In my recent post on why I will not see the film Django Unchained, I gave as one reason my distaste with the fact that Quentin Tarantino seems obsessed with using the n-word as much as possible. This prompted many comments on the use of such words and one commenter noted that I should not use the euphemism.
Perhaps I should make clear that I am not a shrinking violet when it comes to such words. I can hear them without having to reach for my smelling salts. I am also definitely not saying that people have no right to use them or even that they should never be used. When they are used in ways that I think are appropriate in order to make a point, I still find it jarring but do not get irritated.
But I personally recoil from using words that have historically been used as racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual slurs and never use them myself. It would take an unusual situation (such as where I had to read from some other person’s words) to get me to actually say them.
Why my hesitance? This is a subtle question and I carefully explained my reasoning for doing this two years ago in the context of publishers issuing a Bowdlerized edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that was being marketed as a text for high schools in which they avoided all use of the n-word, replacing it with the word ‘slave’ or circumlocutions.
What I wrote then still holds up as my views for today so I urge readers to read that and come back and comment here, since that post was on my old site and it is now closed for comments.