Monday, December 9, 2013

So, I finished the book...

Just finished reading Randall Kennedy's Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.  It wasn't a very lengthy book, but it was well-researched and articulate.  I managed to read it in a single day and found it very interesting, though I see on that it gets mixed reviews.  I think anytime someone tries to take on the n-word, it's bound to be controversial and "dangerous".  Anyway, I thought it was a good read… and found reviewing it a challenge, since the word "nigger" is so offensive to people that I can't even type it in the context of a book review on Epinions or Amazon.

In fact, that word is so taboo that I can't even write the word "niggardly" on Epinions.  Niggardly, as we all should know in the wake of the controversy involving Washington, DC staffer David Howard, has no racist connotations whatsoever.  The word is roughly equivalent to the word "stingy".  Of course, when Howard's controversy came up, many people said he should have just said "stingy" or a similar word rather than gone there with the word niggardly, which was bound to raise eyebrows.  Maybe common sense should have influenced Howard to be more careful with his terms, but Kennedy makes a good case for people to pay more attention to context rather than flying off the handle when those six letters are arranged in the way that gets people so riled up.

In any case, I thought Kennedy's book was good and informative reading.  It was published in 2002, which dates it somewhat, but I think much of what Kennedy discusses is still relevant today.  I found it refreshing that he took such an even-handed and logical stance regarding the most offensive word in the English language.  If you can stand to read it and are interested, I would recommend it.

Tim Minchin has a lot to say about "Prejudice".

I spent the entire weekend in my nightie.  It was dark, cold, and yucky and I had no desire to get dressed.  Indeed, on Saturday, I drank a lot of wine because it was making my tooth less annoying.  I would just go ahead and schedule the crown preparation, but we may be taking a trip next month and I don't want to be in the middle of dental treatment while I'm out of the country (if, in fact, that's where we end up going).  Since I broke two temporary crowns last time and the other was poorly constructed, it's probably best to stay close to home.  I am guessing I'll try to put up with this until February.

I started looking at a few houses yesterday… but I'm not sure if I'm feeling Texas or not.  I feel certain Bill can find a good job here, but I don't feel quite assimilated yet, nor do I feel quite ready to buy a house.  On the other hand, I also don't want to stay in this house.  So we'll see what happens.



  1. I'm very interested in this book and plan to read it during my vacation, which begins as soon as I finish my 9:00 a.m. final tomorrow. I'm not supposed to read much yet after the head and eye injuries but those restrictions will ease up within a week or two. The book sounds fascinating in and of itself, in addition to providing a source of valuable insight in the event that I ever need to participate in an intellectual discussion on the topic of the origin of the rather inflammatory term.

    1. I hope you will read it and offer your thoughts. You are definitely not from my generation and it would be interesting to read what someone younger thinks. I'm old enough to have heard that word used pretty casually and without much controversy. Hell, I even heard it on TV. Maybe I'll put a clip here.

  2. P.S. In the David Howard incident, what to me was the saddest thing about the whole matter was that the individual or individuals whose ignorance led to the misunderstanding were never really called on the carpet for their lack of knowledge of their native language and for how said lack of knowledge created a public outcry over nothing. Did those individuals ever even apologize for [even while working as assistants to the mayor of our nation's capital] their lack of familiarity with what should have been a middle school vocabulary word creating a national incident ?
    While perhaps Howard's choice of words could have been better, ignorance is ignorance regarldess of the color of the ignorant person. And in acceping Howard's resignation, the mayor, too, made himself appear as less than scholarly.

    My mom said that the NCAAP president at the time suggested that the D.C. mayor issue dictionaries to his staff members, which I would consider a classy response, choosing to side with "right" over "race."

    P.P.S. I never wore anything other than pjs all weekend, either, and once I get through my final tomorrow, i'll probably spend the remainder of this week in pjs. The ER doctor was totally against my taking the finals, or even leaving the house, but it's a complete mess to try to clear incomplete grades, and I really need this quarter to be "finished" when it is finished. Tomorrow at noon or so I'll come home and get back into bed where I'm supposed to be, and I'll stay there however long the E.R. doctor wants me to stay there. For the record, my dad doesn't think it's all that dangerous for me to be up and around as long as I'm not driving myself.

    1. In Kennedy's book, he wrote that one of the PC women who took Howard to task for the word "niggardly" noted that Howard is gay and asked him if he wouldn't flinch if someone said they were going to throw another "faggot" on the fire or go outside to smoke a few fags. Of course, the woman was referring to the other, lesser known definitions of faggot and fag. I think if Howard was educated to know the word niggardly, he probably wouldn't have flinched because he would get the context of the words. Besides, the word niggardly is entirely different word than "nigger" is. It's not even spelled the same. It just sounds similar. Incidentally, I do remember getting the word niggardly as a vocabulary word in school… and I also remember reading the short story "Leaf By Niggle" before I was even an English major and regularly read books with the n-word in them.

      You had a good excuse to stay undressed. I guess, given the fact that I didn't go anywhere over the weekend, it makes sense that I didn't get dressed either. I'm glad to see the sun this morning. It's oddly refreshing.


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