Thursday, March 22, 2007

Increase Your Slur Word Power!

This is just interesting. The people who work at the Random House Dictionary have taken it upon themselves to quantify exactly how inappropriate certain words are:

When we label sensitive terms for Random House Webster's College Dictionary, there are a lot of factors to consider. The way we decide has to do with how offensive a word is (the degree to which a word offends the person it is used to describe) and how disparaging a word is (the degree to which the person who uses the word intends for it to be hurtful).

Here are the 2 tables; both get worse as they go from 0 to 5:

Level 0 – Random House is right, these terms aren’t very offensive. Moslem just sounds old-timey; Guys has developed into a casual way to address a group of mixed-gender people; and Cover Girl actually sounds like a compliment.

Level 1 – Housewife could just be descriptive…but I guess Homemaker or Stay-at-Home-Parent are the more neutral terms of today. Domestic Engineer is just too absurd. Old Maid should probably be higher than a 1. French Maid should score a 5 for hotness. Bored Housewife a 4.

Level 2 – Eskimo? Seriously? Nobody is going to buy Inuit Pies.

Level 3 – Indian Giver is definitely worse than Gypped (I’d say it’s a 2), which is supposed to be bad because it’s derived from Gypsy and they’re stereotypically known for stealing--and for ancient curses to drive contrived movie plots. Many professional sports team names would fall at level 3 (Redskins, Indians, Braves).

Level 4 – Okie? Like is that a slur for all people from Oklahoma or just the ones who fled the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression? There can't be too many of those people around today. Should the musical “Oklahoma” be deemed offensive, I mean besides for general suckiness? No way Okie should be this high.

Level 5 – These are all really bad. I do wonder how they decide what gets capitalized. Like do they survey KKK chapters and ask how they spell them in their official paperwork?

Level 0 – I was always taught: rugs are Oriental, people are Asian. Just as an FYI: Occidental is the word that describes all that is not Oriental. Welsh Rabbit (toasted cheese) seems more disparaging than “Welsh On a Deal” since it implies that the good people of Wales are too stupid to tell rabbit meat from cheese.

Level 1 – Egghead seems roughly equal to Pointy-head or Ivory Tower Dweller. I have no idea what they mean by “grind”…is this an adjective that describes a type of person? And these “grinds” would be disparaged by this? That would be so grindy- of those grindish grinds. Grind them!

Level 2 – Little Woman only gets used as a joke these days, unless she’s literally only 3 feet tall and you’re into that. Harelip seems like a mere medical description, but if I HAD a harelip then this word should be a 4+. Cripple seems worse; Crip and Gimp far worse. Just in case, maybe it’s just best not to talk to the 3-foot tall crippled harelip at all.

Level 3 – Canuck seems silly, I rank it down there with Yank and Limey. All 3 are at least a point higher than a more neutral Aussie and half a point lower than a dismissive Kiwi. I don’t know what a “haole” is so it’s hard to be properly offended. I hope I’m not one—cause it’s so easy to call someone an ass-haole

Level 4 – Spaz should not be anywhere near this level! It’s should be below Egghead and Nerd. Even Geek is worse than Spaz since it originally meant Circus Geek who bites the head off of chickens. Spaz might be worse only if you have a spastic medical condition, which makes you involuntarily spasm (as opposed to ‘gasm). Honky doesn’t seem as bad as Cracker because the latter implies lower class. Redneck is right around here too.

Level 5 – I can only assume “ofay” is a really bad word by the company it keeps at this level. But what is it? According to Random House, currently the very worst word in the English Language is Nigger since it’s both highly disparaging and highly offensive. It’s like the Perfect Storm. Changing it to Nigga or Niggaz probably drops it half a point. “N-word” even lower. Speaking of softening up a slur qualitatively: Faggot > Fag > Homo > Queer > Gay > Tidy; maybe dropping a point at each step. I just came up with that.

In conclusion there’s a complex relationship between speaker and audience. And context. Many of these terms can be appropriated with a sense of pride by the described party. Like you know, using the n-word.
Here’s a chart to prove these conclusions. Notice the half-assed valley of semi-offensiveness in the middle. That’s where you go if you call someone an “Eskimo Egghead” or a “Moslem Spaz”.

Knowing lots of words can make you sound smart and boost your career—but to impress employers you only have to use some slurs on your resume, not all of them.

1 comment:

jon said...

This Slur blog is a must. We need to further catorgorize words not to say because they may sound mistakenly like something else. For example, my Indian friend wanted me to stop asking him to make me indian food. He called me a Nagger! I said, "What?" And he continued, "why do you have to be such a f***ing nagger!" Another comment you don't want to say in the wrong setting is in "What are the name of those stupid pants that golfers wear?"