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We're having a small editorial

Eddie Mair | 13:15 UK time, Monday, 13 November 2006

debate at the moment about a story we're planning to run tonight. It concerns a London West End show (which had an award-winning run at the Edinburgh Festival) entitled: "Pride And Prejudice And Niggas". An advertising company has refused to carry posters for the show, if the N-word remains.

We're talking to the man behind the show tonight. My question for you is: does the word offend you? Would it offend you if you heard it on the radio? Would it matter if I said it or the guest? Does the inclusion of the word on this Blog cause offence?

We'd be interested to know what you think.


  1. At 01:28 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Big Sister wrote:

    I'm white caucasian, so any opinion I express comes from that perspective.

    Assuming the word is referring to non-whites and isn't a cheap joke (e.g. using various Nigels, or whatever ....) I'd say it is offensive, in whatever context.

    Award winning or not, and whatever the intent of the use of the term, I for one would prefer it to be dropped.

    This is going to be an interesting thread, Eddie .....

  2. At 01:42 PM on 13 Nov 2006, jonnie wrote:

    There was an interesting telly programme I watched on one of the channels in the morning all about black kids in London who call each other by the N-Word. It was around a year ago

    The older generations objected to it for obvious reasons.

    I don't recall the conclusion but I may do some surfing to see if I can find out more.

    I don't find it offensive but realise how and why many would.

  3. At 01:48 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Belinda wrote:

    I know nothing about the show, so any opinion I offer will be limited at best, but it won't stop me posting:

    Personally, I think it all depends on the perspective in which it is used. If it is said in a deliberately inflammatory way when dealing with racial issues, then it should not be used. If, however, it is being used as a representational word for racial prejudice and that is what the play is dealing with, then I personally would not have a problem with it.

    Either way, Eddie, you will have a rather large number of complaints pouring in by people who (rightfully) find the word distateful and inappropriate for radio within this context. I suspect you'll have to decide whether the news-worthiness of the piece is sufficient to overcome the opposition to the particular word being said. If the interview hasn't been pre-recorded, maybe you could ask the man of the reasons behind the name and his views on the use of the word in a public forum. I think it would be a mistake to just say the name without commenting on it's 'shock' value.

    Not that I'm telling you how to do your job or anything(!), but if I heard some acknowledgement behind the choice of wording for the name of the play then I wouldn't be as opposed to hearing the word on the radio within this particular context.

    That made absolutely no sense did it?

  4. At 01:49 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Unluckio wrote:

    hmmm I have to admit to being a PM blog voyuer over the past couple of weeks; finally time to climb through the window I guess.

    I am a white caucasion athiest Jew so not sure how relevant my opinions are here but here goes...

    Does the word offend you?

    That very much depends who is saying it and in what context; for example if I hear a "middle class" white boy using *this word* then yes I *cringe*, whereas a black rapper, well thats another matter.

    Would it offend you if you heard it on the radio?

    Same answer as above

    Would it matter if I said it or the guest?

    I just cant imagine you saying it Eddie, I cant comment on the guest without knowledge of who they are.

    Does the inclusion of the word on this Blog cause offence?

    Not at all.

  5. At 01:52 PM on 13 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    I think, "Oh heck." pretty much sums up my contribution to this.

    If you're feeling uninformed (as I am), you might find a couple of web references interesting: wikipedia article and the urban dictionary.

    Judging by a vaguely remembered discussion I heard on R4 a while ago, I think you can overestimate the degree to which a word has been "reclaimed" by a group it was originally intended to insult. Not sure that images of African-American pop culture helps a lot in this matter. Other than that, I'm just going to pop my cushion up here and, assuming I don't fall off, wait for Val P to join me.

  6. At 01:52 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Chrissie the Trekkie wrote:

    Depends on context, otherwise we'd have to be 100% politically correct and no longer refer to the River Niger, or the countries Niger and Nigeria - as they have the same root.

    And spelling it with an A rather than ER does indicate it's not meant to be nasty, doesn't it?

  7. At 01:53 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    It's a difficult word, even if misspelled as above. As the great grandchild of slave-owners and having grown up through the 'civil rights' movement, I can attest to its difficulty, even when used with attempted irony. Such irony (at least in my usage) is far too often mistaken for real racism, and I've learned to bite my tongue.

    Black friends, however, can and do use the term with almost as many shades of meaning as "aye" can have in a Scots mouth, or s**t in common usage.

    I must say that I think the choice should remain with the author, who obviously has considered and decided. I would ask him to use a spellchecker, though.

    Publish and be damned?

  8. At 01:55 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Chrissie the Trekkie wrote:


    Just noticed - you're using my strapline.

    OOO, the fame, the fame! I shall be insufferable all afternoon now.

  9. At 02:00 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Bill'n'Ben wrote:

    I'll start the ball rolling, but contribution could go on and on.

    Do I find the word offensive, yes I do. Do we include it on the blog, well yes, because we will have an adult and constructive discussion over the merits of the word.

    It takes me back to when I was a schoolboy, possibly only aged ten or eleven. In those days the local education authority supplied text books for schools. One of the books supplied for Geography covered the Southern States of the USA and the production of cotton. It was written from the perspective of a young white (dare I say red neck) schoolboy working on his father's farm, and every time a reference was made to the labourers they were described as n*****s.

    The teacher who was taking the class asked the children to use the word negro instead.

    As innocent little souls, we asked why.

    Miss Fox, the teacher, explained that she was Jewish and that she and her family were still coming to terms with the recent past (WW2). She explained that comments like this and other bad treatment and civil liberties problems in the Southern States, were akin to the conditions in Germany only a few years before.

    From a Geography lesson to one on History and morals. That was forty five years ago and I've never forgotten. We had good teachers in those days.

    Thanks for listening

  10. At 02:01 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Eddie Mair wrote:

    Welcome Unluckio (4)

  11. At 02:19 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Do I recall that the BBC recently featured a reading of Huckleberry Finn. Did they censor out the "N-word"? for that? I certainly hope not. If so, what term did they substitute?

    What other term would froggers suggest to convey the context in which Huck Finn's rite of passage takes place?

    Yours sincerely,
    A. Honkey

  12. At 02:21 PM on 13 Nov 2006, jonnie wrote:

    Ironically the fact that an advertising company is not prepared to carry the posters, will have ensured that the show gets even more publicity, and after reading the reviews it probably deserves it.

  13. At 02:25 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Simon Worrall wrote:

    White male.
    No, it doesn't offend me.
    No, it wouldn't offend me to hear it on the radio. But it would catch my interest and raise my eyebrows, due to the supposed prejudicial value of the word.

    Many froggers may recall there used to be a rap group called N.W.A., standing for Niggaz With Attitude. There was much fuss about their name when they first appeared, but it didn't stop the publicity, both good and bad. The members were all black. Either they didn't care about the pejorative aspect of the word, or they were overtly exploiting it for shock value.

    Like Jonnie (2) I believe they the word has been de-sensitised amongst the younger generation. But this is purely an impression and not informed opinion.

    As to the ad company; whether they carry it or not is surely up to them? No-one can force them to carry the material if they don't wish to be associated with it. Is the ethnicity of the ad company staff, or it's target audience, relevant here?


  14. At 02:26 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Peter Wharton wrote:

    Got the newsletter at 14.07, thank you.
    N word, I find offensive. I was brought up in a boarding school in the 60s and there were many fellow students from different racial backgrounds. As such I have always been colour blind as to people. It always shocks me when people make a blanket statement as to ethnic groups.
    In the past words were in common circulation which, today, are deemed to be offensive or mean something entirely different.
    If the word is used in the popular media, then the word becomes common usage and used for abuse.

  15. At 02:29 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Bill'n'Ben wrote:

    Ed (7),

    Nice link to s**t. It reminded me of the time, I was wearing a tea shirt with that on the back. Well you know what us sound engineers are like.

    All the punters thought it was hilarious, but did I get a bo*****ing form the organisers. They weren't worried about s**t, they thought I was taking the p*** out of religion.

    Funny old world ain't it Sainty.

  16. At 02:32 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR wrote:

    The N Word is offensive. It can create hatred.

  17. At 02:37 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Big Sister wrote:

    Yes, looking at other contributions, I concede that there may be occasions where it wouldn't cause offence, but, like any term which has been used historically as a term of offence or denigration, those occasions are currently very "narrow". The term, I'd venture to suggest, should be avoided by non-blacks, given its history.

    I'd far rather be guided on this by members of the black community.

    Eddie, I think you should try to encourage some real debate from other listeners than the stock 'white middle class' Radio 4 listeners who, I fear, probably make up the majority audience .....

  18. At 02:37 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Aunt Dahlia wrote:

    Words are just a cover to convey concepts. It is therefore the concept that the hearer has of the word that makes it offensive.
    Do with that what you will, old chum - and you never welcomed me on board. Harrrumph.

  19. At 02:41 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Jon Green wrote:

    Let's see: another ho-hum production that uses a controversial title in order to stir up middle-class outrage and get itself cheap publicity.

    It worked, didn't it?

    Well, it will have, if you give it air time.

    A suggestion for editorial policy: never mind the b*ll*cks, here's the (real) news.

  20. At 02:42 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Richard C wrote:

    I saw Reginald D Hunter at Last year's Perrier Awards finals at the Edinburgh Festival during which he used just about every rude word you could think of. The audience was largely white, middle aged and I'm guessing middle class, and I wasn't aware of anyone being offended. In fact for many I spoke to he was the best act of the night, because he made people laugh by challenging their sensibilities.

    So no, in the context I don't find "niggas" offensive. If however that word is used by white people to describe black people, then yes, of course it is.

    Hunter himself made the joke that young white males calling eachother "nigga" could be considered progress!

  21. At 02:43 PM on 13 Nov 2006, coco wrote:

    To answer your questions:

    1. Depends on the context.
    2. Depends on the context.
    3. Depends on the context.
    4. No

    In some parts of black or African American society, mainly the educated upper income, the use of the word Negro has become fashionable in certain situations (not sure if upper or lower case). The expression, "Negro, please!" is often heard. The more offensive "N" word, however, is still prevalently found in other sectors of black and non-black society.

    I agree with Ed in #7, and no doubt so do the BBC lawyers and Policy & Planning -- publish and be damned.

  22. At 02:44 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Stephen, Leader of STROP wrote:

    I fear we are into the Humpty-Dumpty world of Language:

    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."

    Useful for him, but it doesn't help unless one can define what ones intention of the use of the word "Nigga" or "Nigger" is when saying it.

    No it doesn't offend me, but then I'm a white, middle-class male, so why would it.

    Should the word be used - it depends on context.

  23. At 02:45 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Bill'n'Ben wrote:

    Aunt Dahlia,

    In the words of a famous insurance ad "Now, now, calm down dear, its only a Blog".

  24. At 02:46 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Belinda wrote:

    Aunt Dahlia (17). No, he never welcomed me either. Then again, I've never had anything useful to say and probably don't warrant a welcome. Sniff.

  25. At 03:00 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Charles Hatton wrote:

    From my perspective as a female Eskimo I would say the word is just about as offensive as you can get.

    As far as how to tackle it on the programme, My view would be use it once when saying the name of the show in the introduction, then refer to it as "the n-word" thereafter. Repeated use of it would be hard to listen to.

    But hey, you don't need to worry about it as any item you mention here or in the newsletter is always pushed out by breaking news!

  26. At 03:04 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Eddie Mair wrote:

    Aunt Dahlia, Belinda...what HAVE I DONE?

  27. At 03:10 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    From this week's irony supplement:

    Rumsfeld enters great unknown unknown.

    Bush Finally Reveals “Real Reason” For Invading Iraq
    Says it was “deep-seated Oedipal hatred” of his father.

    M F White Trash Redneck Honkey

  28. At 03:16 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Big Sister wrote:


    Just a suggestion. There are many of us who did not receive a personal 'welcome' at the time we first 'blogged on'.

    Why don't you make a universal apology to us, tell us how very welcome we all are, and that you'll buy us a round of drinks next time you bump into us at the Wig and Pen?

    Or just say "Sorry everybody"?

  29. At 03:21 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Eddie Mair wrote:

    Sorry everyone. And stand by for exciting news re The Beach.

  30. At 03:23 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Peter Wharton wrote:

    Reduced tax on drink and baccy when brought on the internet from mainland Europe? Bring it on!!

  31. At 03:25 PM on 13 Nov 2006, jonnie wrote:

    Re: Belinda and Aunt Dahlia,

    I think Eddie is just getting a bit bored with us regular froggers ranting on so he's trying harder to get new contributors.

    Bit of icing on the cake for the 'Lurkers' ;-)

  32. At 03:28 PM on 13 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Re: Big Sis (currently 28) - and possibly a "hell" specifically for Drinks. For some reason, she seems to want one.

  33. At 03:39 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Unluckio wrote:

    Well I didn't mean to cause such a rumpus, but thank you for the kind welcome Eddie :)

  34. At 03:45 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Exciting news re the beach???? What have you done, Eddie???*

    *Sorry for the over use of question marks, everyone, but it's been one of those days.

    I'll try to log on later to address the serious point of the blog then :-)

  35. At 03:48 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Belinda wrote:

    Jonnie (currently 31): I've only been here a week or so! But people can very quickly become sick of me, so maybe that's the reason.

    Back to the matter at hand: I also agree with this situation that just because a particular, offensive word is said, it does not necessarily mean that offense was intended. I don't think we (and certainly not the BBC!) should steer clear of controversial topics just to make life quieter, and if the forthcoming report offers some insight and education into racial issues of today, then all to the good.
    And presuming that this new show is not being produced by the BNP, then it is highly doubtful that the word is meant in an offensive manner.

    Of course, like you said, if Donald Rumsfeld has been adopted by Madonna today, then the piece will be dropped anyway and this will be a moot point.

  36. At 03:49 PM on 13 Nov 2006, jonnie wrote:

    So what d'you reckon fooglets ??

    Our bery own bech blog sanctioned by Richard ?

  37. At 03:59 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Big Sister wrote:

    Only teasing but ....

    As ever, Eddie segues smoothly through every troubled water ......

    ....... and is even as we speak seeking a new mooring for the Beach!

  38. At 04:01 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Carl Chapple wrote:

    On the N-word issue, if you use it on the programme some people will be offended; others won't. I'll be in the latter camp, presuming that you're not wearing a white pointy hat and waving a burning crucifix about as you say it.

    Years ago, when I was teaching English as a foreign language in the Czech Republic, a black American friend of one of the other teachers visited the school. The students were all Ukranian air traffic controllers, and when the visitor arrived their spokesman, Oleg, stood up and announced, "Welcome to Europe! We have never met a nigger before".

    Oleg was delighted with his little speech. I was taken aback by his use of the N-word (though impressed that he'd used the present perfect tense correctly), but before the applause for our visitor had died down my teaching colleague had left the building, furious that his friend had been so insulted. Everyone else was bewildered, and I had to explain - Oleg was mortified.

    He'd learned the word in Kiev. A sponge for language, Oleg read and listened to all the English he could find, and he'd come across the word in Agatha Christie and Quentine Tarantino.

    For me, it's all about intent, though that might be blase - I'm a white, middle-class bloke, so don't have much of an insight into this. Given the grotesque associations the word conjures up, though, and the powerful resonance it still has, I'd be surprised if you don't offend anyone by saying the word on air.

    Good luck,


  39. At 04:02 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Words, words, words.

    My great grandmother, whose parents rejoiced in their small amount of Amerindian blood enough to name her Pocahontas in honour of that ancestor, would have been mortified if anyone suggested any African blood.

    In her journals I note that she was in the habit of reading to the 'servants' (she never used the n-word or 'slave') from the Bible for their 'betterment'. She was distressed when they 'ran off' after the Yankees had visited, and much relieved when several faithful retainers returned.

    Her grandfather is described as a 'merchant' in documents where most others are described as 'corn merchant' or 'iron merchant', etc. I have suggested that this might indicate trading in human chattels to much enraged horror in family circles.

    We are all creatures of our times.

  40. At 04:09 PM on 13 Nov 2006, OnTheLedge wrote:

    "And stand by for exciting news re The Beach."

    You realise you're responsible for a change of knickers, Eddie?

  41. At 04:09 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Mark Drew wrote:

    The word irrespective of context, irrespective of who is saying it is offensive. Nothing more than a crude slang expression which the English language provides many ways of saying what is intended in an inoffensive way. In a responsible debate on this blog I guess I can tolerate it but spoken openly to wide audience could create offence in others.

    Best not used on the air.

  42. At 04:11 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Big Sister wrote:

    John H:

    Just what are you implying? Such frivolity is reserved for beach antics, surely?

  43. At 04:14 PM on 13 Nov 2006, GBrown wrote:

    re postings 28 and 29:

    As one Scot to another, I note Mr. Mair has wisely chosen the apology over the round of drinks ....

  44. At 04:36 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Belinda wrote:

    I'll have a triple whisky please. Actually, make it two. I'm having a bad day.

  45. At 04:38 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Everyone, plug your ears - I am going to shout...


    There. Sorry about the shouting folks, but he won't hear me anyway - Clearly I am "woman who becomes invisible around Eric Muir". Can't believe he's reduced me to this. Men - can't get their attention when you want it - can't get rid of them any other time... grumble, mumble, etc....

  46. At 04:44 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Aunt Dahlia wrote:

    re current 42
    I think E.M's middle name may be Prudence.

  47. At 04:45 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Fifi wrote:

    As a wordsmith, I find the gratuitous use of the word in the show title offensive. It's clearly been intended as a cheap shot -- and I think using it as a peg on which to hang the legitimate debate about the word itself is a copout.

    Debate it another time, say, because someone in the news for other reasons lets slip with the word.

    We could talk about this any time, and it would be a valid debate.

    Do do it now, is just dumbing down at the BBC.

  48. At 04:58 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Judith wrote:

    Perhaps you won't get complaints if you're very careful to pronounce it nigg-azz.

    Then again.....

  49. At 05:01 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Why is the webcam stuck in last monday? I want to see the face of the offender to know if he's qualified to use the term.

  50. At 05:09 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    On Iraq, a couple of corrections:

    An article published last month under the headline, Despite U.S. Assurances, Violence Spreads in Iraq, was in fact an article from two months previous with the same headline.

    Readers wishing to read the story which should have followed last month's headline are advised to read a similar story with the same headline scheduled to run two months from now. We apologize for any confusion.
    -- http://www.ironictimes.com



    Last week, due to an editing error, we reported that our presence in Iraq had "achieved a major milestone." It should have read, "become a major millstone." We apologize for any confusion.

    I wish I could be as original....

  51. At 05:16 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Fifi wrote:

    Re my posting at 47:

    * Do do it now, is just dumbing down at the BBC. *

    Oh dear, that should read :

    * To do it now, is just dumbing down at the BBC. *

    The way my luck's going today, Eddie will read it out the first way, either today or on Friday.

    How annoying!!!!!

  52. At 05:18 PM on 13 Nov 2006, anne wrote:

    well I find it offensive, period.

    and like nearly everyone else who has proffered the information I'm white and middle class, but female obviously.

    By the way


    I can live without personal mentions from Mr Mair, who after all has a radio program to rpesent and in any case thinks the blog is pointless, so by extension must think we are all wasting our time here. But I do not want to do without my newsletter if other people are getting theirs.

  53. At 05:30 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Fifi wrote:

    I haven't had my newsletter either. Been too busy posting all day to notice...


  54. At 05:35 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Rosalind wrote:

    It makes me think of Agatha Christie (already mentioned) and some of the appalling stuff in John Buchan. Yet i remember reading them as a preteenager without registering the words at all. It was only a bit later when I became aware of the implications that I realised how awful the words were (and are). I know the Agatha Christie has been changed, I wonder if the Buchans have been.

  55. At 05:41 PM on 13 Nov 2006, David wrote:

    The Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre is currently home to "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", a play set in a recording studio in Chicago in the 1920s. It was written in the 1970s by August Wilson, an eminent black American playright.

    Much of the play revolves around four black band members who talk about their experiences. They address each other routinely as "nigger" and they also refer to each other and third-party blacks as "nigger". The word must have been used a couple of hundred times over the evening. Somebody gets knifed - I'd be more worried about this in real life; if it's recognised that a stabbing in the theatre is not to be copied, why would a taboo word be treated with more seriousness?

    No, I was not offended. In context, the language was correct for the time and protagonists. I'd be surprised if the Manchester audience was offended. And of course, it's not in London so nobody reported it to PM.

  56. At 05:44 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Orville wrote:

    I find the use of the 'N word' or Nagger offensive; mainly, because I’m BLACK, but also because I know what its origin and meaning. It is a word commonly used by young black men when addressing their peers. But unlike most that use the word, I'm not British, or American. I'm Jamaican. I know my history, they don't. Especially if they are black and British.
    If the word if used by White, who know the meaning of the word, what other reason could there be other than to cause offence.

  57. At 05:48 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Dr Hackenbush wrote:

    Can I take my earplugs out yet, Ap?

  58. At 05:50 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Fifi wrote:

    The offensiveness or otherwise of the n-word can be debated any time.

    To discuss it in the context of this cynically chosen show title is patronising PM's listeners.

    What it isn't, is the other n-word.

    * News.*

  59. At 05:51 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Jeffrey wrote:

    Gay White Male here.

    I find this subject fascinating. I started a 'queer' alliance when I was training as a social worker in America and I had some trouble from some of the other students, but I argued that we need to take the power away from these negative words and take them back for ourselves. Language evolves and the more words are used positively the more they will transform into more useful or empowering tools.

    On a different note, in a report I wrote recently for my job as social worker, I quoted a child who told me that other children had called her a nigger. I was told by a manager that it was a hateful word and that I should have written:
    n----r and that I should say "n word" when reading the report. I feel that is nonsense and I said as much. If that was her reality I feel we should not shy away from it.

    Similarly for the theatre artist in the story I feel he should express himself in a way that is true to his experience and I feel that any companies who are helping him put this on should help him do this in any way they can.


    P.S. I thought he was very articulate in saying we were "wordsmiths" and that words work for us and not the reverse. I feel that when we are scared of words it's like a surgeon being afraid of his tools just because they have the potential to harm.

  60. At 05:54 PM on 13 Nov 2006, KP Thomas wrote:

    It's only offensive if you want it to be - surely by using this word in 2006 we are laughing at outdated racist attitudes. On the other hand, i haven't seen the show so maybe we're not....

  61. At 05:57 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Dom wrote:

    Erm, I don't want to sound too cynical and I think Hunter is great but this does seem to have raised a great deal of publicity for an otherwise fairly underground show. Not to mention for the ad company itself.

  62. At 06:00 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Kobayashi wrote:

    Black, middle class male (whatever that means - but everyone else seems to find this statement important, so...).

    Mr Hunter (and Humpty Dumpty, as a previous post pointed out) are right. The context defines the meaning. That said, I suspect I would be offended if a stranger walked up to me and described me as a Nigger (or Nigga, or variants thereof). I don't use the word myself. Simply because I was brought up to understand that it is a vulgar word. That said, I do use the word f*** a lot, so maybe that's just a cop-out.

    Language is fluid, like quicksand (irony intended). Words can take on new meaning, but this takes time, and patience, and a lot of misunderstandings (or worse) in the interim.

    Incidentally, Mr Hunter is very very funny. Do go and see him.

  63. At 06:01 PM on 13 Nov 2006, daclamat wrote:

    First, I find such circumlocutions offensive (eg. fword,cword, nword). They are clearly intended to convey the word, so why not use it ? A word is offensive if you want it be and mean it to be. I can't image "nigger go home" being polite in any circumstances. In French "nègre" can be offensive. It also means "ghost writer", and is perfectly polite. I think banning the poster an overreaction, and could just irritate people. If the context is right, the word is right

  64. At 06:01 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Barry Jones wrote:

    Words only have the power to offend if we let ourselves be offended.Back in the 1970s IRA supporters called us "Brits"and meant it in an offensive way -- "Dirty Brits" and "Brits Out" etc.Up to that point I'd never heard us referred to in that way before.
    It was offensive.So what did we do? we adopted it for ourselves and used it to our advantage.We now , for example,have the annual "Brit Awards" and "Brit Pop"to name but two instances, as well as using it in everyday speak thus destroying its power to hurt.
    A word is only a sound that we should be master of not a slave to.The more we shy away from words the more their power to offend grows and the more those people who wish to give offence will continue to do so.

  65. At 06:02 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Terry Walsh wrote:

    The BBC has a history of being sensitive about this one. Back when Nigeria celebrated its independence day, the BBC - ever rejoicing in the desruction of the empire- ran a program "The Land of the Niger". Jack de Manio was the link man on duty and introduced it as "The Land of the Nigger". Diplomatic uproar followed and dear old Jack was banished!
    It didn't offend me, I thought it was hilarious and a great shame that Jack was treated so condignly for a slip of the tongue.
    Anyhow what on earth is wrong with offending a few people, perhaps if we were all a lot less sensitive we would get along better.

  66. At 06:08 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Derick Burton wrote:

    I am a black 30 something of Caribbean linneage. I have also spent several recent years in New York where the word Nigger is constantly on the lips of the African American community.

    Even within the community the word is used equally as insult and greeting. Yet only within the community. Whites (and others) use the word at their peril no matter how close they are to their black friends.

    It always upset me that so many forget that Nigger was a term used to de-humanise us. Any atrocity could be committed against blacks because Niggers didn't feel as deeply or were less intelligent.

    The perpetuation of the term within the African American community is mark of ignorance of our own history and it is unfortunate that this failure has crossed the Atlantic to infect African and Afro-Caribbean youth in Europe.

    As we continue to show each other disrespect how can we expect other communities to do anything else?

    So in short, yes I am offended by the word Nigger, not so much by the insult but by the lack of progress it represents.

    Black performers may have a responsibility to their art, to reflect the truths of their lives, but they have a greater responsibility to the rest of us.

    For those interested, Randal Kennedy's book "Nigger: The Strange History of a Curious Word" provides some backgroud although his conclussions lack insight.

  67. At 06:12 PM on 13 Nov 2006, daclamat wrote:

    At 04:01 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Carl Chapple implied that people who wear white pointy hats are crazies. This is obviously a cheap cryptic slight on the leader of the Roman Catholic faith, and all who wear mitres of whatever colour. Could this be a Paisleyite subterfuge ? See, you can take offence at anything if you look hard enough and really want to. I think the poster potentially less offensive than MTV verbals and gestuals.

  68. At 06:16 PM on 13 Nov 2006, George Perry wrote:

    The use or non-use of the N-word, why don't we spell it out? smacks of Political Correctness again.
    Why is there no fuss about the F-word which gets plenty of use these days?

    Use the N-word when the situation requires it. Otherwise there are plenty of other words available.


  69. At 06:18 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Andy Fletcher wrote:

    Let me see: Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Dave Chapelle, and many more I can't remember or never knew. They don't mind saying 'Nigger'. They don't even mind saying the word 'Black', and no, it doesn't offend me.

    'Whiteys' like me have been fed so much politically 'correct' garbage, we don't know whether we're coming or going sometimes. "Oooh, you can't say black". WHY NOT? IS THERE SOMETHING DIRTY ABOUT IT???

    If black people are happy calling themselves black people, why not me.

    As Reginald D. Hunter so rightly pointed out on PM just now: Words are there to serve us and not vice versa. The point being, the context in which they are used. So, bleeding heart liberals and 'politically correct' corrupters of English language please take note.

    By the way, here's a good one: I live in Harringay. The railway station has it's name correctly spelled, the buses in the area know where they're going, but the council, some years ago, saw fit to change the spelling to 'Haringey' because the old traditional English name had the word 'gay' in it. Good heavens! How terrible!

    Let's all get real please. Let's not allow ourselves to be dumbed down by those in ivory towers who have no idea of what goes on at street level. Let's not allow ourselves to be bullied by ethnic groups or religious fundamentalists of ANY denomination. Let's have a sense of humour, and let's have love and respect for each other. That would be an end to conflict forever, and the words would cease to matter.

    Now, all together please. "SAY IT LOUD, I'M BLACK/WHITE/GAY etc. AND I'M PROUD"

  70. At 06:23 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Alistair Ingram wrote:

    In my opinion an insult must be intended. The use of 'the N word' hails from a slave society whose very structure was an insult to the enslaved. Cleary the word is offensive when looked at in this context. Taken in a different context it need not be offensive: the word is commonly used between young African Americans, without intended offence.

    I think the word is offensive but for other reasons.

    I am middle class, live in SE London and in a mixed race marriage (my wife is half Kenyan). When the media and government talk about 'the black community', 'the problem with black boys' and 'black on black crime', when Radio 4 makes a programme that asks the question 'Is there a black middle class?' I see racism.

    To suggest that the colour of a person’s skin defines their community, their class and their tendency to crime strikes me as racist. To suggest that someone who could be from Africa, The Caribbean, the USA, Australia, S. India... (the list goes on) can be classed as somehow similar to another person for no other reason that skin colour is racist.

    I suspect this happens because of Britain’s addiction to American culture. Due to slavery and segregation the US has a definable 'black' culture. This does not exist in the UK.

    Suggesting cultural problems are a function of skin colour serves only to make the issue worse: Telling a person that their skin colour makes them the person they are then highlighting negative aspects associated with their skin colour is, to me, insulting.

    So; do I think 'the N word is offensive?' - In certain circumstances yes, but I also think that in every one of those circumstances the word 'black' is equally offensive.

  71. At 06:25 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    From the man himself, complete with video clips:

    I'm with him!

  72. At 06:25 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Thank you for that reference Derick, I will follow it up as I really don't know much about the origins of the word, and certainly would need to before I can judge exactly how I feel about its use. Most words, I believe, can be offensive or not, depending upon how they are used, but, of course, words that have been invented/appropriated historically to support the abuse of one group/individual by another, are the most diffuclt to use in an inoffensive way.

  73. At 06:26 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Charles Hatton wrote:

    David (55) raises an interesting point. If I went to the theatre to see a play where it was historically correct to use the n-word, I'd be offended if they DIDN'T use it. I’d feel like they were patronising me.

    Context, is indeed, everything.

  74. At 06:44 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Annasee wrote:

    Unless I missed something in the usual kitchen melee that surrounds PM time here, Eddie swanned through the interview with his usual grace & charm, managing to completely sidestep the offensive word, & leave the person responsible for it to speak it on the air. Such skilful manipulation & avoidance of a difficult word. Have you ever considered politics as a career?

    Btw, maybe the advertising companies could carry a poster that read "Pride & Prejudice & N-" with the "N" disappearing off the page as if running out of room. That way, no obvious offence committed, but some people would understand it.

  75. At 06:47 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Shahbaz Sikandar wrote:

    It' as bad or benign as saying Paki. Do you think Paki is an offensive word?

  76. At 06:49 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Big Sister wrote:

    Lissa Blogmistress:

    I think you've missed off some postcards. I know you've missed off my special frog card.
    Did Eddie put it in his drawer?
    We all know what happens if he does ....
    Perhaps Rupert knows where it is?

  77. At 06:57 PM on 13 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Ah, the world according to Andy Fletcher (currently 69). What a jolly place it would be. A good example of taking a grain of a reasonable idea and demonstrating how to make it just offensive enough to annoy everybody.

  78. At 07:05 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Dr James Willmott wrote:

    I am a white male. Reg D Hunter is a black male. I know because I've seen him a few times. He is clearly a talented commedian rivaling the late Bill Hicks.
    Like Hicks, he believes in telling it how it is. Not how some of our banal, mediocre, faceless, neutered and nameless middle class sensitive souls would like things to appear. Maybe they would then have to explain the term to thier children.
    Offensive? No. It's a WORD! Learn to think past your perceptions middle England and understand that through the deft hand of comedy comes a greater truth which hopefully will enlighten you all...

  79. At 07:25 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    I posted earlier, quoting from a poem by Amiri Baraka. It was obviously too much for the moderation, but it can be found here

    And his response to a charge of antisemitism here

    I think it's a call of and to solidarity.

  80. At 07:48 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Charles Hatton wrote:

    Dr James Willmott (78)

    If you don't think the word is offensive then I suggest that the next time you see a group of black guys, go up to them and use the word liberally. They might want to enlighten you a bit.

  81. At 07:59 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Derick Burton wrote:

    Just two quick things. I misquoted the title of Kennedy's Book. it should be "Nigger Strange Career of a Troublesome Word"

    To Andy Fletcher.
    You obviously missed Richard Pryor's promise to never use the word Nigger again after a trip to Africa gave him a new insight in to dignity and self-respect.

    Dir Wilmot.
    A failure to understand the wider ramifications is far from enlightenment.

  82. At 08:02 PM on 13 Nov 2006, Charles Hatton wrote:

    Shahbaz Sikandar (75).

    Yes, absolutely. I don't want to create a hierarchy of offensive words, but to my mind, that one started inoffensively but then was taken on by racists and given it's edge.

  83. At 12:02 AM on 14 Nov 2006, gossipmistress wrote:

    Great to see so many postings on this and some new faces (Eddie's wallet will be somewhat lighter after buying a round of drinks for this lot...)

    It seems pretty clear that people do indeed find the N-word offensive and personally I'm glad it wasn't used on-air. It was unnecessary as we all knew what was meant.

    I am tempted (as others are) to think that the word has been used in the play's title simply to gain publicity for it, although Reg D Hunter was a very charming and articulate interviewee so maybe I am not doing him justice.

    I definitely do NOT agree with Andy Fletcher (69) - for me this does not represent dumbing down. There may be a fine line between not offending people and dumbing down but for me this falls firmly inside the line.

  84. At 09:01 AM on 14 Nov 2006, Belinda wrote:

    I think it was the right decision not to use the word in the end. I listened to the piece and the point was no less powerful for using the "N-word" description and it was perfectly clear what was being discussed.
    As for the use of the word in the show's title. I don't know whether it is justified or not, I wasn't particularly convinced by Reg D Hunter's argument but I could understand where he came from. Either way, the inclusion or exclusion of the word will not be the deciding factor as to whether I see the show or not.

  85. At 09:07 AM on 14 Nov 2006, Charles Hatton wrote:

    Andy Fletcher (69)

    Not THE Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode ...

  86. At 09:13 AM on 14 Nov 2006, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Gossipmistress (83)

    I listened to the whole programme (something I rarely achieve) and for much of the time I had no idea what the N-word was. Eventually I realised it was the anglicised version of the Latin word for - well - black. Before the LibDems took the Parliamentary seat for Cheltenham, the Tory party proposed John Taylor; a party member protested, saying "He's a bl---y nigger!" As a result, the protester was condemned, and Mr. Taylor was dropped as candidate; a great pity, I thought, but I think he was placed in the House of Lords soon afterwards.

    Sadly, it's all a matter of fashion. When I was younger, it suddently became "Illegal" to refer to "Black" people or "Darkies", it had to be "Coloured" people, as if those commonly referred to as "White" have colourless faces like Belshazzar's. No doubt fashions will continue to change, and some of us will not keep abreast of the latest fads.

  87. At 12:02 PM on 14 Nov 2006, Andy Fletcher wrote:

    To Charles (85). No, I'm not THAT one!

    Oh, and while I'm here, thanks to Derick (81) for pointing out Richard Pryor's change of heart. I had indeed missed it.

  88. At 12:09 PM on 14 Nov 2006, Kazza wrote:

    Shahbaz Sikandar (75).

    I've been pondering that question ever since I heard the piece on PM last night.

    I was brought up to understand that Paki was a not the correct way to address or describe anyone.

    When I got to university in 1998 half of my year were of South East Asian origin and my best mate and lab partner was from Pakistan. She referred to herself and some of our colleagues as Pakis and they referred to her as a Paki. It didn't sound wrong when they said it to each other but it still put me on edge. They thought it was funny that I couldn't bring myself to say the word - that was exactly what they considered it - just a word. I eventually even avoided saying the word Pakistani around them because I knew I'd get ribbed about it.

    Then in our final year (2001) things became really strange. Some of my Asian friends felt uneasy mentioning 9/11 or New York because they felt that the white students would have issues with the Asian students discussing it. We ribbed them they were only words and numbers.

    In the present day I still cannot say Paki and feel uneasy even typing it. I feel the same about the N word. My friend still cannot say 9/11 or September 11th. I don't know what to think of that really!

  89. At 12:32 PM on 14 Nov 2006, Andy Fletcher wrote:

    To Derick (81). A follow up to (87)

    I'd like to refer you to this address of Richard Pryor's.


    It appears the 'N' word is alive and well: presumably because he's still making money from it.

    Oh well, I guess we're all capable of making promises we won't keep .....

  90. At 02:45 PM on 14 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Andy Fletcher (89), "presumably because he's still making money from it - well, yes, in a being dead sort of way.

    I'm not an expert on Richard Pryor and have no knowledge about whether he had a change of heart or not. But the link you gave was specifically to the "early years (1966-1974)" and so is of limited use in establishing it one way or the other.

  91. At 06:00 PM on 14 Nov 2006, John Michael Richards wrote:

    I don't find any word, in itself, offensive. They are all part and parcel of the beautifull tapestry of communication.

    I may, however, find the orrator of such words offensive.

    It is not words or speach that are offensive but, the context, delivery and the deliverer.

    Words and vocabulary are fundamental to our freedom of speach and expression. I find it offensive that anyone would attempt to censor such freedoms - such actions and thoughts stem from the same constrictive practice that caused racism and prejudice.

    I do not say I am white, caucasian or British. Intrinsically, I am none of these. My skin is white (ish) in colour. I am not white, my skin is. I was born, raised, educated and live in Britain. I am not British, I merely reside there. I am "me", a global individual, not concerned with colour, race, cast, creed, gender, age, natioanlism or political inclination.

    As a youngster, I was a victim of prejudice. Not through race but, because I was from a poor family, brought up by a single mother and, oh horror of horrors, I spoke with a Liverpool acsent. I ultimately had the acsent beaten out of me! Now an adult, I find I'm discriminated against because I'm obese, disabled, a tobacco smoker and an unmarried heterosexula.

    Prejudice of all kinds is wrong. It derives from the human basal instinct - fear.

    Surely the premise of the play (Pride, Prejuduce and Niggas) is prejudice - of all kinds. Indeed, prejudice is often the precipitate of pride. I find the words pride and prejudice both more objectionable than Niggas. Niggas is a term used to describe certain people of ethnic origins. It is the derivers of the word, and not the group it describes, who show their ignorance and prejudice, in finding it necessary to use a word to describe another group. But it is thus equally as objectionable as the words "white", "black", "foreign" and "ethnic" - these are all words used to distinguish different groups and are thus intrinsically discriminatory.

    The paly concerns prejudice. It is wholly in context then to use a prejudicial word or words in its title. Judge the play for its content and context, not its title or syntax.

    I love poetry. One of my favorite collections is a book called "Nigger" by Labi Siffre. Is it socially more acceptable for a "black", rather than "white" person to use the word Nigger or Niggas. If so, then we are supporting the very discrimination which we seek to avoid.

    Political Correctness has become a monster. It limits free speach and sincerity.

    I would much rather have a sincere bigot who can freely be honest, than the insincerity from the lips of our leaders who are more concerned with image than truth.


  92. At 07:13 PM on 14 Nov 2006, Andy Fletcher wrote:

    O.K. John H (90)

    I seem to remember Richard Pryor had died, but thought I must be wrong as his official website says he's still with us.


    And the page I linked you to previously had this at the bottom-

    -from a Rhino press release, © 2004 Rhino Entertainment.

    So to be as clear as I can, his estate is still earning money from the 'N' word being bandied about 30 years previously. If Richard wouldn't have approved, it seems that those who survived him do.

    That's their business and I'm saying no more.

  93. At 11:44 PM on 14 Nov 2006, Emma wrote:

    As an African woman, I am hugely offended by the use of this word. It is not simply 'a word' because as any educated individual knows, words and the way they are used carry culture, history and meaning.

    I dont' care whether its a rapper using it or a racist football fan - the word is offensive.

    I find it interesting that some european contributors have stated that they would not be offended - I wonder if they would be so blase about the matter if we were talking about the use of the word 'f*cker' or 'w*nker'?

    Having said that, in this ever increasing permissive 'do and say what you like' society that increasingly encourages the ethnic majority to air their ignorance and indifference to the human rights of those who are not caucausian, I expect it will be a matter of time before this word becomes increasingly commonplace in British society.

    Most African people in the UK do not use this term as a term of endearment and I fail to see why our view is being marginalised because some BBC execs and rappers in America see nothing wrong with it.

    Finally, Ashley Walters of former So Solid fame presented a very interesting documentary recently called Sticks and Stones in which he dealt with the use of the word and essentially concluded that he used it out of ignorance of its history and realised that he needed to stop using the word. A brave stance for a young, intelligent and talented man.

  94. At 12:10 AM on 15 Nov 2006, Adrian wrote:

    I must write that I found Emma's (93) comments to be enlightening and of a lot more use to get the grey matter working than a lot of the above.

    In the light of all publicity is good etc. I am tempted to see this show to see what all the fuss is about if any and wonder if this is just some very very clever marketing. If it is should this be encouraged? Who Knows

  95. At 11:22 AM on 15 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Um, is this
    Having said that, in this ever increasing permissive 'do and say what you like' society that increasingly encourages the ethnic majority to air their ignorance and indifference to the human rights of those who are not caucausian, I expect it will be a matter of time before this word becomes increasingly commonplace in British society.
    making assumptions about "the ethnic majority" - or did you not mean to imply all members of that majority when referring to 'ignorance and indifference'? Your phrasing renders it ambiguous, so I feel the need to ask.

  96. At 11:57 PM on 15 Nov 2006, whisht wrote:

    Thanks for posting Emma - your comment has made me think at least a little bit this late at night.

    Might I say though that I'd rather say that the word isn't offensive - its how it is perceived. I'm not american and whenever I hear the word rapped I feel awkward as the main association I have with it is as an insult. I know it was appropriated and all that, but its still difficult to unlearn an association with a word.

    However, in some contexts the word wouldn't be offensive (eg between 2 people who only associate it with american rap and aren't trying to be racist).

    also, intent is important and can make any word insulting (and in that instance any word is insulting)

    However, this sounds like hair splitting as my guess is there are precious few people listening to PM who also chat in american rap vernacular, so most of us will associate it in the way you do, and so the danger is that offence is more likely to be caused than anything achieved through using it.

  97. At 05:43 PM on 18 May 2007, david lee wrote:

    I applaud the headmaster who checks applications. For every chilkd who gets in by the parent's cheating, a child who should have a place is kept out.

  98. At 03:00 PM on 21 Jun 2007, Dom wrote:

    God, when will we all stop forgetting about potentially offending people we don't even know and hence whether they would be offended? That is the futility of OTT political correctness. Who cares if some people find it tasteless? No-one's going to die or suffer an epi FFS!

  99. At 10:40 AM on 23 Aug 2007, euan holt wrote:

    It's amazing to hear those intervied on 'PM' who advocate confronting gangs/ anti social behaviour. If some one tampers with your car , throws rubbish in your garden , tries to snatch your wallet ; is it really worth losing your life for? Only the most naive of people would interfere with someone being assaulted ; the assailant will turn on you and in his rage either punch , maim or kill you . The next day your death will be reported in the media and a week later the entire nation has forgotten about you - for 'Dead hero' see 'mug'.

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