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Old 15 February 2018, 07:12 PM
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ChasFink ChasFink is offline
Join Date: 09 December 2015
Location: Mineola, NY
Posts: 965

Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
And there is no evidence that its first use was simply an alternate term for black people, in fact, Merriam Webster's etymology says:
Your link is to (which compiles information from numerous sources) and the quote is from the Online Etymology Dictionary, not Merriam-Webster. The Online Etymology Dictionary describes itself thus:
This is the creation of an amateur. Great care has been taken and it's as accurate as I can make it. But if you're a professional linguist or a serious student of linguistics, you shouldn't be doing your homework here.
Even so, let's look at more of what it has to say (emphasis mine):
1786, earlier neger (1568, Scottish and northern England dialect), from French ngre, from Spanish negro (see Negro). From the earliest usage it was "the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks" [cited in Gowers, 1965, probably Harold R. Isaacs]. But as black inferiority was at one time a near universal assumption in English-speaking lands, the word in some cases could be used without deliberate insult.

The Oxford English Dictionary
, which is where professional linguists and serious students of linguistics do their homework, lists uses "by people who are not black as a relatively neutral (or occasionally positive) term, with no specifically hostile intent" going back to 1577 (1608 if you insist on the current common spelling) but its first use "by people who are not black as a hostile term of abuse or contempt" dates to 1775.

Of course I'm not saying the word was not primarily used as a hostile term from early in its history, nor am I saying it is not today (and for some time prior to today) almost universally considered hostile and offensive. This sideline to the main discussion on this thread comes from my reaction to the claim that the word has been used only to enslave, to oppress, to discriminate, and to destroy. More specifically, I was making the claim that languages - and words - are not static. Since that really isn't the main point of this thread, and I understand that there are valid opinions that differ from mine, I think I've said all I can on this subtopic.
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