nanojath at 10:07 AM on January 4, 2011 [41 favorites]


Don't want to remove the post. I just want the word off the front page --- I think it'd be a rather bad precedent for the mods mods to sanitize it. I think the only acceptable course of action is to either leave it as it is, or delete it outright.
posted by crunchland at 10:08 AM on January 4, 2011


Not to mention the fact that a mod has said it's staying.
posted by spicynuts at 10:09 AM on January 4, 2011


In my dream world, I forgot to study for the test and I arrived without pants.
posted by found missing at 10:11 AM on January 4, 2011 [49 favorites]


In my dream world, when somebody posts a follow-up like this to their MetaTalk thread, all the other people would acknowledge it and stop harping on them for having an opinion they disagree with.

Doesn't bother me. MetaTalk is here to talk about stuff like this.

I'm not going to argue the point any more, though.
posted by empath at 10:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


A post on a community blog ain't exactly the same thing as the full text by Mark Twain. The comparisons between having that word here and having it there really are inappropriate.

I don't really know how I feel about this whole topic, and the precedent is pretty clearly set on no-moderation. I'm not arguing for the OP's point. I just really don't like false equivalencies like this.
posted by meese at 10:14 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


i suppose it could be written n----- as a compromise

I think that's only about a 1/6 compromise; in America we have a 3/5ths standard.
posted by norm at 10:14 AM on January 4, 2011 [27 favorites]


In my dream world, various memories work themselves out in unexpected narratives.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:15 AM on January 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


There are times to use offensive language. The main point is generally to shock someone out of their normal way of thinking or acting.

This is one of those times. Seeing "nigger" on the front page should grab our attention and twist our gut.

Or, as a 90+ year old, very tiny, very sweet, very proper Scots lady once said, after telling me about cussing out a plumber who tried to rip her off, "Oh, yes, dear. I know all the words!"
posted by QIbHom at 10:16 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


What about the fucknozzle on the MeTa front page?
posted by TedW at 10:16 AM on January 4, 2011


Metafilter ain't work friendly. But it is friendly to grilled cheese, which is ok. Everything has its time or place.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2011


You don't seem to have much issue with other "work questionable content" during work hours. Just sayin'.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2011


in America we have a 3/5ths standard.

Ooooooooooooooo...
posted by Gator at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2011


empath, I sympathize with you desire to obviate a "look, I'm not a racist, here's why the word 'nigger' is on my monitor" chat with your coworkers. Take a look at the filter Greg Nog linked above -- it makes the post look like this.
posted by boo_radley at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2011


In my dream world, Inception wasn't very good.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:18 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Are you calling cortex a fucknozzle?
posted by Mister_A at 10:18 AM on January 4, 2011


It's cheap and obvious and not clever.

Well we obviously don't edit posts for these reasons. Most of mine still exist!
posted by graventy at 10:20 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I fear the world where words are offensive in and of themselves, bereft of context or connotation. If the post was about NWA, would we have the same issue?

On a side note, that arrangement of letters is not offensive, only in its usage to demean, offend, or injure others. It's distasteful, but I can't in good conscience require anyone else to not speak as they choose.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:21 AM on January 4, 2011


It's not porn, it's not a racist screed, it's not even an exclamation. It's a word commonly held to be offensive, in a very appropriate context. If you work in an environment in which the word "nigger" cannot even show up in the text of a web page you're looking at, you should not be reading MeFi at work.

The rest of us either read from home, or have reasonable co-workers who'd say, "Nigger? what? Oh, it's about Huck Finn. A-yup. Good book, my daughter's reading that in school this year."
posted by explosion at 10:27 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the post was about NWA, would we have the same issue?

I invite everyone to do what I do when singing along with such music and substitute the word 'Shatner'. As inspired by the man himself, or his background singers, anyway.
posted by norm at 10:28 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my dream world, BWOOOMMMMMMMMM

BWOOOMMMMMMMMM
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:37 AM on January 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


In my dream world, I'm a viking!

someone had to do it
posted by TedW at 10:41 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


explosion: "If you work in an environment in which the word "nigger" cannot even show up in the text of a web page you're looking at, you should not be reading MeFi at work.
"

I picture you working from home, wrapped up in a smuggie.
posted by boo_radley at 10:41 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Haha! Smuggie indeed!
posted by Mister_A at 10:42 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


If people didn't read MeFi and AskMe from work then the ad revenue would plummet to unsustainable levels.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:42 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there a firefox plugin that will replace all profanity with the filter phrase 'find a stranger in the Alps'?
posted by FatherDagon at 10:46 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the post was about NWA, would we have the same issue?

Well I just visited relatives in NorthWest Arkansas for the holidays, and everything around there has a NWA prefix. It wasn't till I wondered aloud "wait, why is there a Niggaz With Attitude Cakes store in downtown Fayetteville?" that I was gently corrected.
posted by the bricabrac man at 10:46 AM on January 4, 2011 [22 favorites]


heh
posted by clavdivs at 10:49 AM on January 4, 2011


Is there a firefox plugin that will replace all profanity with the filter phrase 'find a stranger in the Alps'?

This greasemonkey script will change all instances of the word nigger to the word nerd, on MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:53 AM on January 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


Sincere question: can people of color in this thread tell us whether the n word written out is a trigger warning or otherwise offensive and, if so, what would be the best thing to do about it?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:54 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This greasemonkey script will change all instances of the word nigger to the word nerd, on MetaFilter. --- That's not all it does, Mom.
posted by crunchland at 10:55 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hush and eat your vegetables.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:56 AM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


> This greasemonkey script will change all instances of the word nigger to the word nerd, on MetaFilter.

Just FYI for non-technical people who might think that such scripts will keep them safe from corporate proxy servers and nanny filters, they rewrite downloaded text, so if you're behind a filter the original words still go through and are logged.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:56 AM on January 4, 2011


FatherDagon: "Is there a firefox plugin that will replace all profanity with the filter phrase 'find a stranger in the Alps'?"

jessamyn: "This greasemonkey script will change all instances of the word nigger to the word nerd, on MetaFilter."

But what if you really want to find a stranger in the alps?
posted by boo_radley at 10:56 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


also it would be amusing if jessamyn's script literally looked for "n-word" and not "nigger".
posted by boo_radley at 10:57 AM on January 4, 2011


Hush and eat your vegetables.

I'm doing one better! I'm finally having a Tim Tam, which I've only ever heard of on MeTa! How exciting.
posted by heyho at 10:58 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


No. If it's NSFW then don't read MetaFilter at work, or find a workplace with more mature colleagues. Bowdlerization and balkanization of language is far more divisive and disrespectful of others' freedoms than any mere utterance.

I would support your request if it concerned gratuitous or confrontational word use, but this FPP is substantive and serious.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:58 AM on January 4, 2011


This greasemonkey script will change all instances of the word nigger to the word nerd, on MetaFilter.

One byte rule.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:59 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: "This greasemonkey script will change all instances of the word nigger to the word nerd"

That jessamyn made reference to the best NewsRadio scene ever brings me joy to no end.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:59 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


heyho: " I'm finally having a Tim Tam, which I've only ever heard of on MeTa! How exciting."

Have you done the Tim Tam Slam yet?
posted by boo_radley at 11:00 AM on January 4, 2011


Do something else at work, like work or looking out the window. This is the most ridiculous callout of 2011 already - edit the Metafilter frontpage to make it okay for an individual readers workplace, egads.
posted by fire&wings at 11:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


... whitewashing the post.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a MeFite get a chance to whitewash a post every day?”
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


[Clear throat]

What's a Tim Tam?

[Sits]
posted by Mister_A at 11:02 AM on January 4, 2011


Have you done the Tim Tam Slam yet?

Eh? Do tell.
posted by heyho at 11:02 AM on January 4, 2011


It's a delicious little "chocolate" cookie wafer chocolate crunchy cookie thing, best I could tell before I snarfed it down.
posted by heyho at 11:03 AM on January 4, 2011


When did saying "the N-word" start?
I can go back to the OJ trial.
posted by pianomover at 11:07 AM on January 4, 2011


Prepare you a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.
Take a Tim Tam. Use a "regular" Tim Tam, not one of those caramel things.
Nibble off a tiny bite of one corner of the Tim Tam. Bite off the kitty-corner corner (e.g. upper-left and lower-right corners).
You will use the nibbled Tim Tam as a straw.
Dunk it partially into the beverage and slurp up some of the liquid through the Tim Tam.
When you feel everything get melty, eat the Tim Tam.
posted by boo_radley at 11:08 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let me try that again...

Say fellas, I'm new in these parts. What's a Tim Tam? /wink
posted by Mister_A at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I do believe this is the first time I've ever agreed with empath - the before-fold framing on that post is unnecessarily stunty. I'm not hugely offended by it personally, but I think as a lede sentence it's a bit unfortunate. I'm not advocating censorship, but I am glad someone brought it up. I'm sure there are other white-hot cultural trigger words that could be used "artistically" on the front page, and have in the past, and whatever floats your boat I guess, NSFW text is implicit and all that. Just makes me a little sad to see this.
posted by chaff at 11:12 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


SAIT
posted by Burhanistan at 11:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also if somebody wants me to whitewash a post they better bring me a dead rat and a string to swing it with.
posted by chaff at 11:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think it is a valid point to bring up in Metatalk, and I also think the mod decision is the correct one.
posted by edgeways at 11:19 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm finally having a Tim Tam!

You know, this whole Tim Tam thing, I'm not so sure about it. A friend of mine told me that she'd recently gone to a friend's place to do "Tim Tam slams," which I interpreted to be some sort of MDMA/cannabis cocktail. I googled it, come to find out it's some dumb British thing where you suck hot cocoa through a piece of biscotti. This was the second time I was disappointed by some British thing showing up in my group of friends - the first is when every freaking person I knew started blathering on about a Pimm's Cup - being the red-blooded American I am, I assumed it was like high-octane caffeinated booze, maybe like a 6-Loco or something. Come to find out it's freaking gin with cranberry juice in a bottle. Come on, British people! Give us something cool!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:22 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Baby_Balrog: "I interpreted to be some sort of MDMA/cannabis cocktail"

Haha, jesus. "I thought Wally World and Tarrr-Jayy were strip clubs! What is this bullshit?"

"every freaking person I knew started blathering on about a Pimm's Cup"
Seriously? I associate those with tories and greybeards. How odd.

Baby_Balrog: "Come on, British people! Give us something cool!"

Have you had a glassing? Take 1 Pilsner Glass. Serve.
posted by boo_radley at 11:29 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Come on, British people! Give us something cool!

Yeah! And no more Beckhams!
posted by Mister_A at 11:30 AM on January 4, 2011


alternately, I guess you could stick your syringe through a tim tam while it's still full of heroin. I dunno.
posted by boo_radley at 11:30 AM on January 4, 2011


A Tim Tam is the definition of overrated.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:32 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This isn't the nineteenth century and we really need to stop giving words undeserved power by being scared of them.
posted by Decani at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sincere question: can people of color in this thread tell us whether the n word written out is a trigger warning or otherwise offensive and, if so, what would be the best thing to do about it?

Why would I want to do that? that sounds like a really crappy way to spend any part of my afternoon. I have all the faith in the world that you guys can sort this one out on your own.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


You know what's awesome? Kinder Surprise! Except for the candy, I mean. The rest of it is awesome though.
posted by Mister_A at 11:37 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just want the word off the front page so I can read metafilter today without worrying about people walking behind me and reading my screen.
posted by empath at 5:56 PM on January 4


So, you think the site needs to change to cater for your wish to skive off at work? Interesting.
posted by Decani at 11:39 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought Tim Tams originated in Australia.

Also, Brandon Blatcher is wrong. Tim Tams are freakin' awesome.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This isn't the nineteenth century and we really need to stop giving words undeserved power by being scared of them.

Words do not exist in a vacuum, they have meaning, and you don't have to be afraid of them to not want to use them in certain social contexts. Personally I don't get offended by people who use words like retarded, bitch, or nigger, etc. But, dependent on context I may well think those people are insensitive, sexist, racist idiots. That is how people who use those words causally, present themselves, sometimes very intentionally. That is something that is going to continue for as long as we have words and has little to do with if we are in the 19th century, or the century of the fruit-bat.
posted by edgeways at 11:50 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am on Team Tim Tam and will fight anyone who says differently.

Brandon Blatcher, I'm looking at you.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:50 AM on January 4, 2011


Ah, the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie...
posted by artof.mulata at 11:51 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


i suppose it could be written n----- as a compromise

Unless you're a grown-up, in which case trying to disguise words to make them less scary should be more offensive than the word itself.

And if you really want to disguise it, use n*&%^@*()":<> -- why be niggardly with the special characters?
posted by coolguymichael at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tim Tams are nice in theory, but in practice I'll take some Kirkland cookies any day over inferior quality Tim Tams.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2011


I once had a Kinder Surprise with a Tim Tam inside it! True story.
posted by Mister_A at 11:55 AM on January 4, 2011




i suppose it could be written n----- as a compromise

Whenever I see alternatives suggested, I'm always reminded of the Louis C.K. bit where he discusses this:
"Everybody has different words that offend them... different things that they hear that they get offended by. The thing that offends me the most is every time that I hear "the n-word." Not "niggerr," by the way, I mean "the n-word." Literally. Whenever a white lady on CNN with nice hair says "the n-word"...that's just white people gettin' away with sayin' nigger. That's all that is. They found a way to say nigger. "N-word." It's bullshit because when you say "the n-word" you put the word "nigger" in the listener's head. That's what saying a word is. You say "the n-word" and I go, "Oh, she means 'nigger'." You're making me say it in my head! Why don't you fucking say it and take responsibility for the shitty words you wanna say?"
Before I heard this bit, I didn't really have an opinion on "the N-word" after hearing it, I totally get what he's complaining about.
posted by quin at 12:14 PM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


I wanna see blazecock drink a glass of water while quin sings.
posted by boo_radley at 12:15 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well I just visited relatives in NorthWest Arkansas for the holidays, and everything around there has a NWA prefix. It wasn't till I wondered aloud "wait, why is there a Niggaz With Attitude Cakes store in downtown Fayetteville?" that I was gently corrected.

A more G-rated version of this explains why I will never again spend a weekend in Sandwich, MA. You know what my version of hell is? I'll tell you: It's driving around and seeing signs for Sandwich Hardware, the Sandwich Motel, Sandwich Liquors, Sandwich General Store and Sandwich Feed Supply and then having to learn the hard way that NONE of these establishments sold sandwiches or sandwich accessories.
posted by rollbiz at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2011 [25 favorites]


I had a similar experience in Tampon Strings, FL
posted by found missing at 12:25 PM on January 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


When did saying "the N-word" start?
The OED has a first quote from 1985, from this Usenet post.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 12:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


(snow storm a few years back)

A tow truck driver came back from a 12 hour stretch hauling about 20 vehicles and possibility saving a life and was almost killed by a jack knifed semi…see the day forming. So he finally came back to the shop and said “what’s up my nigger” to me with a friendly yet dislocating ham fist to my shoulder. We had a customer in the lobby, he pulled a pistol and said “what did you say?”
Of course I say “sir, he is tired and I have a .38 aimed at your groin. We apologize for his disrespect and bigotry, here is our bosses #, you have every right to complain and I will support your protest.

The situation was soothed further over coffee and the age old tradition of men showing another the guns. Then a I go get some smokes, we finish his two flats and haul 6 more cars.
posted by clavdivs at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's cheap and obvious and not clever.

Oh come on, it is at least a little clever to use the [sic, recta], isn't it?

In any case I was not aiming for clever per se. I wanted to provide an example of what the change from "nigger" to "slave" would do to the text, and the passage and the way I quoted it seemed an effective way to do that. "Good nigger" appears a couple of times, and seems to me to be a phrase all wrapped in the the themes of the novel: the painful-to-the-ear marrying of "good" and "nigger" is to me very much like the discord found in Huck's muddied moral decision to "go to hell" for doing what he judges to be the right thing. In both cases the writing writing juxtaposes "good" and "bad", "right" and "wrong", in a provocative way.

And the change to "good slave" is IMO editorial violence not only for thematic reasons, but because use of the vernacular is the hallmark of the book. That's why I used the [sic, recta] hook, because it highlights the absurdity of making changes to the language that Twain so carefully composed.

That said, I respectfully sympathize with anyone for whom the reading of the word caused pain or distress. Not my intention.
posted by ericost at 12:43 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just for curiosity's sake, what exactily is it your'e SUPPOSED TO BE DOING, instead of reading MeFi? Do they give you some sort of weekly salary for that or anything?
posted by timsteil at 12:47 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sincere question: can people of color in this thread tell us whether the n word written out is a trigger warning or otherwise offensive and, if so, what would be the best thing to do about it?

My dear fellow ofay, we have to stop being so lazy! First we make the racism, then we insist that the people who experience the racism tell us what to do about it...when is it someone else's turn to set the agenda? We're not puppies, after all; we should be able to sort out our own shit.

And let me recommend this magnificent book.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:49 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


A more G-rated version of this explains why I will never again spend a weekend in Sandwich, MA. You know what my version of hell is? I'll tell you: It's driving around and seeing signs for Sandwich Hardware, the Sandwich Motel, Sandwich Liquors, Sandwich General Store and Sandwich Feed Supply and then having to learn the hard way that NONE of these establishments sold sandwiches or sandwich accessories.

My visit to Porcupine, Ontario was similarly fraught.

"Hmmm... Porcupine Medical Centre. Seems like a large building for such a narrow specialization of veterinary medicine."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:49 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


recte, not recta, damn.
posted by ericost at 12:51 PM on January 4, 2011


It's worth noting that the post has led to a really interesting discussion with a variety of well-articulated viewpoints.
posted by Jode at 1:10 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]



Nannyfilter?
posted by notreally at 1:13 PM on January 4, 2011


can people of color in this thread tell us whether the n word written out is a trigger warning or otherwise offensive and, if so, what would be the best thing to do about it?

We've scheduled an emergency meeting this evening to discuss this important issue and present a unified answer. Can you wait 'till tomorrow?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:14 PM on January 4, 2011 [29 favorites]


As to Tim Tam's, eh. They're not bad, but they're certainly not OMG THIS IS DELICIOUS. It tasted like a nice wrapped in mechanized production. So not bad, but not worth seeking out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:16 PM on January 4, 2011


I think "ofay" must have finally passed out of everyday unironic use precisely at the moment of my birth. The first few times I saw it in print I thought it was some sort of hoax — like if someone had tried to pass off Abe Simpson as an example of pop culture in the 1920s.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:19 PM on January 4, 2011


I'd rather the post had been framed without using the n-word. Personal opinion and all that.

Plus, I don't get that saying n-word is the same as saying the n-word. If I use the former I'm acknowledging that I know it's a problem word which causes hurt when said. It may be laboured, but it seems more polite.
posted by seanyboy at 1:21 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The OED has a first quote from 1985, from this Usenet post.

I thought I had an antedate from 1981, but it turns out it was just shitty metadata in Google Books. (I also had what I was positive was shitty metadata for an alleged 1977 cite, just based on the content of the author photo on the cover. Can't fool me, King of Erotica 2.)

While we're at it, here's a quick table of all uses of a "[letter]-word" form in Metafilter history. Looks like pretty much the whole alphabet has managed to show up at least once or twice.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:23 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


2 0.00436740732923405 q-word

q-word? My ego demands that I choose to believe this in some way refers to me.

posted by quin at 1:27 PM on January 4, 2011


I think it should go. The idea that we should allow the word on the main page because we are discussing its censorship, and not using the word, presumes that the offense of the word stems from its being used rather than mentioned. But this isn't true. One of the weird features of slurs is that they retain their power even when quoted, or when vowels are asterisked out, or when soundalikes are used. That suggests their offensiveness has nothing to do with their semantic content. So: trying to pull a move based on the use/mention distinction, as some people here are doing, totally misses the way in which these words are offensive. The sorts of escape strategies you have to go through in order to make a use or a mention of the word acceptable are really socially complicated and definitely can't be done in a cryptic one-sentence post on the main page. (Seriously, couldn't that link have been prefaced with at least a bit of an explanation of the link's contents? Just mentioning Huck Finn goes a long way in making the word reasonable, I think. I think the content of the post could make the word's inclusion of the front page justifiable, but there's no explanation of the content of the post from the front page at all.)

There's some neat philosophy of language being done on this topic right now. There was a post in the NYTimes Opinionator blog on it recently. (Note that the NYTimes wouldn't let the author write 'nigger' even when discussing how the word works, making the article kind of contorted but also proving his point. Also, I just discovered that my iPad tries to autocorrect it to 'bigger'.)
posted by painquale at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't wait for the Huckleberry Finn Zombie cross-overs.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:37 PM on January 4, 2011


I'd never seen/heard of Tim Tams until shopping for cookies for a work event earlier this year. I picked them up because they looked yummy. I told my girlfriend about these yummy looking cookies Pepperidge Farm was making, and she clued me into the Tim Tam Slam, telling me Tim Tams are an Aussie thing. I tried the slam with some moo-juice and oh, my... my brain melted a little.

The Tim Tam Slam is the best thing, foodwise, that I have been introduced to in the past decade. My girlfriend rocks harder than Black Sabbath mixed with Black Flag.
posted by not_on_display at 1:42 PM on January 4, 2011


I am on Team Tim Tam and will fight anyone who says differently.

Flagged as COME ON AND HAVE A GO IF YOU THINK YOU'RE HARD ENOUGH

note: i have no idea what a tim tam is. i just like internets fisticuffs.
posted by elizardbits at 1:48 PM on January 4, 2011


Also, I just discovered that my iPad tries to autocorrect it to 'bigger'.

Ahhhh, Native Son was a good book. Haven't thought about it in years. I should re-read that. Thanks for the reminder.
posted by heyho at 1:48 PM on January 4, 2011


It always hurts me a bit to read the word and it is an aggressive word, people need to stop pretending otherwise. But I can't honestly say I'd push to have it removed in this case. I'll definitely settle for the discussion.

I'm not really persuaded by the justification for it being there in this instance. It strikes me as either a stunt or editorializing to make a point. I read ericost's explanation of his framing as proof that it was editorializing. He's saying that he couldn't make his point about how bad it is to remove the word without using the word. It bugs me more that he is making his clever point on my back.

ericost, did you consider what it would be like for people to read that word, beyond the point you were trying to make?
posted by Danila at 1:49 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


What's a Tim Tam?

From what I understand, they're approximately twenty or so dollars where you are, which is about what you would pay for them if you went into town. So just stay where you are because if you go into town you're not saving any money, kwim?
posted by iconomy at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's a Tim Tam?

They're a boring, kind of dry chocolate biscuit that have somehow picked up a reputation for being awesome. There are so many better, tastier, less scratchy, more interesting chocolate nummies made by both the same company and it's main competitors that the whole Tim Tam thing just confuses me. It's clearly some kind of weird propaganda, I don't know anyone who actually lives here (I'm in NZ but much of our food comes from Aus) that thinks they're the best in the same way that it's been sold to people in other countries, and personally I'd crawl over glass for a Mint Slice (Arnott's, not the Griffin's version) or a Squiggle Top while still going meh at the Tim Tam. Even a Mallowpuff would be more appreciated, although a Toffee Pop is almost as boring as a Tim Tam these days, with the shrunken toffee portion and the waxy chocolate.

(where I put "biscuit" I'm guessing many of you would substitute "cookie" but to me that's a certain type of biscuit (with oats or chocolate chips) which none of these are)

But then I don't do the 'slam' thing either. I prefer my biscuits decidedly non-soggy.
posted by shelleycat at 2:00 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


While we're at it, here's a quick table of all uses of a "[letter]-word" form in Metafilter history. Looks like pretty much the whole alphabet has managed to show up at least once or twice.

I'll take "Swords" for 400.
posted by goshling at 2:05 PM on January 4, 2011


Some of you people are mad. Tim Tams are terrific. They're MALTED for god's sake. They sort of remind me of Cadbury Crunchies but they're so soft and lovely and chocolatey all the way through and they don't have those sugary pieces that melt off and stick in your teeth. Oh!
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:14 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Crunchies are also dry, scratchy, and kind of boring.
posted by shelleycat at 2:15 PM on January 4, 2011


Tim Tam
heh
hehehehe

posted by clavdivs at 2:17 PM on January 4, 2011


Ah, another reason why I prefer threaded discussions...I would completely skip the Tim Tam section of this post.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:21 PM on January 4, 2011


That _-word chart should be a Sporcle quiz. What the hell is the r-word?
posted by norm at 2:22 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Crunchies are also dry, scratchy, and kind of boring. --- Hey, at least I try.
posted by crunchland at 2:23 PM on January 4, 2011


I didn't dislike the Tim Tam, but I wouldn't necessarily seek them out. When offered a second, I declined. But it was unexpectedly exciting to see a MeTa-topical cookie staring me in the face just as I'd finished my lunch. I'm kind of a chocolate snob, truth be told, and I have never met a mass-produced/marketed cookie that I actually loved. That's my review, and I'm sticking to it.
posted by heyho at 2:26 PM on January 4, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "We've scheduled an emergency meeting this evening to discuss this important issue and present a unified answer. Can you wait 'till tomorrow?"

Not looking for a unified answer, looking for an answer so that I can engage this issue with something a little more than my whiteness. Should I have framed that a different way?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:29 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


That _-word chart should be a Sporcle quiz. What the hell is the r-word?

And why is it so frequent?

I'm guessing reddit.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2011


Tim Tams are awesome indeed. They have the added advantage of being totally OK to consume at work no matter what, unlike MetaFilter.
posted by dg at 2:32 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not cool if you work at the Home for Diabetics Who Are Allergic to Chocolate, as I do.
posted by Mister_A at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2011


As for the "r-word", Google suggests that we Get It Started in here.
posted by norm at 2:38 PM on January 4, 2011


Well, the silver lining to that black cloud is that you don't have to share them ;-)
posted by dg at 2:39 PM on January 4, 2011


painquale: Seriously, couldn't that link have been prefaced with at least a bit of an explanation of the link's contents? Just mentioning Huck Finn goes a long way in making the word reasonable, I think

Hrm, that's a good point. My (probably incorrect) assumption was that the quote would be easily recognized as being from Huck Finn.

Danila: I read ericost's explanation of his framing as proof that it was editorializing.

Well, I don't think I was editorializing, though I see what you mean. I don't believe it was editorializing because I didn't an express an opinion, just quoted from the book with a [sic] to indicate the change the proposed new version of the book would make.

He's saying that he couldn't make his point about how bad it is to remove the word without using the word.

Well, no, that's not quite what I am saying. Quoting a usage of the word seemed relevant and illustrative, and it seemed absurd to use "N-word" or "n-----" when the topic of the post was the controversial removal of the word altogether from the text.

ericost, did you consider what it would be like for people to read that word, beyond the point you were trying to make?

Yes, I did, and it does not please me in any way that you feel I am making a "point on (your) back" by quoting the word. But I also believe that the pain the word engenders is a product of the racism behind its actual usage, not the word itself. I don't subscribe to the idea that offensive words should be expunged from our vocabulary, not to the point that we can't reference them to discuss them or quote historical usage of them, at least.

I do admit I come to this topic as a SWM, so I am sure I am missing many nuances, and I want to again say that I meant and mean no offense.
posted by ericost at 2:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The r-word is "retard".
posted by BeerFilter at 2:41 PM on January 4, 2011


"The r-word" is probably "retard."
posted by Zozo at 2:43 PM on January 4, 2011


That _-word chart should be a Sporcle quiz. What the hell is the r-word?

Presumably "retard". "-tard" is itself a pretty productive suffix, for better or worse.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:43 PM on January 4, 2011


I am shamed by your data, cortex. Nor more custard/mustard for me, you bastard.
posted by Mister_A at 2:45 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


My (probably incorrect) assumption was that the quote would be easily recognized as being from Huck Finn.

For the record, I didn't get this right off the bat and I had no idea what "recte" meant. Again, still not objecting, but it might be worth understanding how other people are reading the same thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:49 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just for curiosity's sake, what exactily is it your'e SUPPOSED TO BE DOING, instead of reading MeFi? Do they give you some sort of weekly salary for that or anything?

I sit around and wait for shit to break, then I fix it.
posted by empath at 2:57 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey, me too!
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:59 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Note that the NYTimes wouldn't let the author write 'nigger' even when discussing how the word works...

I wouldn't hold the New York Times up as a model in the bold use of offensive speech: they are notoriously conservative about printing obscenities, profanities, and slurs. I don't mind it in the courtly Times (though it does get ridiculous when reading about pop stars who swear and curse every third word and whose comments come out looking childishly bowdlerized) but I don't think that means the Times' choice should become the standard of discourse.

I thought the quote was illustrative and it was clear to me, with the mention of Jim in the same sentence, that it was about Huck Finn. Different framing would have helped the post avoid contention, agreed. But since contention over the word used in just that way is the very subject of the post, I think there is a good argument for letting it stand.

On the whole I think different framing would have been clearer and less of a lightning rod, even if the word still remained in the post title, and would recommend more careful framing in future, similar cases.
posted by Miko at 3:09 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think that means the Times' choice should become the standard of discourse.

I used to like it when they referred to Meat Loaf and Jello Biafra as "Mr. Loaf" and "Mr. Biafra," though. I feel like we've lost something now that that particular delightful bit of stuffiness is gone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:13 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I sit around and wait for shit to break, then I fix it.


well, get out your socket set
posted by timsteil at 3:14 PM on January 4, 2011


boo_radley: "Prepare you a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.
Take a Tim Tam. Use a "regular" Tim Tam, not one of those caramel things.
Nibble off a tiny bite of one corner of the Tim Tam. Bite off the kitty-corner corner (e.g. upper-left and lower-right corners).
You will use the nibbled Tim Tam as a straw.
Dunk it partially into the beverage and slurp up some of the liquid through the Tim Tam.
When you feel everything get melty, eat the Tim Tam
"

OMG I used to do this with chocolate covered graham crackers! AFK- grocery store.
posted by Splunge at 3:20 PM on January 4, 2011


I saw 'libtard' and my first thought was, "oh, the debug version of the tar library".
posted by Pyry at 3:31 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


This isn't the 19th century and you aren't Mark Twain.

"We are all erring creatures, and mainly idiots, but God made us so and it is dangerous to criticize."
-- Mark Twain, Letter to the President of Western Union, New York, 1902
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:35 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


recte, not recta, damn.
posted by ericost at 12:51 PM on January 4


Damn near killed 'im amirite?
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:45 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I sit around and wait for shit to break, then I fix it.
posted by empathPoster at 5:57 PM on January 4 [+] [!]


I knew it! You're the BOFH!

can i have your autograph?
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:46 PM on January 4, 2011


*breakdances, which causes some broken shit*

Empath, help!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:48 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even though Christmas is over, I made Oatmeal Scotchies again today. There is no better cookie.

My skin is the color of milk (which, BTW should never touch any cookie). Do the people of color here take any pleasure from watching us liberal white folks fight with each other and contort ourselves over this subject? I think I would, but I have no way of really knowing.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:51 PM on January 4, 2011


Aw, skunkflibbits. Those Tim Tams I've heard so much about are like biscotti? I hate biscotti.
posted by galadriel at 3:55 PM on January 4, 2011


They are nothing like biscotti.
posted by shelleycat at 4:00 PM on January 4, 2011


galadriel-Store bought biscotti are nothing like real homemade biscotti. I thought I hated biscotti till a caterer friend of mine made boxes of biscotti for christmas. I totally fell in love.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:35 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I’m going to empathize with empath, I fix shit too. Just an hour ago got a call, screen door locked. No problem. 48 seconds. 20$ A new toilet inset and some rough painting. 2 hours.
200$
How much money was made today is a little mean ya.

'Tim Tan'
heyah

posted by clavdivs at 4:46 PM on January 4, 2011


If you want something bad, you have to fight for it. Step up your game, Scott. Break out the n-word.
posted by NoraReed at 4:49 PM on January 4, 2011


Metafilter, please.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:50 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


nah, it's 'Metafilta, please...'
posted by jonmc at 4:52 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


clavdivs: "Tim Tan"

Only the caramel ones.
posted by boo_radley at 5:02 PM on January 4, 2011


Nannyfilter?

Not anymore, I'm off duty. Leave of absence. You guys have fun and try not to spoil your dinners or poke out each other's eyes.
posted by sonika at 5:10 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Killjoy.
posted by jonmc at 5:11 PM on January 4, 2011


nah, it's 'Metafilta, please...'

d'oh!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:14 PM on January 4, 2011


ricochet biscuit: "That _-word chart should be a Sporcle quiz. What the hell is the r-word?

And why is it so frequent?

I'm guessing reddit.
"


Republican?
posted by Night_owl at 5:38 PM on January 4, 2011


I am proud of Metafilter that retard occurs only 20% as often as bastard.
posted by Night_owl at 5:42 PM on January 4, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: "We've scheduled an emergency meeting this evening to discuss this important issue and present a unified answer. Can you wait 'till tomorrow?"

Not looking for a unified answer, looking for an answer so that I can engage this issue with something a little more than my whiteness. Should I have framed that a different way?

No, re-framing probably won't help. I think the point he was trying to make is that it's yet another problem to expect the relatively small (I would guess) number of Black Mefites reading this thread to speak for all Black people. The acceptable uses of that word is probably not an issue for anyone to "engage" if they're not Black. In my opinion, the safest default position--if you're not Black (and to some, even if you are)--is not to try to find instances where it's okay to use that word. Not unless you're willing to deal with the possible negative consequences.

That said, I'm fine with literary references to the word. However, at this point there are probably more non-illiterate USians who haven't read Mark Twain than have, and so most people probably don't appreciate the literary usage or references to it which include the word itself.

Now, back to that "emergency meeting"...who's bringing the grape soda?
posted by fuse theorem at 5:46 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


non-illiterate USians

what
posted by found missing at 5:50 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


boo_
chewy and sweet, yes.
well, the Tim Tan suggests the KAFÉ-LA-TÉ
a trader vic's staple. I was thinking Tahitian coffee but no. My 1972 edition of TV's had the Skull and Bones recipe above it...
thought it best not to further tempt the mystical power of beverages.

I'm buying Ms. Clav a new Muffler with my new found wealth.
posted by clavdivs at 5:50 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


non-illiterate USians

heh heh.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:53 PM on January 4, 2011


"wait, why is there a Niggaz With Attitude Cakes store in downtown Fayetteville?

It's because their product is straight outta cakepans.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:53 PM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


There's USians and there's THEMians, but among these two groups, the non-illiterate ones at least have something in common, which they can even read about, if they want to.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:57 PM on January 4, 2011


I want some Attitude Cake.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:58 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frost tha palmier
Frost
Frost
Frost tha palmier

posted by cortex (staff) at 6:05 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


...it's yet another problem to expect the relatively small (I would guess) number of Black Mefites reading this thread to speak for all Black people.

Not at all, I have the conch shell.

The post didn't bother this particular person of color, thought the term "person of color" was kinda "what the fuck," but it wasn't a big deal, just sounded retro to my ears. I am, however, amused to call most of you motherfuckers "persons of no color" now.

The only thing that is bugging me is the ironic or humorous use of nigger in this thread now. Feels outta place and dickish to do, but there are worst things in the world. Strangely enough though, I'm reminded of the Cooter clock and thinking of doing something similar along race lines, but that sounds like work and who OH SOMETHING BRIGHT AND SHINY
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:09 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am, however, amused to call most of you motherfuckers "persons of no color" now.

I'm down with that. Personally, this describes me to a frighteningly accurate degree. My lack of color is practically blinding.
posted by sonika at 6:11 PM on January 4, 2011


I am, however, amused to call most of you motherfuckers "persons of no color" now.

Dude, I am a person of color, sadly due to my heritage and personal habits, the color is that of bad mayonnaise.
posted by jonmc at 6:18 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


also, your father is a motherfucker.
posted by jonmc at 6:22 PM on January 4, 2011


One of the weird features of slurs is that they retain their power even when quoted, or when vowels are asterisked out, or when soundalikes are used. That suggests their offensiveness has nothing to do with their semantic content. So: trying to pull a move based on the use/mention distinction, as some people here are doing, totally misses the way in which these words are offensive.' ... Note that the NYTimes wouldn't let the author write 'nigger' even when discussing how the word works, making the article kind of contorted but also proving his point. ...
posted by painquale


OK, so, painquale, you're saying that you yourself were being as offensive in that comment as someone who straightforwardly uses the n-word as a hateful epithet? You fully wrote out the word!

And surely you're not going to explain how you were on the right side of the use/mention distinction, right?
posted by John Cohen at 6:23 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Colorless grey mefites snark furiously, amigo.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:27 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


On MeTa, we're all grey, sir.
posted by jonmc at 6:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


nanojath writes "In my dream world, when somebody posts a follow-up like this to their MetaTalk thread, all the other people would acknowledge it and stop harping on them for having an opinion they disagree with."

Don't think of it as a pile on; it more of a voice vote.
posted by Mitheral at 6:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


fuse theorem writes "That said, I'm fine with literary references to the word. However, at this point there are probably more non-illiterate USians who haven't read Mark Twain than have, and so most people probably don't appreciate the literary usage or references to it which include the word itself."

Seriously? I figured pretty well every American read that book in school.
posted by Mitheral at 6:42 PM on January 4, 2011


To tell you the truth, I don't remember whether I did or not.
posted by jonmc at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2011


One of the weird features of slurs is that they retain their power even when quoted, or when vowels are asterisked out, or when soundalikes are used.

Yeah, and I'm not sure that they really do retain all their power, at least not in the same way. Substituting something else definitely changes the reader reaction, even though a lot still depends on the writer's intent in indicating the word.

For instance, when I see someone spell out "c---" in a quote in certain places, I tend to think "well, we all know what that is, but at least they've taken the trouble not to spell it out, demonstrating their respect for me as a reader."
posted by Miko at 7:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


For instance, when I see someone spell out "c---" in a quote in certain places, I tend to think "well, we all know what that is, but at least they've taken the trouble not to spell it out, demonstrating their respect for me as a reader."

Cats? Look, just because you're not comfortable being Feline-American doesn't mean the rest of us can't use it as an empowering term.

or something like that, put together in a more clever manner
posted by item at 7:24 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's USians and there's THEMians, but among these two groups, the non-illiterate ones at least have something in common, which they can even read about, if they want to.

Let me guess: you went to school in Texas, no?

Seriously? I figured pretty well every American read that book in school.

I'm pretty sure I didn't and I went to some good schools for the most part. It's been banned in a lot of schools for quite a while.

non-illiterate USians
what

Was trying some shorthand to avoid saying "Americans" but I suppose I shouldn't have bothered since this thread is already overloaded with political correctness. I was also trying to exclude the people who can't read anyway and probably wouldn't have a dog in the fight about the book being revised to exclude that word.

I am, however, amused to call most of you motherfuckers "persons of no color" now.

Not to trying to be all pedantic and shit but isn't the absence of color what black is?

On a somewhat related note, not too long ago I read Agatha Christie's classic, And Then There Were None. Was surprised to find out that the original title of the book was Ten Little Niggers. The title was changed in 1940 when it was published in the US.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:29 PM on January 4, 2011


In the grey, all cats are in the dark.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:32 PM on January 4, 2011


USians is such a shitty word. Probably used by the sort of people who like Tim Tams.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:39 PM on January 4, 2011


persons of no color

I am offended by this! I go through a lot of trouble to dye my hair bright-ass goddamn blue.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:41 PM on January 4, 2011


Was surprised to find out that the original title of the book was Ten Little Niggers.

*ahem* Ten Little Indians.
posted by fatbird at 7:41 PM on January 4, 2011


Let me guess: you went to school in Texas, no?

No. Played a gig in Houston once, though. That must be it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:48 PM on January 4, 2011


Let me guess, though... you learned the word "non-illiterate" in Connecticut, yes?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:49 PM on January 4, 2011


Probably used by the sort of people who like Tim Tams.

WTF is this it's a fucking confectionary beverage. What does it have to do with relation to the Ops subject matter.
Or am I to fuqing foolish not to get that you perceive this as something negative and yes, this fool would late to the party if so… And me using Trader Vic’s. %&&? Alright, I need an American-Irish to jaw me.

i'm grey paste with peachy fuzz pallor.
posted by clavdivs at 7:53 PM on January 4, 2011


daM I had agatha in my side-car
posted by clavdivs at 7:54 PM on January 4, 2011


So THAT's where she was those eleven days.
posted by Gator at 7:56 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had agatha in my side-car
she was drinkin' peach liquor from a fruit jar
she said "baby won'tcha gimme a tim tam?"
I said "soon as we arrive in Ala-bam"
"just as soon as we arrive in Ala-bam"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:13 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Agatha can lick my bagatha.
posted by jonmc at 8:13 PM on January 4, 2011


Ten Little Nerds? Can't seem to find that on Amazon.
posted by stp123 at 8:16 PM on January 4, 2011


Be careful flapjax, I think "tim tams" might be considered a crime against nature in Alabama.

(It sure was in North Carolina!)
posted by snsranch at 8:23 PM on January 4, 2011


*ahem* Ten Little Indians.

*ahem* Look at that big old dustjacket of the first edition over on the right.
posted by marxchivist at 8:45 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


flapjax at midnite: "you learned the word "non-illiterate" in Connecticut"

That's a long way to go for that.
posted by boo_radley at 9:06 PM on January 4, 2011


Agatha can lick my bagatha.

There aren't even any nerve endings in the bagatha. It will just get infected.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:08 PM on January 4, 2011


I think the word can be on the front page if consideration is used.

chaff: I'm not hugely offended by it personally, but I think as a lede sentence it's a bit unfortunate.

Agreed. I am not offended by the word, but when I see it I am shocked. I came across the post in its entirety sans fold in my RSS aggregator, and it still hit me hard enough to post in MetaTalk.

When The Washington Post published their Dick Cheney profanity article, they had the lede and the context before they had the quote. I think that this should be a guideline for future front page posts using anything this unsavory. To illustrate the problem I have with this post, here is the Cheney story rearranged with the quote as the first sentence of the article:


"Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.

A brief argument between Vice President Cheney and a senior Democratic senator led Cheney to utter a big-time obscenity on the Senate floor this week.

On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.



I do not think we should make jokes using the word on the front page. We are not Louis C.K.
posted by chinesefood at 9:10 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a long way to go for that.

Not if you're coming from Rhode Island.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:25 PM on January 4, 2011


*ahem* Look at that big old dustjacket of the first edition over on the right.

Well, good Lord, man, I can't support that.
posted by fatbird at 9:34 PM on January 4, 2011


I just wanted to say that everybody who's in the know, knows a Penguin is better than a Tim Tam. But Tim Tam's are still pretty awesome.
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:47 PM on January 4, 2011


Not looking for a unified answer, looking for an answer so that I can engage this issue with something a little more than my whiteness. Should I have framed that a different way?.

My point was that you can engage this issue with your whiteness. You can and you should. Non-black people should be just as offended by the word, and also just as able to sort out the nuances of it's usage in polite company. Same goes for any other offensive speech or hateful action. We're alike more than we're different. That's the whole point.

Also: Tim Tams are nasty.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


says you
posted by clavdivs at 1:16 AM on January 5, 2011


I am, however, amused to call most of you motherfuckers "persons of no color" now.

As a ghost I'm offended by that statement. Also I don't know what Tim Tams are, but I suspect if I tried to eat them they would fall through me like that scene in the 1995 version of Casper.
posted by NoraReed at 1:42 AM on January 5, 2011


My attempt to use "person of color" as a sly reference to white liberal hand-wringing apparently failed. IRL, I sometimes say "black person" but I try to more often simply say "person".
posted by double block and bleed at 2:39 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, at this point there are probably more non-illiterate USians who haven't read Mark Twain than have

Let me guess: you went to school in Texas, no?

What do you get out of acting like this? Just curious.
posted by cj_ at 3:08 AM on January 5, 2011


USians is such a shitty word. Probably used by the sort of people who like Tim Tams.

Nah, I'm not down with calling cookies "biscuits".

What do you get out of acting like this? Just curious.

Not "getting" anything out it. Poster seemed to be taking a shot at my writing style and I responded. The Texas reference was an inside joke; part of my schooling was in Texas, and the writing issue is something I believe I've mentioned in another thread which I'm unable to google right now.

Other than that, not sure what you're taking offense to.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:25 AM on January 5, 2011


What gave you the idea I took offense? Like I said, I was only curious why are you behaving in the way you are. "It's an inside joke" isn't really answer, so I will go ahead and interpret that as "I don't have an answer I'm comfortable with stating on the public record."

Thanks for your considered reply!
posted by cj_ at 3:56 AM on January 5, 2011


In the grey, all cats are in the dark.

In a box, all cats are neither dead nor alive.
posted by orville sash at 5:16 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


should be just as offended by the word

WTF? Is there a reference chart?
posted by Meatbomb at 6:02 AM on January 5, 2011


Black and POC are not synonymous ...it is best used as a replacement for"non-white" . The point being that it does not assume whiteness as the point of reference.

I guess you could use it to refer to a black person but it's incredibly non-specific. I consider myself a POC who passes as white most of the time. I'm not black.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:27 AM on January 5, 2011


I appreciate the use of the term POC. At least you're trying. Plus, it's standard in a lot of anti-racist discourse.

On the subject of the thread :don't use racial slurs unless absolutely necessary. That goes for everyone throwing it around in this thread, too
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:36 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Words do not exist in a vacuum, they have meaning, and you don't have to be afraid of them to not want to use them in certain social contexts.
posted by edgeways at 7:50 PM on January 4


I couldn't agree more. However, that in no way changes my point. When we have come to the stage where words are being censored from classic literature, we have come to the stage where stupidity, hypocrisy and rank, gutless, shameful cowardice have won.

I will fight that. I will fight anyone who defends it.
posted by Decani at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2011


I am, however, amused to call most of you motherfuckers "persons of no color" now.

Could you call me a person of randomly distributed intermittent color? I have freckles.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:02 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Persons of undifferentiated refraction?
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:03 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


spot on
posted by not_on_display at 6:20 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I sit around (with coworkers looking and reading the copy on my monitor) and wait for shit to break, then I fix it.
posted by juiceCake at 6:36 PM on January 5, 2011


I am a person of color. 7520C, to be exact.
posted by Miko at 8:21 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do admit I come to this topic as a SWM, so I am sure I am missing many nuances, and I want to again say that I meant and mean no offense.

This is what gets me. You know you don't fully understand what your use of an incendiary racial slur will communicate to the people who are targeted by it, but you do it anyway.
posted by Marty Marx at 9:29 PM on January 5, 2011


intent is 3/4 introspection.
posted by clavdivs at 10:36 PM on January 5, 2011


Good point clavdivs. ericost, I'm sorry if I uncharitably ascribed negative motives to you.
posted by Danila at 5:35 AM on January 6, 2011


Jessamyn That said, this is clearly not the ironic racism stuff that we have asked people not to do here.

(later)

Brandon Blatcher The only thing that is bugging me is the ironic or humorous use ... in this thread now

One of the things I've noticed from being on the Internet is that many people want to be able to use racially charged language for purposes they deem appropriate - to make a point or for humorous effect - but very much don't want to have their usage linked to racism or insensitivity on their part. Which is fair enough - what sane person wants to be, or be called, racist or insensitive to issues of race?

There's a specific pattern of response to that linkage which tends to stand out, however. It often involves proposing that being free of hand-wringing liberal guilt in not being afraid to use such terms is a) brave, b) evolved or c) brave and evolved, then explaining that they just used the same word to their $racialidentity friend/spouse, and that he or she laughed and confirmed that it was in no way offensive when used by a friend and ally of $racialidentity, and finally pointing out that nobody is actually objecting from unclouded motives, but rather people are pretending to be offended in an attempt to curry favour for being Politically Correct, and/or overreacting out of unconscious guilt at their own unacknowledged racism.

This pattern often occurs when an opportunity to use racially charged language crops up, so presumably the risk/reward ratio favours it. None of which necessarily touches on the FPP (although surely "Politically Correct Huck Finn" is editorialising, unless "Politically Correct" has stopped being a bogey term only ever used to identify behaviour that the user finds excessive?), but once you've got the term in play there's a good chance somebody's going to start weaving some comedy stylings, and feel justified in doing so, in my admittedly limited experience. It's just one of those Internet things, and has been since Usenet and IRC, at least.
posted by DNye at 6:17 AM on January 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tim Tam is Simon and River's long-lost brother.
posted by ellenaim at 6:54 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, you're not people of color in any way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:39 AM on January 6, 2011


Danila: ericost, I'm sorry if I uncharitably ascribed negative motives to you.

It's fair. I quoted a horrible word on the home page, a little skepticism of my motives is natural.

DNye: "Politically Correct Huck Finn" is editorialising, unless "Politically Correct" has stopped being a bogey term only ever used to identify behaviour that the user finds excessive?

That's not how I intended it. The article I linked to, which is quite sympathetic to the reasons for the new edition of the book, even uses the phrase: "The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor..." as a simple descriptor.

I think it is often used pejoratively, but I'm not aware of another term that captures the idea of reforming language to reduce offensiveness so succinctly. for the record, I am not anti-PC on principle; I support it in many cases, when the goal is to change how we talk about and to each other to be more inclusive, reduce offense, and update language to reflect modern "enlightened" thinking. However, I do definitely object to historical revisions, though I was not trying to signify that objection with the use of the "Politically Correct" term.
posted by ericost at 1:25 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just checkin' in to see if empath has a problem with the title tag of the front page post about the old TV show Deadwood.
posted by crunchland at 2:54 PM on January 6, 2011


It looks like the Grey Lady's decided there are times when even the word "nigger" is fit to print, on the front page, no less.

What's the equivalent of Metatalk over there? The ombudsman? Let's start the countdown...
posted by alms at 6:09 PM on January 6, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: Strangely enough though, I'm reminded of the Cooter clock and thinking of doing something similar along race lines, but that sounds like work and who OH SOMETHING BRIGHT AND SHINY

Listing items on the Cooter clock was a matter of keeping track of a number of searches. If you were to do something like that along race lines, what would be the keywords or phrases to watch for?
posted by Pronoiac at 6:15 PM on January 6, 2011


Here's the article.
posted by alms at 6:16 PM on January 6, 2011


Ericost: Thanks for the clarification - I'm old enough to be surprised by the idea of political correctness as a position that can be adopted rather than a mythical entity conjured to act as an antagonist - first by members of the left mocking their more po-faced comrades and then far more enthusiastically by the right against the left. I guess the pendulum has now swung to the point where people talk about political correctness as a defined and positive programme rather than a blanket term to describe the parts of a social motion one dislikes.
posted by DNye at 3:11 AM on January 7, 2011


No, you're not people of color in any way.

If that was in reference to my Pantone comment, it was a little levity, probably misplaced, and I apologize for creating the wrong impression or misreading the tone of the conversation. The POC term is useful and fine by me and I make no pedantic objections to it. Sorry if I confused matters.
posted by Miko at 9:53 AM on January 7, 2011


The same jokes (not always jokes) come up every time andthe net effect is dismissive. Thanks for responding thoughtfully.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:37 AM on January 7, 2011


Wow, Miko smackdown. Not dismissive, just funny.
posted by found missing at 12:12 PM on January 7, 2011


No offense meant or taken, really, it's fine. I usually dislike those kinda jokes too, and for some reason (maybe being down about the other events this week and their unhappy tone) was trying to be amusing, but it didn't really work and I know they are terribly predictable jokes, too.
posted by Miko at 12:18 PM on January 7, 2011


In case anyone hasn't already mentioned it, here's Roger Ebert's take on this.

"I'd rather be called a nigger than a slave".

But that probably doesn't count because Ebert's white and therefore doesn't understand.
posted by Decani at 4:32 PM on January 7, 2011


Ebert certainly isn't at much risk of being called either, but I'm sure that that was a useful contribution to whatever discussion it came up in.
posted by DNye at 5:50 PM on January 7, 2011




Well, he's got his own perspective of that whole "controversy"...(P.S., his lovely wife Chaz is black, if anyone finds that sort of thing interesting.)
posted by Gator at 6:05 PM on January 7, 2011


And, on the plus side, this whole megillah has given lots of people who might previously have felt a bit weird about writing terms of racist abuse down and then posting them to the Internet an impressive new level of freedom - an unintended benefit of which is that it won't set off any alarm bells on people's browsers at work any more. One might, after all, just be reading Ebert, or an email from a colleague discussing this whole issue.
posted by DNye at 6:19 PM on January 7, 2011


« Older Introducing the Metafilter Frequency Tables   |   thread subscriptions without RSS? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments