April 19, 2007

When did "nigger" get in the dictionary?

When I was young, when you were called that, we would say "that's not a word." We never found the word in any of our dictionaries, but there may have been some dictionary that had defined the word. In fifty years, nigger has become a word. As my Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines; it is a noun, offensive, a black person. I was surprised and found other derogatory terms for ethnic groups; and their definitions begin noun, offensive, whatever group. Is offensive the strongest word the editors could think of?

I guess that being in the dictionary now, caused the software of a Chinese furniture manufacturer to
translate a color brown from Chinese to "nigger brown" in English. A glitch we're told.

H/T Black Looks

5 comments:

A. said...

I can't understand how this can have happened. Automatic translation systems are a relatively recent thing and the term has been absent for almost as many years as I can remember.

Strange the way these conincidences happen, I've just finished reading Yoruba Girl Dancing by Simi Bedford, the story of a Nigerian girl sent to boarding school in England, and when she went to buy the uniform, it was described as "nigger brown". I was trying to date the story from that but I couldn't because I can't remember well enough. I would have guessed in the 50s but that conflicts with other parts of the story.

Hathor said...

I had never heard the term, until I saw that post, then the article. If it had been associated with a color it would have been black. In the south the colors to describe blacks were tan, beige and black; even red at times. Blacks would say brown skinned at times.
Who knows who set up the dictionary, maybe the Chinese knew of the term and they already had a word for it.

kathy said...

Hathor, article that you linked to says that the blame was passed to a Chinese co.
I highly doubt that managment in China would ever do something like that on purpose, they want to sell their product. Its always easy to blame another ethnicity and encourage divide instead of unity.
How many factory workers in China would know how to read English, they probably wouldn't know what these words are, just like an American factory worker probably can't read charactors.
I personally have been all over China, three times, and while I have seen some really bad translations, I have never seen that word used in any way to describe a color.

Hathor said...

Kathy,
Upon doing more research for my comment on FN's blog, the British had the n word in their dictionary in the 18th century. I would suppose that the Chinese translation would be more related to British English than American. At the time I wrote this I was surprised that it was in the lexicon at all, thus the title of my post.

I think you made a leap in determining my intentions.

Perhaps you should take note of A.'s comment and actually look at the tag on that furniture. Follow the HT link. The furniture company may not have been Chinese and the Chinese were only contract manufacturing. In the 21th century it is an offense that anyone thought that was an appropriate name. Someone chose that name.

kathy said...

Hathor,
I totally agree that this was offensive, and I did look at the picture, and I do feel horrible that a child saw that tag, and I don't know what your intentions were, so I am sorry if I worded my comment wrong, my issue was blaming Chinese people, who probably have no idea what that word means.

I did go back and read A's comment, so it must be an English term, I don't know, but I do think that it wasn't invented by Chinese people, and I really don't believe that a Chinese manager would do something like that. As I said on FN blog, it more likely that some white ahole did that, knowing that it would not be detected by Chinese people.

Again, I am sorry if I worded my comment in the wrong way.