Unkind words: ethnic labeling from Redskin to WASP
In this extensive study of ethnic labeling in the United States' popular speech and usage, Irving Lewis Allen explores the major traditional themes behind the making of ethnic slurs. Viewing U.S. slang as a reflection of social diversity, rapid change, and the complexity of U.S. society, Allen puts forth a special insight into the social workings of American culture, both past and present. The book offers an overview of the major traditional themes used in the development of ethnic slurs as well as the most recent fads of covert and devious slurring with codewords and various kinds of sly word games. Unkind Words delivers its message with unusual clarity, that too often shoddy language shapes our thinking about the politics of ethnicity. Divided into two parts, the book begins with a detailed study of the older and more traditional slurs in American vernacular. These words the author terms "fighting words," which, when dropped, often raised fists in schoolyards and barrooms. The book uncovers the origins of these slurs--few are heard in today's public discourse--and places them in a "word museum" where the reader can view the foolish viciousness of a cultural past. In one chapter, the author singles out the derogatory labels that have been applied specifically to women and reveals slurs that originate in both gender and ethnic conflict. The second part of the book focuses on labels that have appeared in the last few decades, often more genteel and less confrontational. While more subtle than their forerunners, these words often serve the same old psychological and social needs to stereotype and express hostility. Anyone interested in ethnic identity in the United States, in the workings of a plural society, or the origins and uses of American ethnic slurs, will find Unkind Words fascinating reading.
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acronym adjective African Americans allusion American English American ethnic groups American slang Asian Aunt Jemima became black term black woman British called canuck capital initial Catholic chapter Charlie Chicano Chinese chocolate cities codewords color connotations cultural denote derisive derives derogatory early eater especially ethnic conflict ethnic epithets ethnic labels ethnic persons ethnic slurs ethnic women etymologies euphemism feminine folklore frog legs German given name guage H. L. Mencken Hispanics immigrants Irish Italian Jewish Jews John Johnny language lower-case mass media Mexican Americans middle-class minority name-calling names for ethnic Native American Negro nickname nineteenth century nonwhite noun offensive origin pejorative perhaps personal names political poor whites popular probably pronunciation proper names racial refer region relations Second World semantic slang slang term social scientists society sometimes spaghetti speech spelling spig Stuart Berg Flexner terms of abuse traditional urban usage variants WASP white Anglo-Saxon Protestant white Protestants word York