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  #1  
Old 30 March 2010, 05:22 PM
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snopes snopes is offline
 
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Hello Kitty Spooky

Comment: This past Halloween, I was told by several friends that the
adjective "spooky" was racist because it referred to the derogatory term
"spook" used for Black people. Is this the case, or are they simply two
words that come from the same source?
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  #2  
Old 30 March 2010, 05:29 PM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=spook

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spook

Nick
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  #3  
Old 31 March 2010, 07:14 AM
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Floater Floater is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Nick Theodorakis View Post
Quote:
Swed. spok "scarecrow"
Never heard that word before. The Swedish word for ghost, on the other hand is spöke.
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  #4  
Old 31 March 2010, 07:52 AM
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llewtrah llewtrah is offline
 
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I'd never heard of spook having a racial sense. I'm guessing this is US-specific. Seems like an instance of a perfectly harmless word being comandeered as an insult with the result that even its normal, harmless use is affected by taboo.

I start to wonder if there will be any words left in US English that don't have a racial sense attached to them!
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  #5  
Old 31 March 2010, 08:13 AM
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Cyrano Cyrano is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floater View Post
The Swedish word for ghost, on the other hand is spöke.
I also thought it had a common root with the French "spectre".
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  #6  
Old 31 March 2010, 09:21 AM
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Don Enrico Don Enrico is offline
 
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Germany

Quote:
Originally Posted by Floater View Post
The Swedish word for ghost, on the other hand is spöke.
Low German (the language spoken in the north of Germany and parts of the Netherlands) has "spök" or "spöken" for all things paranormal as well. Having visions (and fortune telling) is called "spökenkiekerei" = seeing ghosts.

"Spuk" is indeed German for ghost or apparition

Don "I see dead people" Enrico
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  #7  
Old 31 March 2010, 09:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by llewtrah View Post
I'd never heard of spook having a racial sense.
I've heard the word used in this sense but rarely.

I always assumed it had something to do with the notion of not being able to see a black person in the dark until they open their eyes and you can see the whites of the eyes. Thus the spook meaning ghost or to startle comparison.
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  #8  
Old 31 March 2010, 10:15 AM
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Floater Floater is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Enrico View Post
Low German (the language spoken in the north of Germany and parts of the Netherlands) has "spök" or "spöken" for all things paranormal as well.
A very large part of the Swedish vocabulary comes from Low German, including "spok" and "spöke" (according to the Swedish Academy Word Book).
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  #9  
Old 31 March 2010, 01:33 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floater View Post
Never heard that word before. The Swedish word for ghost, on the other hand is spöke.
Agree. "Spok" is probably just a misspelled Star Trek character.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Floater View Post
A very large part of the Swedish vocabulary comes from Low German, including "spok" and "spöke" (according to the Swedish Academy Word Book).
Yep. Tegnér, a Swedish poet, language professor and member of the Swedish Academy (the prime authorities on the Swedish Language) proclaimed Swedish to be "ärans och hjältarnas språk" (the language of honor and heroes) and that it should be cleansed from foreign influence. The fun thing is that in that statement, there is one word which doesn't originate from Low German, "och" (and).

While we are discussing ghosts, the word "ghost" is probably connected to the German "Geist" and the Swdish "gast", as well as the English "ghast".

As a side note, Swedish has borrowed "Geist" as well, but in the other meaning, as in "spirit" (not the ghostly kind, but as in the state of mind, such as "spirit of peace" or the German "Zeitgeist").
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  #10  
Old 31 March 2010, 01:53 PM
martin8
 
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The British TV spy show "Spooks" was retitled "MI-5" in the US. I seem to recall hearing that the reason was that the original title was considered offensive over there. I'd be interested to know if that's true.
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