Discussion in 'Evolution of Language' started by Ken Anderson, Jun 8, 2015.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    Jan 21, 2015
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    More than one person has been fired recently for using the word "niggardly" in context. Taken by the ignorant to be a racist term, its etymology has nothing to do with race, and its definition and use does not relate to common racist stereotypes.

    The word is an adjective meaning "stingy" or "miserly" and was derived from the Old Norse verb "nigla," which means "to fuss about small matters," and not from the Spanish/Poruguese word for black.

    [ ˈnigərdlē ]
    not generous; stingy:
    "serving out the rations with a niggardly hand"
    synonyms: cheap · mean · miserly · parsimonious · close-fisted · More
    ADVERB archaic
    in a stingy or meager manner.

    Yet, because it may sound like a racist slur to those who don't understand language, its usage today is wrought with danger. Despite an explanation and verification of the origins and meaning of the word, not everyone has gotten their jobs or reputations back.

    Facts be damned, people are pressured to resign or to fire those using the word, in context, due to ignorance, and the ignorant generally prevail.
    Edwin Clarke and Avigail David like this.
  2. Avigail David

    Avigail David Very Well-Known Member

    May 20, 2015
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    I think I will avoid adverbs and adjectives as much as possible in my writing. Not because "niggardly" is "politically incorrect" due to my critique's ignorance. But the use of verbs, and lots of it, bring the excitement and action into the point of what I want to get at in any time of my writing. Editors abhor adverbs. :mad:

    With an exception right now: 'With an evil eye, he niggardly did not consider the needs of his hungry neighbor" . This can be simplified to: "What a selfish jerk!" Hmmm...:D
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2015
  3. Edwin Clarke

    Edwin Clarke New Member

    Jun 7, 2015
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    We have a problem of cultural intolerance. This is nothing new and will never change.
    When I was young, homosexuals were flatout ostracized in the society I shared.
    As years went by, culture changed and the term "gay" was ripped from it's then notion of "happy", to "politicallty correct homosexual", along with a reversal of intolerance against those who ostracized "gays".
    Thus language changed and the attitude of society to homosexuals was tipped on its head.
    Perhaps one day the "Islamic State" will force us all to convert and homosexuals will be back where they were, full circle.
    Nothing in this universe stays constant.

    The term: "niggardly" probably has an old Norse origin, but this will not protect the hapless victim perceived to be racist.
    European culture once uniformly looked down on people of African origin. Today European culture has flipped 180 degrees and it is dangerous to take any position against anyone of African origin, even when well justified. Today, generally, only Whites can be guilty of a race crime. Any exception only proves the rule.
    Terms that were innocuous, such as the South African word "kaffir" has changed dramatically over time and is today considered racially offensive. Originally it only meant "non-believer". Try explaining that in a South African court and your sentence will probably be doubled because Whites there are often considered racist settlers, unless they bend over backwards to apologize for the unforgivable crimes their parents committed. Google "one settler, one bullet", or "kill the boer, kill the farmer", or South Africa BEE" - for a taste of current intolerance toward Whites in South Africa.

    Words that, for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly, are racist or otherwise politically incorrect, are the worst culprits.
    The only defense is to stop using such terms and replace them with new, "safe" words, that will probably be banned in turn by the next generation.
    Avigail David likes this.
  4. Carlota Clemens

    Carlota Clemens Well-Known Member

    Jun 6, 2015
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    Trying to make ignorant people understand something they don't want to understand is a lost battle I'm afraid.

    It's not just about niggardly, but also many other words which root may have nothing to do with the actual sense people give them, but when a crowd is so stubborn to keep ignoring the root of one's language and go with the use of slang or distorted idioms, there is nothing we can do but to stick to our own correctness.

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