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One of the many complexities of English is the ability of words to have multiple definitions, which opens the door for some words to be both derogatory and not derogatory, depending on who is using them or when. These words can be confusing, especially to people who are just learning English and all of its complex nuances. And, King Kong—that is what we might refer to as an ape. And, ape and monkey can both be used as verbs. Exactly when the words became slurs is unknown, but offensive comparisons of black people to apes date back hundreds of centuries.
As recently as the late s, for example, when scientists Josiah C. Nott and George R. Gliddon created the Types of Mankind then the leading scientific text on race , they compared black people not to other white people but to chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.
When used in these contexts, monkey and ape are considered extremely derogatory slang. The Italian name for those places? The word was later used to describe similar isolated areas in which the Nazis forced Jewish people to live, cut off from their friends and neighbors and typically stuck in deplorable conditions.
By the time the word made its way into English, the relationship with Jewish people was gone. Head to an estate sale, and you may find yourself discussing the price of an oriental rug or some oriental jewelry. Surely these words are OK to use, right? The word savage has taken a circuitous path through the lexicon over the years, first showing up in English in the s from Middle English. But, the use of savage as a noun to describe human beings dates back to approximately the s. At a time when Christopher Columbus was enslaving Native Americans and claiming their lands and work for his own, the word became a slur used by white Europeans to describe Native American people.
There has been some reclamation of the word as internet slang , as more people use the adjective form to describe actions they deem to be especially fierce. However, the racist connotations are hard to ignore, and it may be wise to choose another word to describe something you love on the internet. Might we suggest badass? It was a time when armor was made of chainmail—think medieval knights—and a gap or chink in the armor was a dangerous vulnerability.
Which is why the idiom is now used today to mean a vulnerable area. That happened some time in the s when people started using chink to refer to people from China or people who the speaker believed were from China. Believed to be an irregular formation of the word China , the word is derogatory when used to describe a human being. When a raccoon is feasting in your garbage cans, you might call pest control to come take care of that coon , and no one would think poorly of you.
Coon is what linguists call an aphetic form of raccoon , a word formed when a vowel or syllable has been dropped. The idiom was born thanks to a belief that raccoons lived for a long time a myth disproven by biologists. Word of the Day. Meanings Meanings. How can a word be insulting sometimes … but not always? Word of the day. Redefine your inbox with Dictionary. This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.Bad things to call someone
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All Of These Words Are Offensive (But Only Sometimes)