Language Use And Abuse

At a time of increasing poverty and lack of work, people strive with all their might to uncover an issue that has nothing to do with any real problem in order to divert attention from what matters in our lives. UK Education Minister Michael Gove is now confronting a storm of horror because he -supposedly– used the word, “nigger” in an old rhyme that was common in my childhood. The little ditty went as thus:

eeny, meeny, miny moe, catch a nigger by the toe, if he hollers let him go.”

Mr. Gove was citing the rhyme while on a TV show, Top Gear–which is among the shows I refuse to watch. He made three versions of the ditty and attempted to substitute, “teacher” for the “nigger” word. Apparently in one version some might think he was saying “nigger” while he insists he was merely saying, “teacher.”

In the world of political politeness we often wander into the ridiculous. A few years ago I was teaching a college class and read something written by Martin Luther King in which he referred to the “Negro people.” Three black students approached me after the class and wanted an apology for using the word, Negro.” I refused insisting the words used by Martin Luther King stand as he spoke them. Such is the madness of political politeness.