The N-Word

Happily, I have only heard about this story sporadically, but it appears that Dog the Bounty Hunter is in trouble for using the n-word. (CNN Story Here.)

Is use of the n-word at all a modern equivalent of swearing an oath? What I mean is, there is something about the words and phrases that is offensive. Even if the idea is the same. In the post below, Jesus says you can obviously say yes or no. You just can’t say, “I swear on my mother’s eyes, this is all the money I have.” (There is a Soprano’s netflick waiting for me.)

3 thoughts on “The N-Word”

  1. Isn’t this a conflation of two definitions of the word “swear”? As ‘swear’ is used in the Sermon on the Mount, it is meant as a literal oath. As ‘swear’ is used in this context, it is “to use a bad word.”

    I don’t see a connection, although I’m sure a historical linguist could find one. That’s still not a compelling reason to think Jesus meant, “Don’t use pejorative racial slang.” when he admonished us not to swear.

  2. Oh, no, no. It could be I guess, but that isn’t what I meant. I meant that the prohibition against taking an oath is only about the method of doing the thing. You are allowed to answer questions. You just aren’t allowed to answer questions in a certain way. And that way adds impact or is more harsh.

    Similarly, you can refer to do all of the things the word n-word does and get in much less trouble. If you say something racist, or certainly if you use some other harsh slang term of pseudo affection, you will probably not lose your entertainment job.

    But that word is becoming forbidden. In law school, we talked about indecent & obscene speech. The professor insisted on saying “the f-word” instead of “fuck.” I found it very irritating. We were all grown ups, how could we not just say the thing we’re talking about. In the paragraph above, I typed out the n-word, and then decided I probably shouldn’t.

    That’s what I mean, it is almost superstitious. And, right, Jesus clearly was not telling people not to use pejorative racial slang. I was more trying to recover the admonition from silliness by comparing it to a similar issue in our modern world. I didn’t mean to suggest that you could start with don’t take oaths and get to do use the n-word.

    NOTE: I happen to know that Matt was once called a nigger by a member of the NU football team. I believe it went like this, “Nigger [referring to Matt] is going to go across the country this summer on a bicycle!” Followed by a mix of admiration and dismissive laughter on the part of the other NU ball player.

  3. I happen to know that Matt was once called a nigger by a member of the NU football team.

    What a fond memory, I’d forgotten that it happened. This is interesting in the context that I am very, very Caucasian.

    You’re right about certain words having a mythic power over us now. Even in the context of an academic study of racism it sounds horrible when someone says it out loud.

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