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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
"Barry F. Crimmins" <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 25 Jun 1996 01:41:48 -0400
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Well said.

I feel that reading Huckleberry Finn has made me more patient with attempts
to improve the language. In Huck Finn, Twain left us an excellent record of
how terrifying  American speech was during the last century. I expect that
future generations will find similar cause for horror in our contemporary
vernacular. Every word that dehumanizes also makes it easier to discount
the lives of the objects of such language. Once you minimize a group's
humanity it is easier to exploit, enslave, torture and kill them. This
becomes clearer to me each time I read Twain's brilliant novel. As a
result, I am much less tolerent of people who make snide parenthetical
comments about attempts to make language more respectful than I am of those
who overzealously endeavor to modify our speech.

It's quite a stretch to dismiss the use of the word "nigger" as simply
"non-pejorative slang" from the last century. I have never once heard
anyone quoted as saying, "Let's lynch the African-American." When an
offended group chooses to use a term that victimizes them by making it
their own, the purpose is to remove its sting. This in no way exonerates
those who used the term to further oppression.

Barry Crimmins