This would now normally be considered an insulting term to use to a black person, though one black speaker might use it to another as a kind of ironic reminder of their shared past.
   In The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones, by Jesse Hill Ford, a black lawyer objects to use of the word in a southern American courtroom because it ‘connotes unhappy conditions under slavery’. The District Attorney argues that it is merely an old pronunciation of ‘negro’, adding that ‘knee-grow reminds me of certain Scandinavian sociologists and others who have assumed an authority and published inaccuracies concerning racial matters which I find not only distasteful but provocative as well’ On the word’s origin, the District Attorney may have a point.
   H.L.Mencken points out, in The American Language, that Southern pronunciation of ‘negro’ was nigrah. The word was undoubtedly much used, and does not seem to have been thought offensive when used by blacks to blacks. There are many examples of such usage in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and more in Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. The latter novel has a white woman from the North refer to a former slave as an ‘old nigger’, which greatly offends the man concerned. ‘He had never had the term “nigger” applied to him by a white person in all his life. By other negroes, yes. But never by a white person.’
   In modern times both ‘nigger’ and ‘negro’ would be avoided by white speakers, and ‘nigger’ used vocatively would be offensive in almost any conceivable circumstances. Sammy Davis Junior, in his autobiography Yes I Can!, recalls that he was addressed as ‘you stinking coon nigger’ by a fellow soldier, soon after his arrival at a military base. The same speaker added ‘you yellow-livered black bastard’ to make sure that his meaning was clear.
   In The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers, a white woman who is arguing with a black girl calls her ‘you black nigger’. The word may occur elsewhere in the vocative group, as in Arthur Hailey’s Hotel This has a white hotel-guest say to a black employee: ‘All right, nigger boy, you asked for it.’ See also the quotation from The Choirboys, by Joseph Wambaugh, under Asshole. In February 1989, when Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl football game, the words of the player’s father, used to him as a youngster, were much quoted. ‘When people call you nigger, be so good at what you’re doing they’ll have to call you Mr Nigger.’

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nigger — (im afroamerikanischen Englisch auch Nigga, Niggar, Niggah oder Nigguh)[1]; in Südstaaten Aussprache auch Niggra, Nigra und Nighe[2]) ist eine rassistisch denotierte und äußerst abwertende Bezeichnung für Menschen dunkler Hautfarbe. Sie dient… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • nigger — (n.) 1786, earlier neger (1568, Scottish and northern England dialect), from Fr. nègre, from Sp. negro (see NEGRO (Cf. Negro)). From the earliest usage it was the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites… …   Etymology dictionary

  • nigger — ► NOUN offensive ▪ a black person. ● a nigger in the woodpile Cf. ↑a nigger in the woodpile USAGE The word nigger has had strong offensive connotations since the 17th century. Recently, however, it has begun to be used by black people as a mildly …   English terms dictionary

  • nigger — The word is highly offensive when used by a white person with reference to a black, but it can apparently be used without offence (along with a respelt version nigga) by one black person referring in a mildly disparaging way to another, perhaps… …   Modern English usage

  • nigger — [nig′ər] n. [Dial. or Slang] Negro USAGE originally simply a dialectal variant of Negro, the term nigger is today acceptable only in black English; in all other contexts it is now generally regarded as virtually taboo because of the legacy of… …   English World dictionary

  • nigger — ig ger, n. A negro; in vulgar derision or depreciation. It is usually intended and interpreted as highly insulting and vulgar. [Low, deprecatory, and vulgar] [1913 Webster +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Nigger — (v. engl. negro), in Amerika verächtliche Bezeichnung eines Negers …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Nigger — Nigger, in Amerika verächtlich für Neger …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Nigger — Nigger,der:1.⇨Afrikaner–2.⇨Afroamerikaner Niggerabwertendfür:Schwarzer …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

  • Nigger — This article is about the pejorative use of the word. For nigga as a colloquial reference, see Nigga. For other uses, see Nigger (disambiguation). Not to be confused with niggardly …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.